February 16, 2022 –
On February 16, 2022, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Strategic Multilayer Assessment (SMA) program hosted a speaker session with Professor Thomas Piketty (Professor of Economics, School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences [EHESS]; Professor, Paris School of Economics; Co-director, World Inequality Lab/World Inequality Database) as part of its SMA INSS/PRISM Speaker Series.
Thomas Piketty argued that Western countries are struggling to collectively define their political attitude towards China, because of their obsession with capitalism. Instead of focusing on a conventional model of capitalism, he suggests that the US and Western countries pursue increasing the share of income and wealth over their socio-economic spectrums. This could be done by increasing taxes on the wealthiest individuals, increasing the inheritance tax, and always keeping workers’ rights as a priority over corporate profits. Piketty showed several graphs from the World Inequality Database that showed how economic growth and prosperity increased during the mid-1900s when taxes on the wealthy were higher. He commented that this ideological shift is one the US could make, because many European countries went through even more drastic shifts in their history and have subsequently built their social safety nets.
Piketty commented that several contributing factors to the complexity of countries’ political attitudes toward China are global warming and direct ideological and economic competition with Chinese state socialism. Piketty showed how the carbon footprint of nations isn’t only greatly varied from one country to another, but also greatly varied across those countries’ socioeconomic spectrums. It will be hard to encourage an overall decrease in carbon emissions if the wealthiest and highest contributors to countries’ carbon footprints are not willing to take part. Piketty also commented that the value of public debt is close to or greater than the total amount of earnings in the public sectors of some Western countries. He attributed this high level of debt to the privatization of corporations and industries. Ultimately, for the US and other Western countries to deal effectively with autocratic countries like Russia and China, they will need to collectively champion equality and global justice, which will include sanctions against oligarchs and the sharing of global tax revenues among other activities.
Thomas Piketty is a French economist who is Professor of Economics at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, Associate Chair at the Paris School of Economics and Centennial Professor of Economics in the International Inequalities Institute at the London School of Economics. Piketty is the author of "Capital in the 21st Century” (2013) and “Capital and Ideology” (2020).