Seemingly everyone in New York and Paris is walking around with their copy of Thomas’s Piketty’s new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
A dense, 700-page work, it focuses overwhelmingly on inequality, the subject that the author describes in detail as the foremost economic concern of the day.
Containing a few compelling arguments along with some dubious recommendations, the book comes up way short in recognizing the inherent realities of capitalism, particularly the role played by competition.
Many of the laws of biology are the fundamental lessons of society.
We remain inexorably linked to the practice and outcomes of evolution: to the fight for survival through adaptation.
If some of us avoid this natural strife, it is only because our group protects us.
And, yet, that group must regularly meet and pass the test of survival.
The first lesson, thus, is that life is competition.
As Will Durant eloquently observes, “Competition is not only the life of trade, it is the trade of life. Animals eat another without qualm; civilized men consume each other by due process of law… We are acquisitive, greedy, and pugnacious because our blood remembers millenniums through which our forebears had to chase and fight and kill in order to survive.”
Competition, and all that it embodies, lies at the core of capitalism; including inequality, which is the natural outcome of any competitive enterprise.
The underlying theme of Piketty’s work is that it is possible to engineer competition out of capitalism. And, by doing so, inequality will be dramatically reduced.
Capitalism without competition. Sounds a lot like socialism to me…