Piketty on the "Brahmin left" and the "merchant right"

Thomas Piketty, the French economist behind 2014's game-changing Capital in the 21st Century, has a new book, Capital and Ideology (out in France now, coming in English in 2020), which uses the same long-run economic series that Capital 21C benefited from to understand the relationship between wealth and ideology. Central to Piketty's thesis: that it's not enough to use class to understand how people vote -- you also have to take account of peoples' beliefs about class (this is a neat way of resolving the tension between traditional left class analysis and contemporary "identitarian" theories of leftist politics). Read the rest

Thomas Piketty's new book uses data to trace how inequality changes ideology

French economist Thomas Piketty changed the world in 2014 with his magisterial Capital in the Twenty-First Century, a book that reported out an incredibly ambitious project to map out three centuries' worth of capital flows, and from that, to derive an empirical answer about whether markets are a machine for finding smart people and allocating capital to them so that they can invent things that make us all better off ("meritocracy"), or whether they simply make the people who happened to get rich (possibly by inventing something, more often by inheriting wealth or by being a sociopathic looter) even richer (spoiler: rg, which means that markets' long-run function is to increase inequality by allocating ever-larger pools of capital to rich people who don't do much that's socially beneficial with it). Read the rest

Datification: the ideology that says that data isn't ideological

Cennydd Bowles's essay on "Datafication and ideological blindness" attacks the business/product-design vogue to base every decision on "data" on the grounds that data reflects objective truth, free from bias. Read the rest

Roddy Piper in THEY LIVE: great analysis by Slavoj Žižek

They Live stars Rowdy Roddy Piper, who died July 31. It's one of the greatest political sci-fi films of all time, and fittingly, it's the opening film analyzed by Slavoj Žižek in The Pervert's Guide to Ideology. Read the rest

The Economist defends America's enslavement of Africans

When The Economist reviewed The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, its anonymous reviewer condemned it, sticking up for America's legacy of slavery as a means of wealth creation, saying "Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery; almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains -- this is not history; it is advocacy." Read the rest

Sales tax is still regressive, gravity still sucks, and George Osborne is still a delusional ideologue

In 2010, UK Chancellor George Osborne surprised the world's economists by declaring that VAT (the UK's ubiquitous sales- and value-added tax) was a progressive tax; this is surprising because there's widespread agreement that sales-taxes are regressive, and bite harder on poor people than rich people. Now the Office of National Statistics has confirmed what economists (except Mr Osborne) already knew: VAT is inherently regressive: "the poorest fifth spent 9.8% of their disposable income on goods attracting VAT in 2009/10, while the richest fifth spent 5.3%." Of course, VAT was only 17.5% then. I'm sure things are much better now that it's 20%. Read the rest