La fracture des revenus

WASHINGTON, DC – L’ouvrage de Thomas Piketty intitulé Le Capital au XXIe siècle a suscité un intérêt dans le monde entier, en inscrivant au cœur du débat économique la relation entre accumulation du capital et inégalités. L’argumentation de Piketty a ceci de particulier qu’elle insiste sur une tendance fondamentale liée à la nature même de la croissance capitaliste, un point de vue a bien des égards proches de la tradition des grands économistes du XIXe et du début du XXe siècle. En cette époque marquée par les tweets, ce best-seller approche le millier de pages.

La parution de cet ouvrage est le fruit de plus de dix années de rigoureuses recherches menées par Piketty et d’autres, parmi lesquels Tony Atkinson de l’Université d’Oxford. Quelques difficultés mineures ont concerné le traitement d’un ensemble de données colossal, notamment autour de la mesure des revenus du capital au Royaume-Uni. Nul ne remet cependant en question les tendances à long terme identifiées par l’ouvrage – accroissement de la part des revenus des détenteurs de capital, et concentration des « revenus primaires » (avant impôts et transferts) au sommet de la répartition aux États-Unis et dans les autres économies majeures.

La loi de la diminution des rendements pourrait conduire le lecteur à s’attendre à un déclin similaire de chaque unité de capital supplémentaire. Or, l’un des aspects essentiels des résultats de Piketty réside en ce que si le rendement du capital a un tant soit peu diminué au cours des dernières décennies, c’est clairement dans une proportion bien inférieure au rythme auquel la croissance du capital s’est opérée, aboutissant à l’augmentation de la part des revenus du capital.

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