Die große Einkommenskluft

WASHINGTON, DC – Thomas Pikettys Buch Das Kapital im 21. Jahrhundert stellte den Zusammenhang zwischen Kapitalakkumulation und Ungleichheit in den Mittelpunkt der ökonomischen Debatte und erregte weltweit Aufmerksamkeit. Was Pikettys Argumentation so besonders macht, ist sein Beharren auf einem grundlegenden Trend, der mit der Natur des kapitalistischen Wachstums eng verbunden ist. Diese Argumentation liegt ganz in der Tradition der großen Ökonomen des 19. und frühen 20. Jahrhunderts. Auch im Zeitalter der Tweets ist sein Bestseller kaum weniger als tausend Seiten dick.

Die Veröffentlichung des Buches folgt auf über ein Jahrzehnt gründlichster Recherche von Piketty und anderen, darunter Tony Atkinson von der Oxford University. Beim Umgang mit dem enormen Datenvolumen gab es kleine Probleme, insbesondere bei der Messung der Kapitaleinkünfte in Großbritannien. Aber die festgestellten langfristigen Trends – ein wachsender Einkommensanteil der Kapitaleigner und die Konzentration von „Primäreinkommen“ (vor Steuern und Abgaben) ganz oben in der Einkommenspyramide in den Vereinigten Staaten und anderen großen Volkswirtschaften – bleiben eindeutig.

Das Gesetz des abnehmenden Grenzertrags lässt erwarten, dass die Rendite jeder zusätzlichen Kapitaleinheit geringer wird. Ein Schlüssel zu Pikettys Ergebnissen liegt darin, dass in den letzten Jahrzehnten die Kapitalrendite, wenn überhaupt, proportional viel weniger abgenommen hat als die Wachstumsrate des Kapitals, was zu einem wachsenden Anteil von Kapitaleinkünften geführt hat.

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