Economiste-du-jour Thomas Piketty is in Australia on his first major tour since Capital in the 21st Century was released. He spoke in Sydney this week and will be doing so in Melbourne on Friday night. But according to the Financial Review, his absence has not been missed. In an unusually vehement editorial, Australia’s premier business paper chided the economist and dismissed his insights, using its own vigorous research:
“Regrettably, Mr Piketty seems to assume that the problems of Europe and North America apply to Australia. He is wrong. There will always be relatively rich people and relatively poor people. But Australia does not have some sort of inherited money plutocracy as Mr Piketty’s France. It is there that a true elite of technocrats has applied such dirigiste laws, rules and high taxes that they have effectively regulated opportunity away for immigrants; Australia is a land of immigrant opportunity. Unlike France, Australia does not breed large ghettos of intergenerational poverty that are now rearing battalions of Islamist terrorists. A successful multicultural and socially mobile nation needs no lectures on how to become more … French.
“Since 2000, there has been nearly a 75 per cent turnover on the the BRW Rich 200 now published in this newspaper. Unlike the global plutocracy Mr Piketty imagines, only one-in-seven or so of Australia’s richest 200 millionaires and billionaires got their start from inherited money.”
Piketty is lauded for the data that underlies his analysis — a collation of available economic information into global datasets stretching back to the 18th century that show how wealth inequality first dramatically decreased from the industrial revolution then began to increase again in the 20th century. The datasets haven’t been exempt from criticism. But Piketty’s life work is nonetheless a staggeringly ambitious attempt to map inequality over centuries using the most rigorous economic data that exists. But, of course, he did not consult a defunct Australian publication’s Rich List. Those snotty French …