Friday, July 22, 2011

We are turning into a rentier society again

Wouldn't it be nice to live on old money? One does not really need to work, or at least on a regular basis, one is worry free, and one gets to enjoy life at its fullest. But this is only a dream that is reserved to a preciously small elite.

Thomas Piketty, Gilles Postel-Vinay and Jean-Laurent Rosenthal show that about a century ago in Paris close to 10% of the population were in fact rentiers, that is, people who consume more than their labor income during their lifetime. They thrived in an economy where the return of wealth was substantially higher than the growth rate. And by the looks of it, it appears that we are heading into a similar situation, as a small proportion of the population is generating substantial wealth from labor income, wealth that cannot be spent in a lifetime and will be inherited by happy an idle descendants. Perhaps more importantly, existing wealth is enjoying far better returns than average wages are growing at, laying the seeds of a new rentier society. History repeats itself.

No comments: