Along with Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas Picketty is part of a Troika that has its guns firmly trained on policies that preach austerity, deficit-reigning and stimulus inhibition. Following the massive success of his seminal tome “Capital In The 21st Century”, Picketty is back again with a new offering. Not exactly ‘new’ as “Chronicles” is a collection of articles which Picketty wrote mainly for French newspapers between the years 2010-2015.
Covering a myriad range of topics ranging from the insolvency of Greece to the migration crisis of 2015, Picketty writes with candour and clarity. Taking a swipe at the sheer incongruence of wealth which leads to the rich stashing away their wealth in obscure tax havens and the more modest breed of humanity forking out part of their hard earned wages in taxes, Picketty calls for a more equitable redistribution of wealth. This he argues can be achieved by taxing profits/capital instead of wages. A tax on the super rich, enhanced taxation of capital gains and stringent imposition of exchange of information requirements on the tax havens are some of the measures suggested by this French Economist.
Picketty is of the firm impression that the travails brought on by the recent financial crisis that still has the Eurozone reeling in its wake, are purely the workings of an untrammeled capitalistic bent of mind having as the centre of its objective – greed. A greed that resulted in the careless deregulation of finance and a senseless creation of esoteric financial instruments that wreaked wanton economic destruction on both sides of the Atlantic. Picketty also proposes some avenues for redemption in so far as the weakened Eurozone is concerned. Reiterating the fact that a single unified currency works at cross purposes when combined with seventeen different interest rates and twenty seven varying debt mechanisms, Picketty moots the creation of a centralized, federal European Union which would monitor not only the Euro but would also harmonise the debt policies and interest rate regimes. As far as Picketty is concerned, it is still not too late for the Euro.
This thin companion to “Capital…” makes for particularly introspective and sobering reading when it comes to discussing the wealth accumulating proclivities of the rich and famous. The bruising battle being waged in court by mother and daughter duo of Liliane and Francoise Bettencourt (scions of the L’0real Group) over a 1 billion Euro gift by the octogenarian Liliane to a photographer friend not only illustrates the shameful washing of dirty linen in public, but also the accumulation mindset of the high priests and priestesses of fame and fortune.
Picketty stresses that democracy and equality need not be either forced choices or efforts in exhaustion. Mere structural adjustments would not suffice to bridge the ever widening chasm between the haves and the have-nots. But as Picketty eloquently and convincingly argues with the right kind of mindset and a reformist bent of vein, this noble objective can transcend from being a mere pipe dream to a cherished reality.
“Chronicles” – An essential voice for our times!