by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The recent disputes over Thomas Piketty’s glaring errors and misattribution of statistics to bolster his case in favor of wealth redistribution miss the point entirely. Piketty’s Capital is the best selling book in America. It has been selling so quickly that Amazon.com, the largest bookstore in the history of the world, ran out of copies of the French economist’s book for days.
To call Capital a phenomenon would be an understatement. Piketty has been welcomed by the Council of Economic Advisers, the General Accounting Office, the International Monetary Fund, and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew). And this despite Piketty’s unreserved embrace for wealth redistribution that would have been music to the ears of Karl Marx. The book cites Marx 19 times; it praises the “Soviet experiment” for unshackling capitalism’s “chains along with the yoke of accumulated wealth.” Even the book’s title is an intentional homage to Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. For Piketty, taxation is not about funding government—it’s the ultimate tool for leveling society.
Capital’s success is no aberration. In fact, the resurrection of Marxism and its ideological offspring, Communism, has been a growing, if subtle, threat for some time. .
Even in the Czech Republic, one of the most enthusiastically pro-Western nations to emerge form the Iron Curtain, the Communist Party is staging a troubling comeback and is now the third-largest parliamentary bloc in the Czech Chamber of Deputies. Their growing influence is seen, for example, in the recent hijacking of the Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes—the official institution charged with keeping the Communist era records of Czechoslovakia and digitizing them for the public’s good. The institute’s new government-appointed leadership included five former members of the Communist Party from the 1980s, including some who even taught mandatory ideological indoctrination courses at the local university. Thus infiltrated, the Institute has scrapped its digitization project of Communist era files. …
… We may not be entering a new Cold War, but the ideological confrontation between the democratic rule of law and the arbitrary will of the ruler is still a confrontation of ideas—one that has real-life consequences for many millions of people. Thomas Piketty’s Capital has provided powerful propagandistic ammunition to neo-Marxists in that battle of ideas, and it is a sad testament to society’s short memory of communism’s horrors that Capital is the best-selling book in the nation. Its appeal shows that communism is anything but a discredited ideology gasping its last breaths. A generation ago, that was a happy thought. It is now a dangerous illusion.