[To be added...]
A tax on products or activities which are socially harmful, or have socially harmful side effects, in an attempt to reimburse society for the costs of repairing that social harm. Or, in the esoteric jargon of bourgeois economics, a tax on a product with a negative “externality” which seeks to pay for part (or very rarely all) of the cost of that externality. Examples are such things as extra taxes on cigarettes, or on automobiles which emit high levels of pollution.
These are called “Pigovian taxes” after the British bourgeois economist Arthur C. Pigou, who advocated them in his book The Economics of Welfare (1920). Such taxes are especially apt to be favored by liberal reformers who seek to mitigate socially harmful results mostly through laws and penalties on individuals, rather than on laws or restrictions on capitalist corporations which produce the harmful goods in the first place.
In a socialist society Pigovian taxes will no doubt be used as part of the means of transforming society, but the main focus will then be on the socialist production of goods which are more truly in the overall interests of the people in the first place, rather than production for profit regardless of the harm to society as is so often the case under capitalism. And the primary means of changing the harmful behavior of individuals will be through education, ideology and social peer pressure, rather than through endless laws, taxes and legal penalties governing individual behavior.
PIKETTY, Thomas (1971- )
A liberal-radical French bourgeois economist whose work is centered on the questions of inequality of wealth and income in contemporary capitalist society.
Piketty is most widely known for his massive best-selling (but seldom actually read) book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2013; English translation 2014) which provides a vast amount of data on the growing concentration of wealth over the past couple centuries, and attempts to explain—from a liberal bourgeois perspective—just why this has occurred. One central argument in the book is that the growth in the rate of profit of corporations in advanced capitalist countries persistently exceeds the overall rate of economic growth (GDP) and this (of course) leads to growing inequality. The central conclusion of the book is that the growing concentration of wealth into fewer hands is something inherent to capitalism. (Which indeed it is.) Some liberal or social-democratic ideologists were so impressed by this book that they dubbed Piketty the “new Marx”! But whereas Marx argued long before Piketty that inequality, and the increasing outright relative poverty for the bulk of the working class, is inevitable and even necessary under capitalism, Piketty argues—in liberal fashion—that this is merely due to poor policy choices by the politicians that the people elect. Thus he proposes that a “possible remedy” for the inequality problem might be to enact a global progressive tax on wealth to redistribute some of the wealth accumulated by the rich back to the poor. However, just how this is to be accomplished when the rich run the governments and own the politicians, Piketty doesn’t say. In other words, Piketty—like all liberals—fails to understand that the capitalist state is the class dictatorship of the ruling capitalist class. Thus any proposed “state intervention” to reverse ever-increasing social inequality is really only possible if the working class first captures state power through social revolution.
In 2019/2020 Piketty published an even more massive 1000-page tome, Capital and Ideology which amplifies his claims about the role of ideology in the growth and perpetuation of inequality. But once again, it side-steps the central issue about how the prevailing ideology can possibly be changed in a class society dominated by the bourgeoisie and their ideas.
“Thomas Piketty, a French economist whose Capital in the 21st Century
has become the bestselling book on economics in recent years and has transformed the debate on
inequality, refused to accept France’s prestigious Légion d’honneur. He said the
French government ‘would do better to concentrate on reviving growth’ rather than handing out
gongs.” —“The World This Week”, the Economist, Jan. 10, 2015, p. 6.
[Piketty is to be congratulated for refusing to accept an honor from the French bourgeoisie. But how opposed, really, can he be to that capitalist ruling class if they want to give him an award in the first place!? —Ed.]
PISAREV, Dmitry Ivanovich (1840-1868)
Russian literary critic, materialist philosopher and revolutionary democrat.
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