The right versus the rock star economist

Political sign posts © Thinkstock

Economists are usually best read as a cure for insomnia, observes Max Hastings in the Daily Mail. Not so with the new kid on the block, the so-called rock star economist Thomas Piketty, who’s zoomed to the top of the Amazon best seller lists.

In Capital In The Twenty-First Century, Piketty lays bare “the wickedness” of the way the Western world manages and distributes its money. The Guardian, Hastings says, has been treating Piketty’s work “with the sort of reverence it usually reserves for Tony Benn’s diaries”.

(That darling of the left, Len McCluskey of Unite, called the book “manna from heaven for someone like me”.)

Piketty’s work argues that inequality in Western societies is soaring and proposes various untenable solutions (eg, a global wealth tax). “The man is an ass, of course,” says Hastings.

In The Times, Philip Collins, while admitting that Piketty’s solutions “exist in the realm of political fantasy”, says we can’t deny something unjust is happening: between 1977 and 2007, the richest 1% of Americans took an astonishing 60% of the growth in national income. And the wealth of the richest 85 people on earth is greater than that of the 3.5 billion poorest people.

“Piketty is sounding the trumpets on the city walls. He is saying this is our destination and it is a dire terminus… The defence of capitalism against Piketty has, so far, been lamentable. Is there no escape from Upton Sinclair’s brilliant observation that ‘it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it’?”

The right do, indeed, have their work cut out – especially as within 25 years, according to predictions this week, we could be “toasting” the world’s first trillionaire (that’s a million million). No one needs a billion, let alone a trillion. But short of world government, how on earth do you enforce that?

Brawling billionaires

At least this week we’ve been treated to the spectacle of a billionaire in a fist fight. The fight took place in Australia (where else?) and involved James Packer, son of Kerry.

Apparently James’s friend and best man, TV boss David Gyngell, took exception to his recent divorce and didn’t like him carrying on with model Miranda Kerr. (Except he wasn’t, according to Kerr.)

Packer, for his part, thought Gyngell had sent a TV crew to his $20m Sydney house to spy on him. (Except he didn’t, according to Gyngell.)

The upshot was a violent set-to outside Packer’s home. “Holy crap, big street fight outside my house… Not thugs, James Packer… And some other angry bloke going toe-to-toe – total brawl… Wow,” wrote a Bondi resident on his Facebook page. “Packer packed a punch but copped a couple of hits straight to the jaw… They were looking for teeth after he left.”

By the next day, tempers had cooled, but in a bidding war for photographs of the punch-up, News International triumphed, agreeing to cough up more than $200,000 for the images. So at least they’ll be happy.

Tabloid money: give the important jobs to plumbers

• “Why do we always put judges and lawyers in charge of things?” wonders Rod Liddle in The Sun. “They are usually expensive, pompous and dedicated to protecting the Establishment. We’d be better off, when important jobs come up, to give them to plumbers, or child-minders, or those slightly odd young men who stack the trolleys outside Morrisons. The new press regulator is to be headed by a judge – Sir Alan Moses… I mean, obviously, Sir Alan is brilliant, and handsome, with strong rippling thigh muscles and so on… but over the past 20 years the legal profession has taken over every part of our society. And I’m not convinced we’re much better off.”

• “Why does everybody hate David Cameron, especially his so-called Tory supporters?” asks Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun. “At Westminster it’s hard to find an MP with a good word to say about the PM. They think he’s arrogant, insincere, lazy and hasty.”

It is true he’s made mistakes, but he’s also managed to get round the “cool, dead hand of officialdom” and push through at least two big reforms. “Schools are once again doing their job and teaching children to read, write and count. And a stunningly successful benefits revolution is finally making work more attractive than welfare…”

Above all, Cameron’s government “has breathed new life into Britain’s near-bankrupt economy”. Moreover, polls suggest Cameron’s ratings “as the people’s choice for PM are more than double Ed Miliband’s”. Cameron is sure to be beaten by Nigel Farage on 22 May, but many voters will “switch back” to supporting him in 2015.

• “Oh Chancellor, really,” says Jennifer Selway in the Daily Express. “‘We said we would recover the economy and the recovery is taking place,’ he bragged this week. ‘Recover the economy’? You can recover an armchair or recover a body or recover from a nasty head-cold. What you cannot do is ‘recover the economy’. Didn’t they teach him anything at St Paul’s?”

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