Capital, Labor, and Reproduction

Why Socialist Technocrats Must Ignore the Real World

I finally got around reading Thomas Piketty’s 2013 Capital in the Twenty-First Century, in the original French edition, a 700-page tome. With just three remarks I can dismiss the entire work as a useless exercise in ignorance.

First of all, Piketty centers his work on (financial) inequality but fails to provide a definition of what inequality is, why it matters, and why (and to whom) it would be beneficial to make the world more equal. He assumes this rationale as a given, i.e. as religious doctrine. He never explores the possibility that, depending on circumstances, an unequal system sometimes yields greater benefits than an equal one. For example, during the Second World War, the majority of casualties were young men. As a result, both post-war Russia and post-war Germany suffered a population surplus of millions of women. This allowed both nations to replenish their populations, following the principle that 100 women and 10 men can produce 100 pregnancies, whereas 100 men and 10 women can only produce 10 pregnancies. In times of war, therefore, leaders ought to prefer male soldiers over (fertile) female ones if they wish to preserve their people after a defeat. It doesn’t even matter whether women are equally or more competent soldiers. What matters is that surviving men can’t give birth to children. (Present-day ‘progressive’ regimes seem to prefer their people’s extinction by sending more females to war.)

Secondly, Piketty defines capital as that which excludes human capital. He argues that human capital can’t be traded on a market, can’t be valued properly etc. But isn’t it convenient to discount human capital ex-ante? By ignoring human capital in his equations, the professor can ignore the real-world source of inequality: innate and learned inequalities between individual capabilities. By ignoring this human factor, socialist economists can conveniently ignore insights offered by biology and ecology. The sheer fact that human beings are not equal provides such a nightmarish scenario to the technocrats that they must uphold a self-imposed mind-blindness to ignore reality.

Thirdly, Piketty explores the Marxist theme of capital and labor, while, once again, ignoring an important biological component. No study of capital and labor can provide a complete picture of reality without factoring in female reproductive rates. Studies should not focus on the capital-labor dichotomy but on the capital-labor-reproduction trichotomy. For example, women in Central Africa may be very poor today but they produce, on average, five to six children per woman before age thirty. European women produce hardly two children after age thirty. The wealth of Western families may thus be explained by concentrating a larger share of inheritances among a smaller number of offspring. This is the wealth-first strategy. African women pursue an offspring-first strategy. As a result, potential inheritances are rapidly diluted within just several generations’ time.

In conclusion, by solely focusing on the strictly rationalistic and measurable part of the world of economics and finance, further ignoring truths and insights provided by biology and ecology, Piketty’s book becomes a useless exercise in ignorance. His book is one written by a technocrat written for a technocrat audience. It serves no purpose to people looking for a greater understanding of the world.

Piketty never asks cui bono—who benefits from equality? So, let me answer it with an analogy. In Finland, decades ago, the forestry department decided to plant new forests. Unlike in a wild forest, where stronger trees outcompete weaker trees, the foresters planted new trees in equal measures from one another to give each tree equal access to soil and sunlight. As a result, the thickness of each tree was indeed more equal but the wood from these trees was also considerably weaker than the wood from wild forests, where only strong trees could win the competition for resources. Still, the experiment was a success: the local sawmills greatly profited from sawing the more equally-shaped trees into planks!

In other words, if your government is trying to make you more equal to your neighbor, it’s because it will make it easier for governments to control you both.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s