Thomas Piketty. Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Cambridge, Ma.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014.
Simon Kuznets believes economic growth, new technologies, and competition redistributes wealth through society. Karl Marx believed that wealth becomes increasingly concentrated to the wealthiest people.
In the 20th century, economic growth and diffusion of knowledge created wealth distribution that avoided what Marx predicted.
In the 19th century, capital’s rate of return was greater than the rate of growth for income and output. This made wealth more concentrated towards the wealthiest. A similar pattern exists in currently, in the 21st century. It is a pattern that “radically undermines the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.”
Thomas Malthus and Arthur Young observed (there was little empirical data in the late 18th century and early 19th century) that France had a rapid population growth while agricultural wages declined and land rents increased. Young concluded that the population growth was draining the economy and create more numbers of poor people. Malthus recommended all welfare to the poor be stopped to discourage poor people from increasing their numbers.
David Ricardo observed (also without access to economic data which then did not exist) that larger populations required more total goods. More people creating more output made land scarcer. Land rents and prices increased. Landlords were obtaining a greater proportion of total societal wealth.. Ricardo recommended that landlords be taxed more on their rents.
Ricardo wrote in the 1810s unaware that new technologies and industrial growth would change society. Still, Ricardo’s “scarcity principle” gained importance as people realized that high prices might make a good scarcer to find and be able to buy. Some important items could become so scarce as to create moral harm or economic instability. Today, a global disruption of oil and or urban real estate follows the patterns Ricardo describes.
Wages in both France and England were stagnant and low in the first two thirds of the 19th century. In the 1840s, labor incomes remained about the same. People’s lives were not improving despite technological growth increasing industrial output. The political response to this was to prohibit types of child labor at ages 8 and 19 (for mining employment).
n the last third of the 19th century, capital (industrial profits plus rents on land and buildings) received a greater share of national income. In the last four decades of the 19th century, wages began growing. Still, from 1870 to 1914, there was a steadily increasing wealth held by the wealthiest.
Karl Marx predicted this wealth concentration would lead to its own downfall. He believe either capital’s proportion of wealth would diminish or it would become so concentrated that the lower classes would demand a greater share, perhaps violently.
By contrast, Adam Smith believed economies would find their own equilibriums. Jean-Baptiste Say believed production drove demand.
Marx’s predictions were disproved due to the increasing wages in the last third of the 19th century, Consumers were increasing their purchasing powers until World War I. Marx had not foreseen increasing wages through increased productivity nor new lasting technologies.
Marx’s observations on extreme income inequities leading to social instabilities remains relevant. The 21st century has seen low productivity growth with greater wealth concentration to the wealthy. This growing inequity of wealth since the 1980s is observed in wealthy European countries and in Japan.
Economic inequity data became more accessible after the creation of progressive taxes in Great Britain in 1909, U.S. in 1913, France in 1914, India in 1922, and Argentina in 1932.
Simon Kuznets believed increased capital development would, on its own, without policy dictates or government actions, lead to a stable income distribution. Kuznets used U.S. economic data from 1913 to 1948. This was the first quantifiable study of social and economic inequity. The data indicates there was a reduction in income inequity in the U.S> during that period.
Kuzents found that the wealthiest 10% of people in the U.S. ha about 45% to 50% of annual national income in the 1910s. Their share decreased to about 30% to 35% of national income during the late 1940s. Kuznets observed economic development at first incrased the economic inequities. Yet these inequalities decreased as more people shared in the economic growth. Piketty observes that major factors were the world wars and economic shocks from the Depression.
The more equitable income distribution that Kuznets saw from 1913 to 1948 was due to the “exogenous shocks” such as war. Kuzets warned that these were the causes. Kuznets though there would continue “intersectional mobility” yet this prediction did not happen.
Robert Solow believed that economic progress would create balanced economic growth for all income groups.
Income inequity has grown sharply in wealthier nations, more so in the U.S., since the 1970s. The wealth concentration by the wealthiest is now greater than it was in the early 20th century.
Global inequity has been reduced as China and other economically developing countries have increases their wealth. Yet the future trend sees greater wealth to the superrich, to oil producing nations, to the Bank of China, and to nations that allow the wealthy to bring their wealth into the nation without taxation, The general, current wealth distrubution is similar to where wealth was distributed in the early 19th century.
This book continues Kuznet’s work to France, Great Britain, and expands research to current U.S.
These studies conclude that it is difficult to determine with certainty what he future will be regarding wealth and income inequities. Wars have played major roles in their shapes. One doesn’t know what future political factors may exist. It was decisions to reduce taxes on the wealthy in the 1980s and other changes in financial laws that increased income inequality.
The author concludes there is no natural economic process that will change this economic inequity. It is non-economic forces such as increased knowledge and education or increasing productivity that reduces inequity. Improved technology could increase wages such that laboring wages increase faster than do capital profits. This could create a meritocracy where more skilled workers rise in wealth faster than other groups. This meritocracy could occur even if the growth in wages doesn’t rise faster than capital growth. Some predict a “class warfare” or “generational warfare” will bring wealth redistributions.The author believes these redistributive processes are unlikely. Labor’s share of national income has not increased in a long time and there is little to indicate this will change.
A factor in income inequity in he U.S. and to a lesser degree Great Britain was that top managers could set their own remuneration without regard to their own productivity.
The author finds the average rate of return on capital (plus profits, dividends, interests, rents, and other capital income), which is designated by r, is greater than economic growth, designated by g Thus, r >g.
As r>g, inherited wealth increases more rapidly than economic growth. The wealth concentration remains consistent over time. This is incompatible with meritocracy or social justice ideals.
If savings remains greater than g, this inequity remains. The wealthy increases their wealth and hold onto their wealth.
The author finds that as capital markets are economically perfect, then r will more likely be greater than g.
Great Britain and France were major parts of global economies in the 18th century through the early 20th century.
The author believes it is likely that developing economies such as China and Brazil are likely experiencing similar economic inequities as have other countries.
