L'ombre de Marx plane à nouveau

Il y a 150 ans, Karl Marx prédisait sur un ton teinté d'un mélange de mélancolie et d'euphorie que le capitalisme moderne tel qu'il le voyait évoluer serait incapable de produire une distribution acceptable des revenus. La richesse allait augmenter, disait-il, mais ne bénéficiera qu'à une minorité : la masse de gens affaiblis par la misère et à la recherche d'un emploi irait grossissant. Cette situation provoquera révoltes et révolutions, ce qui aboutira à un nouveau système, plus juste, plus apte à créer de la richesse et beaucoup plus égalitaire.

Depuis, la plupart des économistes ont gagné leur vie à expliquer patiemment pourquoi Marx s'était trompé. Certes, à ses débuts, le déséquilibre et le choc de la révolution industrielle étaient –  et sont encore - associés à une montée rapide des inégalités, alors que l'agressivité et l'esprit d'entreprise sont récompensés et que les prix du marché flambent, car dictés par la rareté de quelques compétences clés.

Mais cette situation était – ou était supposée être – transitoire. Une société agraire qui n'évolue pas sur le plan technologique est condamnée à être très inégalitaire : par la force ou la fraude, la classe dominante abaisse le niveau de vie des paysans en dessous du minimum vital en s'appropriant les richesses sous la forme de loyer des terres qu'elle contrôle. Les loyers élevés versés aux propriétaires nobles augmente leur fortune et leur pouvoir et leur donnent les moyens de maintenir les paysans en position d'infériorité et d'accroître leur ponction sur leur travail, alors que la terre, elle, est inextensible.

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