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Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Piketty MUST be wrong

Thomas Piketty recently gave a widely discussed interview to a German magazine, where he mocks Germany for hypocricy about debt repayment.
There is a Business Insider counterpoint which is just so typical. They're basically saying you can't call Germany deadbeats because other people haven't been calling then deadbeats, and besides, they were actually being really dead deadbeats! It's as if they are just grabbing anything they can to use against Piketty, whether it has any significance or not, whether it actually makes Germany look moral or immoral, and hoping something sticks. What they never actually disagree with is what Piketty actually said, which is that Germany had this huge debt and got out of it permanently rather than repaying it, and that no German, Business Insider journalist, or anyone else would rather they have repaid it!
Why not just say that the morality of debt is a complex and relativistic thing and doesn't have any inherent morality,  and that there are good places and times for debt forgiveness, and times  when it just prolongs problems?
That said, I'm always suspicious when I hear critics scoff and laugh at the utter obviousness of some controversial point, like Piketty does throughout this interview. My pop psychological analysis is that they subconsciously doubt their own point, and use eye rolling and condescension as a charismatic signal to other people, but also to themselves, that they should dismiss their doubts without considering them seriously.
Chomsky does this to a pathological degree.
One very helpful resource is this Economist article about ordoliberalism, a German-born economic and political philosophy that is in the background of the current crisis. Of course, right after you default on a ton of debt is a great time to get religion for the purist virtue of debt repayment!

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