The author especially notes that French economic data is the best to make overall conclusions. France had a population growth from 30 million people in the early 18th century (during the French Revolution) and has 60 million people today. It is the more stable population which creates less population distortion on economic data. By comparison, the U.S. went from 1 million at the time of the American Revolution in the late 18th century to 100 million people in 1900 to over 300 million people today. Further, France’s Revolution attempted to give more power to the “bourgeois” while the English Revolution of 1668 left land estate and a hereditary monarchy. The U.S. revolution allowed slaveryf for a century and legal racial discrimination for two centuries.
The author notes there were few efforts to analyze economic inequality since Kuznets.
Capital can often be one fourth of total output. It is often half the share in capital-intensive businesses such as mining.
Capital’s share of income decreased during Word War I, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the Great Depression, World War II, and when tax policies or regulations reduced capital’s share of income.
Capital’s share on income increased with reductions on taxing the wealthy by Margaret Thatcher’s British government ad Ronald Reagan’s U.S. government in the 1980s.
Net domestic product, a.k.a.Domestic Output or Domestic Product, is Gross Domestic Product (GDP) minus capital depreciation. Depreciation is often 10% of GDP in most nations.
Net national income is Net Domestic Product adjusted for Net Income from Foreigners or Net Income Paid to Foreigners. Owning more capital in other countries increases the national income. In France, U.S., Germany, Great Britain, China, Brazil, and Japan, national income is within 1% to 2% of domestic product. there exists many fears of increasing foreign ownership yet this is not reality Economic inequity is a domstic issue with little influence from international ownership.
On a global level, global income equals global output.
Capital does not include “human capital” which is labor, skills, training, and ability, Human capital cannot be permanently owned by a capital owner except for slaves in a slave society.
“Capital” and “”wealth” are similar. Land is a part of wealth but not capital. Land, though, is often considered part of buildings, which is included in capital. Thus, there is little distinction between capital and wealth.
“National wealth”, a.k.a. “national capita” is the overall market value of all that is owned by a nation’s residents and government at a specific time.
National wealth equals private wealth plus public wealth.
Many countries, especially in the increased financial globalization since the 1980s, have greater capital stakes in each other. Yet the net foreign capital is nearly zero, meaning most countries have similar financial stakes in each other.
Most developed nations have capital five to six times greater than annual income. It is over six in Japan and less than five in the U.S. and Germany.
Public wealth is slightly negative in some countries and is barely positive in others.
The First Fundamental Law of Capitalism is the capital divided by income ratio, designated by B, times the rate of return, r, equals capital’s share in national income (or) . In most countries, the average long run rate of return on stocks is 7% to 8%, on real estate and bonds is 3% to 4%, and on capital is 5%.
Capital’s share of national income is generally 30%.
Business capital has more risk and thus usually has a higher rate of return. Capital returns vary greatly amongst businesses.
The Second Fundamental Law of Capitalism is the greater the savings rate and the lower the growth rate, the higher the capital to income rate will be.
The earliest attempts to measure national income and capital was done by nobility seeking to tax landlords and commoners at low rates. The first measurements were down in England by William Petty in 1664 and by Gregory King in 1696. The first measurements in France were done by Pierre Le Pesant, Sieur de Boisguillebrer in 1695 and Sebastien le Vauban in 1707. Later works were published by Antoine Laugisier in 1789 and regular estimates were made by Robert Giffen from 1870 to 1900. It is noted these numbers were estimates and not known, definite numbers.
From 1900 to 1980, Europe and the U.S. produced from 70% to 80% of goods and services worldwide. This share declined to 50% by 2010. This is the share of Europe and U.S. global goods and services production that existed in 1860.
The U.S. and Europe used to have out per capita that was two to three times more than the global average.
In 2010, there were almost 7 billion people with global annual output of over 70 trillion euros. Adjusting for capital depreciation, the average monthly income for ever person is about 760 euros. The annual average per capita is 10,000 euros or 9,000 adjusted for capital depreciation.
The annual per capita output, in2012, in the European Union was over 27,000 euros. In Russia and Ukraine it was 15,000 euros. In the U.S. and Canada the average was 40,000 euros. In Latin America it was 10,000 euros. In sub-Sahara Africa it was 2,000 euros. China was 8,000 euros Japan was about 30,000 euros
The share of global income going to the wealthiest has been steadily declining from 1970 on. The gap between richer and poorer nations is reducing.
Net income from foreign nations is from 2% to 3% of GDP in Germany and Japan. These trade surpluses have produced capital accumulation with considerable returns.
The U.S., Europe, and Asia are at equilibrium with foreign trade. Their total incomes from foreign capital is usually within 0.5% of GDP.
Almost 10% of African capital is owned by foreigners.
In 1913, almost one third to one half of Asian domestic capital as well as African domestic capital was owned by Europeans. Over three fourths of industrial capital in both Asian and Africa was owned by Europeans.
Classic economic theory states that the flow of capital from wealthier nations to poorer nations increase productivity in poorer nations and reduces the wealth gap between richer and poorer nations. This is flawed because these investments do not guarantee per capita incomes will converge. There is no assurance there will be equality of skilled labor and human capital in these foreign investments. If the share of income paid to foreigners is great, there is no reduction in the national wealth gap.
The data indicates that mobile foreign capital investments was the major cause of the wealth convergence between richer and poorer nations.
Many countries with large investments experienced political instability. There were revolutionary governments, who usually achieved only limited improvements to citizen’s live, versus governments that defended property rights.
The gains of free trade are usually more from knowledge diffusion and productivity increases from increased migrant labor. Gains from foreign capital speculation are slight.
Poorer nations achieve greater wealth when they obtain the knowledge of technology, skills, and education that propel them forward economically. Poorer nations gain once they have effective legitimate governments.
Poorer nations tend to grow economically when they make internal investments.
the population worldwide is increasing almost 1% annually while global income per capita and global output is increasing over 2% annually.
From 1700 to 2012, global output increased at an average of 1.6% annually, total population grew 0.8% annually, and per capita growth in output grew 0.8% annually.
