There really is nothing the left can complain about the market economy other than some people are able to earn more than others. Piketty and his Capital in the Twenty-First Century has opened up the latest front in the perennial attack on free markets and the entrepreneurial economy. The socialist centralisers never go away. This is the abstract of a paper titled “The Equalizing Hand: Adam Smith and Inequality” that is about to be given at the LSE which blames the greatest social scientist in history for the relative poverty of those who are richer by a hundred fold than their equivalents at the time The Wealth of Nations was published. For what it’s worth, I do not for a second believe that the market economy leads to inequality although I do believe that the welfare state does. Here’s the abstract:
That the market economy inevitably leads to inequality is widely accepted today. The prediction is traced back to the canonical text of classical liberal political economy, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. Even the most progressive interpretations of Smith assume he accepts inequality, rationalized as the inevitable trade-off for increasing prosperity compared to less developed but more equal economies. However, the prediction cannot follow from the building blocks of Smith’s system. In the economy that Smith envisaged, profits should be low and labor wages high, legislation in favor of the worker is “always just and equitable,” land should be distributed widely and evenly, inheritance laws liberalized, taxation can be high if it is equitable and used to spur productivity, and the science of the legislator is necessary to put the system in motion and keep it aligned. Political theorists and economists have highlighted some of these points, but the counter-factual “what would the distribution of wealth be if all the building blocks were ever in place?” has not been posed. Doing so prompts the question why steep inequality is accepted as an inevitable outcome of the market.
There are such blockheads in the world!