Hi, I’m David Brooks, and thank God, because there’s a specter haunting the beloved capitalism that brought me, through sheer force of my unbelievable work ethic, into the four-million-dollar mansion in which I now write this. As I compose, I’m staring at a painting I recently commissioned—it’s a beautifully rendered image of a pair of boot straps. The painter, one of those classic starving artists I, like my rich friends, love to give charity to, entitled it “Bullshit,” but I thought that a more accurate title was “Me,” and so I changed it. I even drew a little picture of my face above the boot straps, and I dare say it’s as good as the artist’s. He doesn’t know, but that’s what property is all about.
Speaking of which, a few people are getting all uppity about capitalism again. Not the stoner poor, or even middle-class folks. As they know, we’re treating them just fine through our job creation, decent wages, and excellent charity work. What I’m talking about are the young coastal professionals, who every now and again start to fret because they aren’t next to me in the upper economic echelons. They see me at a party, with my fine suit, immense gravitas, and fantastic glasses, and think, “he has no trouble paying for his kids’ college fund to Yale—heck, it’s probably free because he taught there.” (Note: I did teach there—it was an absolutely fabulous course on humility).
So here comes Piketty, and despite the fact that I have only a vague idea of how economics work and haven’t, like many of my fellow critics, actually read his book, it’s clearly wrong. First, it talks about slow growth, but innovation is everywhere, and everyone knows that innovation leads to massive growth for everybody, so after reading the first page, I was like, what’s up with that, Piketty? Second, he talks about concentration of wealth in family fortunes, but they’ve declined before, and Bill Gates has given loads away and is nearly middle-class now. I didn’t read any further, but the huge caverns of my mind understood.
Of course, I completely ignored the central thesis of his work—that the natural state of capitalism is to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few when governments or events like wars don’t intervene, which is why, thank God, or Mammon, or whatever, we’re in a second gilded age. I also ignored the broad sweep of his massive investigation into tax records, and just history in general, because as the wise saying goes, ‘rich people who ignore history tend to feel a whole lot better just before the icky revolutionary part repeats itself’.
But, my wealthy comrades of the world, let’s unite. We can easily appear to change things and keep our money by, first, upping the inheritance tax a tad. Add a couple of percentage points and then talk about death and farmers a lot. Two, add a small consumptive tax—pay a couple grand extra for that jet plain or Maserati: you can cover it, and you can then go on about how you give back to the people while you fly over them.
But most of all, just keep talking the way you have for the last forty years: tell the proles that free markets and trickle-down economics are the only way for job makers to help all the little takers. Tell them to increase productivity and things will be fine. Tell them that government and labor interventions never help workers and only hurt job creators. Tell them that the Great Depression and The Great Recession, never mind all of the other Great Moments in between, are just a part of the magical deregulatory creative destruction that makes their lives better. And then tell them to read some Ayn Rand, for it is simple enough that even a graduate from a public school could understand it. Because, as we all know, an unregulated market is the only way to raise all boats, not just the yachts that are smaller than mine.
And since I’m so charitable, you can freely read the rest here.