The Law of Cumulative Growth argues that even small annual growth rates create large growth over tie. It is important to realize that a small gap between the return of capital versus the rate of growth can create large and destabilizing results on social inequality.
There has been a significant increase in the standard of living since the Industrial Revolution.
In most advance countries, people employed in either education or health care represents over 20% of total population.
Increases in education and health care may overestimate an increase in their value. Some companies with private health care and private education experience increases in services and wages paid without create a more superior product.
No nation has experienced per capita growth over 1.5% or only slightly more annually over a long time. In the wealthiest nations, from 1990 to 2012, these rates were 1.6% in Western Europe, 1.4% in North America, and 0.7% in Japan. The U.S. experienced 1.5% rates in from 1820 to 2012.
The depletion of hydrocarbons threatens future economic growth. Unless alternative energy is used, it may be difficult to sustain past economic growth rates.
The increased policies of economic liberation in the U.S. and Great Britain beginning in the 1980s had little impact on economic growth.
Inflation mostly happened in the 20th century. Before then, prices fluctuated up and down yet inflation was much lower. From 1700 to 1913, inflation was negligible in France and was at most 0.2% to 0.3% in the U.S. and Germany.
Annual inflation in France and Great Britain went from 2% to 6% between 1950 ti 1970. In the 1970s to 1990, it reached 10% in Great Britain.
The instability of inflation created problems in nations’ economics, politics, and societies.
Public debt today is new historic levels reached in France, although not close to Great Britain’s historic high public debt at the beginning of the 19th century,
The capital to income rations in both France and Great Britain were stable from the 18th century until World War I. Then there was a significant decrease in this rate that stayed low until the 1950s.
Capital largely disappeared in the mid-20th century only to return to levels found in the 18th and 18th centuries. This increased wealth.
Valuable capital over time changed from agricultural land to buildings, business capital, and financial capital. The overall value of capital has changed little over time.
At the beginning of the 18th century, farmland’s total value was about two-thirds of all national income. Today, it is worth less than 10% of national income and is under 2% of total wealth in both France and Great Britain.
Just prior to World War I, Great Britain had foreign assets from its colonies equal to two years of national income. France had foreign assets equal to over one year of national income. Bu the 1950s both nations had foreign assets holdings that were almost nothing. This has continued since then.
The total value of public financial and non-financial assets equal a bit under one year of national income in Great Britain and just under one a half years of France’s national income. This, public assets equals all of Great Britain’s wealth and all almost half of France’s. Net public wealth in Great Britain and France is small compared to total private wealth. Net public wealth is less than 1% of national wealth in Great Britain and 5% in France.
Thus, private wealth is 99% of British wealth and 95% of French wealth.
Great Britain’s public debt was about 200% of its GDP after both the Napoleonic wars and World War II. Great Britain never defaulted on its debt.
France defaulted on two thirds of its public debt in 1797. This helped reduce its debt to under 20% of national income in 1815.
Great Britain’s public debt reached 200% of its national income in the 1810s. This was ten times France’s debt. It took a century to reduce British debt to under 30% of national income in the 1910s.
The high amount of British debt created incom for British bond holders. Many wealthy landowners held these bonds The bonds earned around 4% to 5% annually while inflation was almost 0%. The growth in domestic product and national income of almost 2.5% annually from 1815 to 1914 allowed for a reduction in public debt as a percent of national debt.
In 1880 to 1914, the French public debt was 70% to 80% of national income while Great Britain’s public debt was under 50%.
The French inflation rate was over 13% a year from 1913 to 1950.
David Ricardo observed in 1817 that British public debt did not affect national wealth, that it was debt owe by part of the British to other British, and that the public debt was not affecting private investment of capital formation. Public debt came out of private saving.
John Maynard Keynes in 1936 believed inflation reduced public debt and accumulated wealth.
It should be noted that public debt is owned by a minority of people. The industrial and financial sectors gained much of the public assets during 1950 to 1980. This was seen in most developed and many emerging nations.
The Great Depression created distrust in France of its’ economic elites who profited before and during the war and who may have collaborated with the German occupiers.
Stagflation in the 1970s showed Keynesian actions could not control it.
Soviet and Chinese statist models in the 1970s failed which led to some forms of private firms in both countries in the 1980s.
Germany also saw its agricultural land become less valuable while commercial and residential property increased. Germany had no colonialism until it attempted to challenge France for Morocco in 1905 and 1911.
German and foreign assets in 2012 was 50% of its national income. Half of these assets were acquired in the decade before.
Germany’s inflation averaged 17% annually between 1930 and 1950. Its public debt went over 100% of its GDP in 1918 to 1920 and was 150% of its GDP in both 1930 and 1950. In 2010, Germany’s net public wealth was almost zero. Its private wealth considered of almost all its wealth. This private wealth was equal to about four years of national income. This figure is according to the stock market value, which has a lower value. According to book value, German private wealth is similar to French and British levels of five to six years of national income.
The capital to income ratio collapsed and then recovered during the 20th century in all of Europe.
The capital / income ratio increased more in Italy and Spain since 1970 than in Great Britain or France. Similar patters are observed in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Austria.
National income was six and a half to seven years of national income in Britain, France, and Germany in 1913 and approximately two and a half years of national income in the 1950s. The physical war destruction explains some of this. France lost a year of national income (accounting for about 20% to 25% of the lowered capital - income ratio) while Germany lost a year and a half of national income (accounting for about a third of its lower capital / income ration) from the wars.
Great Britain lost under 10% of its national income from World War II, most of which was from German bombing which did relatively less damage than German and France felt. There was little physical damage to Great Britain during World War I. Its national income was lowered by four years of national income (or 40 times the amount from war physical damages) which puts its total loss as similar to what happened in France and Germany.
French foreign capital declined when the Bolsheviks repudiated Russian debts in 1917 and when Nasser in Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956. These actions ended French and British and some German royalties, including Suez Canal royalties that had been collected since 1869.
European nations borrowed from the United States, giving the U.S. a positive foreign position from World War I through the 1950s.
