Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wealth Grows Faster for the Few than Income Does for the Many

If you haven't heard of Thomas Piketty and his new book "Capital in the 21st Century," you can find an excellent introduction to his work here:

The site features both a video and a transcript of Piketty's remarks.

Here's a sample of Piketty's views on taxation:
I think it is important to realize that wealth is going to be increasingly important as compared to income in the 21st century. Therefore the taxation of wealth is going to be more and more important as compared with the taxation of income. We need both, of course, but we need to rethink the taxation of wealth. In most developed countries the way we tax wealth right now is through property taxes. So for instance in the US or in most European countries you tax real estate property just in proportion to their value. So it's not progressive and also because these property taxes were set up in the 19th century, they do not really take into account financial assets or financial liabilities. So I think it would be important to adapt them to the structure of wealth in the 21st century. And it will be adequate to transform these property taxes into progessive taxation of net wealth. So for instance, if you have a house worth $500,000 and you have a mortgage of $490,000 your net wealth is only $10,000. You are not rich in any way. So in the current property tax system you shouldn't pay as much property tax as someone without a mortgage. And sometimes you even have people whose property value is below their mortgage and they keep paying the same property tax. So I think this is just not the right way to tax wealth. And both to allow people to access wealth, to accumulate wealth and also to limit the concentration of wealth at the top end of the distribution, we need to have a progressive tax on net wealth.