Piketty, Poverty and the 2015 General Election: Ain’t we Got Fun?! | PLMR.co.uk

Chivonne Preston

Thomas Piketty is going viral.

Hard copies of the English version of his book ‘Capital in the 21st Century’ (published originally in French in 2013) have sold out.

His analysis of wealth and income data concludes that capitalism results in an inevitable deepening inequality of wealth distribution, and has set economic tongues wagging!  The internet is alight with comment and review, with some even suggesting he is the Karl Marx of our generation.  But whilst the broad notion that the wealthy will become wealthier, and the poor will become poorer (unless government intervenes), is not new, who could have predicted this otherwise academic debate would reappear in a rare UK election year?  How striking, that Piketty’s theory of Capitalism is published as UK poverty issues hit the headlines time and time again, and the widening between the haves and have-nots is a daily staple for the media.  This month alone it is reported that:

– The UK has one of the highest rates of death for children under five in Western Europe
– Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat
UK’s super rich give £2.4bn to good causes
F1’s Ecclestone avoided potential £1.2bn tax bill

Surely the challenge for the main political parties, in the run up to the 2015 General Election, is how to avoid the Piketty issue!  If they say he is right, they must consider introducing progressive income taxation, and if they say he is wrong, they must debate the underlying causes of wealth inequality, or even admit that wealth inequality is necessary to democracy!  Not the topics that good election soundbites are made of…

Far easier, will be for the parties to build on the more generic statements about tackling poverty they have already issued, rather than debating whether Capitalism and Democracy can truly coexist.  They say things like this:

– The Conservatives’ child poverty plan tackles poverty at the source
– Ed Balls commits Labour to budget surplus
Liberal Democrats passed the policy motion, Food Poverty, a motion calling for additional funding for food banks to help provide to those in need

But it would be far more revealing to hear their views on the evolution of wealth inequality, to know how much inequality they think is acceptable, to find out if their policies are based on reasoned long-term economic theory, or are a best guess designed simply to maximize the short-term vote, and to debate the lyrics from the 1920s popular song:

“There’s nothing sure but
The rich get richer and the poor get children;
In the mean time,
In between time,
Ain’t we got fun?”

(George Orwell ‘The Road to Wigan Pier)

Chivonne sits on the PLMR Board of Directors, reviewing business strategy, operational progress, back office systems and maintaining general oversight of the financial and operational aspects of the business.

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