The author notes, “Ultimately the decline in the capital - income rates between 1913 to 1950 is the history of Europe’s suicide, and in particular the euthanasia of European capitalists.” It reduced the market value of its assets and the economic strength of asset owners. Real estate and housing prices were low in the 1950s and 1960s. Real estate prices and stock market prices increased in the 1970s and continued rising through the 2000s.
In the U.S., farmland in 1770 ti 1810 equaled one and a half years of national income. The U.S., compared to Europe, was less affected by landlords and accumulated wealth during the 19th century
The U.S. accumulated industrial capital and real estate to increase its national capital from three years of national income in 1810 to five years of national income in 1910.
In the U.S., public debt increased during World War II. After the war, real estate and stock prices reached historic low prices. Progressive taxes reduced private property totals and reduced income inequality, Inflation reduced public debt to modest levels in the 1950s and 1960s. U.S. private wealth was almost five years of national income in 1930 and three and a hand years of national income in 1970.
U.S. domestic capital was 500% of national income just before World War I. Assets that were foreign owned assets in the U.S. were less than 10% of national income. Thus U.S. net national wealth was 490% of national income. The U.S. was 98% owned by Americas and 2% foreign owed. While Europe in 1913 owned large portions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the U,S, owned itself.
The U.S. financed Europe during the world wars. The U.S. net foreign assets was barely 10% of national income.
Canada’s domestic capital now is about 410 percent of its national income. Assets owned by foreign investors are under 10% of national income. Canada also is 98% Canadian owned ad less than 2% foreign owned.
While the U.S. ended importing new slaves in 1808, the number of slaves from births increased the total slave population from 400,000 in the 1770s to 1 million in the 1820 census to 4 million in the 1860 census. In Southern states, the slave population was 40% of the total population. In 1860, the 4 million slaves was about 15% of the total U.S, population while it remained at 40% with 4 million slaves and 6 million whites.
The total market value of slaves was about the same as the total value of farmland during the late 18th century and first half of the 19th century at about a year and a hlaf of all national income. In Southern states the total value of slaves was between two and a half to three years of their income. Including farmland, the value of slaves and farmland was four years of income.
U.S. Southern states were wealthier than European landlords The value of capital in Southern U.S. states was over six years of their income, which was almost as much as was found in Great Britain and France.
In Northern U.S. sates, total states wealth was just over three years income, or half that in Europe and in Southern states.
Slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1833 to 1838. France abolished slavery in 1792, Napoleon restored it in 1803, and it was totally abolished in 1848. Slavery was used far less in these countries than in the U.S.
Slaves had a slightly less average productivity rate and rate of return on capital at 7% to 8% and sometimes more, than did free labor produce.
A male slave in 1860 cost an average of $2,000 in 1860 compared to free labor average annual income of $200.
The Second Fundamental Law of Capitalism is the capital / income, B, is equal to the savings rate, s, divided by the growth rate, g.
Small changes in the growth rate can lead to large long term effects on the capital / income rates.
The second fundamental law holds only if a country indefinitely saves a proportion of its income, s, and if the national income growth rate permanently is g.
If a major part of national capital consists of pure natural resources independent of human improvement and past investment, then the capital / income rate, B. can be large without savings contributions.
The U.S., Canada, and Australia had a higher population growth rate in 1970 tp 2010 of between 1.0% to 1.5% annually compared to Europe and Japan whose population growth rates were under 0.5% annually.
Private savings in 1970 to 2010 was 14% to 15% in Japan and Italy and 7% to 8% in the U.S. and Great Britain.
The U.S., which saves less than Japan and is growing faster, has a much smaller capital / income ratio.
In developed countries, annual capital depreciation is often 10% to 15% of national income and about half of total savings which is often 25% to 30% of national income. Thus, net savings is often 10% to 15% of national income.
Only net savings increases capital stock. Savings used on depreciation prevents decreasing capital stock.
People average a third to a half of annual income on durable goods.
Disposable household income, or disposable income, is the mandatory income households directly dispose. It is national income minus taxes, fees, and obligatory payments and monetary transfers such as pensions, welfare, unemployment compensation, etc. In wealthy countries disposable income is 70% to 80% of national income.
The wealth of foundations, which operate of gifts from private individuals or their properties incomes, are modest compared to total private wealth.
Privatization partly reduced public capital in France and Germany from one fourth to on third of total national wealth in 1950 to 1970 to just a few percents in 2010.
The significant rise of private wealth in Russia and Eastern Europe from the late 1980s to 2010 is from transfers of government ownership of capital to private individuals,
The ratio of the market value to book value is known as Tobin’s Q, after James Tobin. In 2012, this ratio among French firms varied from 20% to 340%.
Tobin’s Q ratios are increased by immaterial investments (such as research and development or spending to increase a brand’s value) that may not be on a balance sheet.
Tobin’s Q ratios may be lowered by long term compromises with stakeholders such as unions, governments, and consumer groups.
Japan and Germany had large net foreign assets in the 1990s and more so in the 2000s. Net foreign assets in the early 2010s were 70% of Japan’s national income and almost 50% of Germany;s national income.
There was a large “financialization” of the global economy in the 1970s This provided more wealth to households, corporations, and government agencies. Total financial assets and liabilities were four to five years of national income in most countries such as the U.S., Japan, Germany, and France, rising to ten to fifteen years of national income in many countries in 2010. In Great Britain, it was twenty years of national income.
Cross investing between countries happens more often between Britain, German, and France (where one quarter to one half of domestic financial assets are owned by foreigners) than in the U.S. and Japan (where foreign owned domestic assets are just over ten percent). Much of this flow is for tax opportunity reasons and for regulatory arbitrage than for economic demand reasons.
Japanese probate records from 1905 on indicate Japan had a high capital / income ration in 1910-1930 rising to 600% and 700%. It fell to 200% and 300% in the 1950s through the 1960s and then rose to 600% and 700% in the1990s and 2000s.
