by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
He’s made dubious arguments about capitalism, but that doesn’t mean we ought to dismiss Thomas Piketty’s theories out of hand. Reihan Salam of National Review Online ponders Piketty’s pronouncements about partisan political changes.
In a new working paper for the World Inequality Lab, the economist Thomas Piketty posits that the changing class composition of the major-party coalitions reflects the emergence of a “multiple-elite party system,” in which “the ‘left’ has become the party of the intellectual elite (Brahmin left), while the ‘right’ can be viewed as the party of the business elite (Merchant right).” This development is not limited to the United States. Rather, Piketty finds that France and the United Kingdom have seen similar shifts over the last few decades as well.
What has happened, he argues, is that the preferences of educated voters in all three countries appear to have reversed. Whereas more education used to predict a higher likelihood of voting for the Right, it now predicts exactly the opposite. Meanwhile, although the relationship with income is much subtler, and doesn’t really apply until the top 10 percent of the income distribution, higher income generally predicts a greater preference for the Right. Higher wealth is even more predictive, and its effect on partisan affiliation kicks in before one reaches the top 10 percent. …
… Needless to say, one can quibble with Piketty’s nomenclature, which reflects his cosmopolitan and social-democratic sensibilities. I don’t think it’s entirely fair to characterize all those who favor selective immigration policies as nativists, or all libertarian critics of redistribution as inegalitarians, though of course there are some in both camps who fit the caricature. Regardless, his framework is illuminating.