Globally, the capital / income ratio today is about 500%,
The author projects global output annual increases will decline from 3% annually to 1.5% annually in the second half of this century. The author forecasts a stable investment rate. He concludes the global capital / income ratio will reach almost 700% by the century’s end. The investment flow should account for most of this increase. Urban land value increases will not causes most of this increase. This is unlike when in the 18th century, the value of pure farmland accounted for half a year to one year of national income.
Gains in land values have been offset by capital losses in declining areas.
The author sees nothing that would guarantee stability in land values or in natural resources values.
The savings rate and the growth rate are mostly independent of each other.
In late 18th century through the 19th century, in Great Britain and France, capital’s share of income was around 35% to 40%. In the mid-20th century, this share was around 20% to 25%. In the late 20th century and early 21st century this share was around 25% to 30%. Thus, capital’s average rate of return in the late 18th century and 19th century was about 5% to 6%, in the mid-20th century was about 7% to 8%, and in the late 20th century and early 21st century was about 4% to 5%.
Current yields on industrial capital and riskier stocks is around 7% to 8%, yields on less risky stocks are around 4% to 5% (which were the yields for farmland in the 18th and 19th centuries), yields for real estate are about 3% to 4%, and yields for checking and savings accounts are around 1% to 2% or even negative when considering inflation.
Domestic production from non-wage employees in single owned businesses today is about 10% of all domestic production. Most of these are small businesses and individual professionals (such as doctors and lawyers).
Non-wage workers are about 10% of the active population.
Non-wage income is considered mixed income as it involves income from labor and capital. Mixed income is about 1% to 2% of national income.
The author makes a principal conclusion that in France and Great Britain, from the 18th century through the present, the pure rate of return on capital has been about 4% to 5% a year and annually changes from 1% to 6% a year. There was no long term trend either upwards or downwards except that it may have slightly decreased over the long term towards 3% to 4% currently. The increased international competition for capital and the improved abilities of financial markets to improve yields from diversification may allow this rate to increase over time. Thus, the long term pure rate of return on capital is steady.
The average tax rate on capital returns in most wealthier countries is about 30%. There are wide disparities within this.
Wealth in richer countries is held in real estate or financial assets. Both are comparable in size.
The average annual rates of return on capital of 3% to 4% annually are pretax rates. Taxes were of little consequence to these returns in the 18th and 19th centuries. Taxes have made more of an impact since the 20th century. The total wealth of most individuals is small. Almost all financial assets are in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pensions, and annuities.
Nominal assets are sensitive to inflation risks.
Real assets usually increase similarly to increases in the consumer price index from 1910 to 2010. The effects of inflation are on wealth distribution. When inflation is high, investments in real assets increases. People with real assets tend to become wealthier while those with assets in savings and checking accounts become relatively less wealthy during inflation.
Real assets are generally three fourths of household assets. In some cases they are nine-tenths of household assets.
The rate of return on capital, in both capital markets and in labor markets, is the marginal productivity of capital, which is increased output from an additional unit of capital.
Technology and the abundance of capital stock determines the rate of return on capital. It should be noted that having an abundance of capital can reduce the rate.
Capital provides housing and a factor in the production.of goods and services.
Stock markets and financial markets are subject to chronic waves of instability, speculation, and bubbles.
The long run capital share of income in France and in Great Britain followed the capital / income ratio in the 18th and 19th centuries, lowered in the mid-10th century, and rebounded afterwards.
When the elasticity of substitution between capital and labor is equal to one (meaning a unit of change in either creates the same change in the marginal productivity).
The Cobb-Douglas production function simultaneously assumes there is a stable split between capital and labor. Even if is correct, extreme inequality between capital ownership and income distribution is possible.
The ratio of capital and income can vary over time and among different countries.
The Cobb-Douglas hypothesis exists in some sectors. Here, historical data shows much diversity. The Cobb-Douglas hypothesis, published in 1928, holds in data in 1899 to 1922 U.S. manufacturing. It was based on a 1920 Arthur Bowley book on British national income as seen in 1880 to 1912 which found capital and labor has a stable split.
Marxist economists argued capital’s share increased while wages were stagnant.
Jurge Kuczynski showed in 1937 that labor’s share of national income steadily lowered during the industrial age. The author state Kuczynski was correct for the first two thirds of this period which encompassed the 19th century but not for the early 20th century.
John Maynard Keynes in 1939 considered this stability of capital’s and labor’s division was “one of the best established regularities in all of economic science”. He based this on data of 1920s British manufacturing.
From the 1990s on, severals studies found capital and profits had a larger share with a decrease in the share of labor and wages.
Data shows capital can be used in different ways.
Data shows that capital’s share of income rose in most wealthier nations in 1970 to 2000.
It was hard in agricultural economies to substitute capital for labor. Today, there are numerous modern opportunities to substitute capital for labor.
Increased capital reduce the return on capital.
As labor became important to production, capital’s share of income, which was 35% to 40% in 1800 to 1810, fell to 25% and 30% in 2000-2010.
It should be noted that modern technology requires capital. Labor skill levels have increased. Still, industrial, financial, and real estate capital have also increased.
Robert Allen found capital’s share of national income rose from 35% to 4-% in the late 18th century and early 19th century to 45% to 50% in the mid-19th century, This is the period when Karl Marx wrote. Capital’s share of national income decreased in 1870 to 1900, then increased slightly, from 1900 to 1910. Capital’s share int he beginning of the 20th century was what it was during the 19th century.
The author believes there can be a significant decrease in capital’s share of national income without civilization changing much. Capital would still be useful.
Wages and profits increased in share of national income in 1945 to 1969, decreased in 1969 to 1983, and increased rapidly after 1983 and then stabilized in the early 1990s.
The author notes that Karl “Marx did not use mathematical models and his prose was not always limpid, so it was difficult to be sure what he had in mind.” It does appear that Marx argued that dynamic law, B+s/g, that there is a long term structural growth rate is actually a special case where the growth rate g is close to zero if not zero.
Robert Solow in the 1950s demonstrated that permanent and durable productivity growth drives structural growth. Before Solow, many attributed manufacturing output and other productivity growth occurred from accumulating industrial capital. It was then observed that productivity for labor and capital could increase output. Productivity growth can cause long term structural growth, something not observable during Marx’s life
Marx observed British reports on wages, taxes from profits, workplace accidents, and workplace deplorable health conditions in 1829 to 1860. He observed rapid growth industrial profits during the 1840s.
Data would confirm Marx’s hypothesis that there was a large accumulation of private capital during the period he studied.
Rory Harrod in 1939 argued g=s/B were B is available technology such that the growth rate is entirely determined by the savings rate. The growth rate must also equal the population’s growt rate and of productivity. Growth, thus, is unstable Harrod’s observations of such volatility were observed during the Depression.
Evsey Domar in 1948 argued the savings rate and the capital / income ratio can adjust to the other.
Robert Solow in 1956 showed the production function could have substitutable factors so the long run capital / income ratio adjusts to the savings rates and structural rate. Prior, most believed the influence was the reverse.
Robert Samuelson defended the production function had substitutable factors.
Joan Robinson, Nicholas Kaldor, and Luigi Paisnetti argued growth is always perfectly balanced and denied the Keynes claim of short term fluctuations In the 1970s,Robert Solo’s neoclassical growth model was the generally agreed correct one.
Franco Modlgliani often exaggerated the “balanced growth path” that B=s/g is a growt path in which all macroeconomic quantities (capital stok, income, and output flows) progresses at the same rate over the long run.
The author predicts it is most likely that the rate of return will become less than the increase in the capital / income ratio which should increase capital’s sare. Thus, the capital / income return of 7 to 8 years with a rate of return on capital of 4% to 5% and capital’s share of global income of 30% to 40%. This is a level seen in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The author notes varying long run technology changes could give a slight favor to human labor over capital which would lower the return on capital and on capital share. Yet the author sees the size of such an effect should be limited and could be more affected by opposite factors such as financial intermediation systems and international competition for capital.
Technology do not have limits nor do not have morality. Technology as increased the need for human skills, increased competent labor, buildings, offices, equipments, homes, patents, etc. such that all this non-human capitals has increased almost as quickly as has total labor income.
In sum, modern growth, which is based on productivity growth and knowledge diffusion, avoided the collapse predicted by Karl Marx, and has balanced the process of capital accumulation. this has not altered the structures of capital.
The author states the two world wars and public policies in the 20th century reduced income inequalities. Income inequalities rose from the 1970s and 1980s on.
Income inequality occurs from inequality of income from labor; inequality of ownership of capital and the income it gives; and from results from the interactions between these two factors.
The income inequality in capital is always wider than the income inequality in labor. Capital is more concentratedly distributed then is labor. This is observed in all countries and the author observed “the magnitude of the phenomenon is always quite strikiingly.”
The upper 10% in labor income distribution usually receives 25% to 30% of total labor income while the top 10% of capital income distribution always have half of all wealth and sometimes as much as 90% of all wealth.
The bottom half of the wage distribution of the wage distribution always receives one quarter to one third of total labor income. Thus the top 10% of labor income receives about as much income as does the lower 50%.
The author notes “this regularity is by no means foredained” and one should examine the social and economic forces that creates such capital accumulation and wealth distribution.
The wealth concentration exists within every age cohort. Inherited wealth and effects from that explains much of this.
The most egalitarian nations are the Scandinavian nations.
In Scandinavian countries between 1970 and 1990, the top 10% of labor wage earners earned about 20% of total wages while the bottom 50% earned 35% of wages.
In France and Germany today, the top 10% of labor wage earners earn 25% to 30% of total wages while the bottom 50% of labor wage earners earns about 30% of total wages.
In the U.S. the top 10% of labor wage earners earn 35% of total wages whereas the bottom 50% of labor wage earners earn 25% of total wages.
In the U.S. (using Federal Reserve data) the top 10% of capital ownership owns 72% of all capital wealth while the bottom 50% of capital ownership owns 2% of all capital wealth.
The top 10% of top 1% of labor income distribution are not the same people as the top 10% or 1% of capital ownership.
The creation of a “patrimonial or propertied middle class” in the 20th century was a major change in wealth distribution in developed countries. Before 1900, the middle 40% of wealth distribution was about as poor as the bottom 50%.
There are two ways to achieve an unequal distribution income: 1.) in a “hyperpatrimonal society” or “society of renters” where those with high incomes are much capital, especially inheritance wealth. This happened in Ancien Regime France and during the Belle Epoque as well as some minor instances. 2.) in a “hypermeritocratic society” or “society of superstars” of “society of super managers”.
Ginni coefficient (where 0 is complete equality and 1 is absolute inequality) range 0.2 to 0.4 in labor income among nations, 0.3 to 0.5 for total income inequality, 0.6 to 0.9 for capital ownership distribution.
The great equality in 20th century France resulted from all of the renters and collapse of capital’s high incomes. There was no general structural process that caused the greater equality which is not what Simon Kuznets believes.
Greater equality resulted in the 20th century from war destructions. Depression bankruptcies and public policies (such as rent control, nationalizations, etc.).
Society has mostly shifted from being a society of renters to a society of managers.
The top 9% of labor wage earners includes physicians, lawyers, merchants, restauranteurs and self-employed entrepreneurs.
In general, inequality changes in the same direction as does most economic cycles.
A sharp increase in low wages in France saw wages increases faster than did output between 1968 and 1983. Government “turn toward austerity” programs froze wages which increased profits’ share of national income.
The pay of large company top executives and financial firm top executive “reached astonishing heights” in the 1990s in the U.S. and less so in France. The top 1% of wage earners earned 6% of all income in the 1980s and 1990s and reached 7.5% to 8% by the early 2010s. The top o.1% to 0.01% of wage earners had a 50% increase in purchasing power from the early 1990s to the early 2000s.
In 1900 to 191o, the top 10% of income earners in France had 45% to 50% of total national income while in the U.S. the top 10% of income earners had 40% of total national income. The inequality of capital ownership was less in the U.S. plus the capital to income ration was less in the U.S.
Income inequality in the U.S. widened during the 1920s with the top 10% of wage earners having 50% of total national income in 1929 just before the Depression. From 1950 to 1980, the top 10% of U.S. wage earners had 30% to 35% of total national income which then reached 455 to 50% in the 2000s.
The author believes “there is absolutely no doubt that the increase of inequality in the United States contributed to the nation’s financial instability.” There was a transfer of 15 points of national income from the poorest 90% of U.S. income earners to the wealthiest 10% since 1980. Of this 15 points, 60% of that went to the top 1% of income earners.
The U.S. internal imbalances are four times greater than the global imbalances of trade deficits with China, Japan, and Germany.
The U.S. wage inequality is not related to increased wage mobility.
The increased capital income inequality in the U.S. since 1980 caused about one third of the income inequality.
The rise of “super-managers” accounts for much of the increase in high incomes.
The most accepted theory about the inequality of labor income is a race between education and technology. This is only a partial explanation. It does not consider the rise of super-managers. It assumes a workers’ wage equals the worker’s marginal productivity. That productivity reflects skill and the supply and demand for that skill. The demand for skills reflects the state of technologies producing goods and services. The education systemm is supposed to increased training for new skills.
Claudia Goldin and Laurence Katz argue the increased U.S. wage inequalities related to insufficient investments in higher education.
Te author argues that “best way” to reduce labor wage inequalities is to increase investments in education. Scandinavian countries’ education systems are “relatively egalitarian and inclusive”.
U.S. wage distribution inequalities have narrowed when the minimum wage is increased and widens as it languishes with no increases.
Employers who have a monopsony position (where all employers are virtually the same) in a local economy will tend to exploit wages. American wages may move the economy closer to competitive equilibrium and increase the level of employment. A minimum wage prevents an employer from exploiting a competition advantage.
David Card and Alan Kruger show the U.S. minimum wage often falls to such a low level that increasing it does not cause employment loss and, as in the monopsony model, can lead to increasing employment.
Over the long run, minimum wages and wage schedules cannot multiply wages by factors that increases in investments in education and skills will cause.
The main fault of marginal productivity theory regarding education and technology racing against each other is the failure of the theory to explain U.S. large labor incomes since 1980.
The wage gap between college graduates and fewer wages for those with only a high school diploma has increased, according to Goldin and Katz.
The upper centile in the early 2000s in the U.S. had almost 20% of total income ; in Great Britain the upper centile had about 14% to 15% of total income; in Australia the upper centile had 9% of total income; in Japan the upper centile had almost 7%; of total income and in Sweden the upper centile had just under 4% of total income.
Income inequality in the U.S. in 2000 to 2010 returned to record inequlaity found in 1920-1920.
Europe was more inegalitarian than the U.S. in 1900-1010. This included Sweden, Denmark, France, Great Britain, and Sweden.
An income tax was enacted in South Africa in 1913, in Indonesia imposed by the Netherlands in 1920, in India in 1922, and in Argentina in 1932. This reduced their income inequalities. In 1910 - 1950, the top 1% of income earners in South Africa, Indonesia. and Argentina was 22% to 25% of total income and in India the top 1% of income earners had 15% to 18% of total income. In 1959 to 1980, these percentages were reduced to 6% to 12% in India, 8% to 9% in Indonesia and Argentina, and 11% to 12% in South Africa.
China is estimated to have had the top 1% of income holding 5% of national income in the mid-1980s. The economic liberations of the 1980s in China led to the top 1% of income earners holding 10% to 11% of national income in 1990-2000.
Marginal productivity theory falls apart as it is difficult to find an individual marginal productivity of unique jobs.
The marginal productivity theory offers some explanations up to certain levels of pay.
A “patrimonial middle class” has emerged that is much wealthier than the poorer 50% of income earners. This class has one quarter to one third of national income.
France paid one billion frances, called the “emigre billion” to the nobility as compenstoton for land seized during the French Revolution.
France had a decrease in wealth inequality in the 20th century although the poorest half did not increase their share of income.
About half of the French in 19th century into the 20th century had no wealth or negative net wealth. Thus this half had no wealth available for inheritance.
Sweden had an increase in significant capital ownership inequality since 1980 to 1990 reaching just less than France’s level of capital ownership inequality in 2010.
Europe saw a low level of wealth inequality during the 20th century where almost half the population had, for the first time, some wealth. Class in society lessened through 1975. The inequality began increasing after 1980.
There was a hyper-concentration of wealth in Europe during the 19th century and until
World War i. The inequality diminished in 1914 to 1945.
It is a historical fact that the rate of return of capital is large than the growth rate. Economic growth was almost zero for most of history through the 17th century. Throughout most times, the rate of capital of 2% to 3% annually was 10 times to 20 times greater than the rate of return and output and income. In sum, r>g has been correct throughout most of time. It should continue being true into the future unless public policy regulations change it or if there are shocks to capital formulation which change it.
Vilfredo Pareto theorized a stable inequality can be achieved. Pareto was opposed to income and wealth distribution. His Pareto’s Law applied only locally as an approximation of the upper level of wealth distribution.
There were few taxes of capital income or of corporate profits before World War I. those taxes that existed had very low taxation rates.
Germany had lower income tax rates than France. Thus Germany as more concentrated wealth than France.
Franco Modigliani theorized that capital finances retirement and thus inheritances vanish. This coincided with the beliefs of Talcott Parsons tat a middle class managerial society existed where where inheritance had almost no role.
The author sees no foreseeable end to inherited wealth.
The annual rate of inheritance transmissions has increased in recent decades even as the mortality rate decreased.
The “rate of estate devolution” was mostly stable from the 1820s to 1910 at around 3.3% to 3.% (or a fortune was inherited once every 30 years). This rate decreased to around 2% in the 1950a. It then rose to over 2.5% in 2000-2010.
Inheritance occurs later as people live longer, yet wealth is increasing with age. People stay in education longer, start work later, retire later, and die later than did earlier generations.
In 1912, people in their 80s in age were two and half times wealthier than people in their 50s; in 1931 people in their 80s were 50% wealthier than people in their 50s; and in 1947 people in their 50s were 40% wealthier than people in their 80s.
The flow of inheritance and gifts from one generation to the next is expected to remain as high as it has been. This is not a certainty as a change in public policy on demographic change can alter this.
Modigliani’s theory did not recognize the wealth concentration of those with large inheritances.
If 1 percent growth of 5% return on capital exists into the future, the share of inherited wealth should go over 70% by 202- ad be just under 80% in the 2030s and could continue to being 90%.
In the 19th century, individuals had 75% earned income and 25% inherited income. Today, in France, incomes are derived almost equally from inheritance and labor.
Democracies are based on meritocratic view in which inequality that exists is on merit and therefore is just.
Capital is needed for production and must be paid.
Rent is a consequence of a “pure and perfect” capital market. Capital yields rent. Rent occurs in any market capital where the capital is owned privately.
It is wrong to assume that unrestricted competition will end ineritance and move more toward meritocracy.
In Germany, gifls between generations was 10% to 20% of total inheritances in 1980 and before and rose to 60% in 2000 to 2010.
In Great Britain, inheritance and gifts were 8% of national income in 1950-1960, 6% in 1970-1980, and 8% in 2000-2010. Gifts were about 10% of inheritance since 1970. The British behavior is reflected in smaller inheritances compared to France.
U.S. data is lacking as inheritance taxes since 1916 apply usually to less than 2% of estates. Gifts do nto need to be declared. The Kotlikoff-Summers theses is inherited wealth in the U.S. is 70% to 80% of total capital. The author believe the actual percentage is closer to 50% to 60% in 1970-1980.
Large fortunes have grown at high rates in recent decades worldwide.
The author notes “In the long run, unequal wealth within nations is surely more worrisome than unequal wealth between nations”.
Forbes magazine believes there were 140 billionaires worldwide in 1987holding 04% of global private wealth and over 1,400 billionaires in 2015 holding 1.5% of global private wealth.
Global wealth since the 1980s has increased more rapidly than has income. The healthiest grew in wealth faster than did those with average wealth.
The wealthiest 0.1% worldwide who are 4.5 million out of 4.5 billion adults have wealth 200 times greater than the average global wealth.
The return on capital results for entrepreneurial labor, luck at being at the right place at the right time, and theft.
Inflation redistributes wealth more inequitably more than it lowers the average rate of return on capital.
Sovereign wealth funds in 2013 were worth over $5.3 trillion, with $3.2 trillion of this belonging to petroleum exporting nations of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Dubai, Libya, Kazakstan, Algeria, Iran, Azerbaijan, Brunei, Oman, etc. It is noted this amount is similar to the $5.4 trillion owned by the world’s billionaires
Since the wealthiest people can move their wealth to other countries, inequality of wealth would require a coordinated response from a large region of nations.
Since the position of all nations, rich and poor, is of negative wealth, it is believed large amounts of financial assets are unreported in the nations that are tax havens.
There is a major lesson that the two world wars in the 20th century reduce much of income inequality. The new global economy has brought extreme qualities. A solution would be a global progressive capital tax.
The leading developed countries have not achieved, as of 2013, the level of output they had in 2007 before the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. Governments and central banks created the needed liquidity to prevent many bank failures that avoided a financial collapsed as seen in 1930.
Social spending in wealth nations includes 10% to 15% of national income on health and education and 10% to 15%. of national income.This helped create social states.
Modern wealth redistribution is not about income transfer but in public services and replacement incomes such as pensions.
The U.S. and French Revolutions established the principle of equality of rights. Since the 19th century, the governments have primarily sought to protect property rights.
There is little public support for increasing the social state.
Increased access to higher education would achieve greater economic equality. This wll not be easy nor will it solve all inequalities
Public pension systems are mostly pay-as-you-go systems that deducts from current wages to give to retirees.
In France, the bottom 50% of income distribution pay 40% to 45% of their income in taxes, the next 40% pay 45% to 50%, and the top 1% pays 35%.
Regressive taxes contribute to wealth inequity. Progressive taxes would reverse this
In France, the top income tax rate was 5% in 1902 to 1910, 2% in 1914, 6.5% in 1916, 50% in 1920, 60% in 1924, and 72% in 1925.
The Prussian top tax rate ws 4% in 1891 to 1914, 4% in 1915 to 1918, and 40% in 1919-1920.
In the U.S. the top income tax rate was 70% on income in 1919-1922 and on estates in 1937 to 1939.
France and Germany had top tax rates was 50% to 70% in the late 1949s until the 1980s, except when Germany in 1947-1949 when the top rate was 90%.
In the U.S. the top estate tax rate was from 70% to 80% from the 1930s to the 1980s, while in France and Germany there top rates were never greater than 40% except in Germany from 1947 t 1949.
The top tax rate in Great Britain on estates in the 1940s was 98%.
Productivity growth in the U.S. was twice as large in 1950 to 1970 than in 1990 to 2010.
There has been a real drift toward oligarchy.
A global capital tax would be more egalitarian. It is a utopian idea.
There should be global automatic transmission of banking information.
There is no alternative to the capital tax.
Economic redistribution from immigration solves only a part of economic inequality.
Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz argued the Federal Reserve turned the stock market crash into a debt crisis causing deflation and depression. The author argues the Federal Reserve could operate to create a proper social state with progressive taxes.
Central banks can quickly redistribute wealth.
The overall conclusion is that a market economy, based on private property.operating only on its own influences, create much convergence (i.e. diffusion of knowledge and skills) yet also have much divergence that can threaten social justice and democracies. The main force is the rate of return on private capital, r, s much greater than the rate of growth and output, g, over the long run. Wealth increases faster than do output and wages, as r>g.
Education, knowledge, ad nonpolluting technologies can reduce economic inequalities yet these will not increase the growth rate to 4% to 5% annually.
The author believes the term “political economy” is a better descriptive term than “economic science”. Empirical models used in moderation can usefully describe events. One needs to understand history.