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La invención de la desigualdad

LONDRES – Todo el mundo parece mencionar -y condenar- el creciente nivel de desigualdad económica de hoy. Alimentado por estadísticas estridentes como la reciente revelación de Oxfam de que las 62 personas más ricas del mundo poseen la misma riqueza que los 3.600 millones de personas más pobres, el respaldo popular por figuras de izquierda como Bernie Sanders en Estados Unidos y Jeremy Corbyn en Gran Bretaña está creciendo. Pero los debates actuales impulsados por la ideología simplifican demasiado una cuestión que es extremadamente compleja -y está afectada por procesos que no llegamos a entender plenamente.

Muchos de quienes participan del debate sobre la desigualdad hoy citan el libro de 2014 del economista francés Thomas Piketty El capital en el siglo XXI, que destaca tres puntos fundamentales. Primero, en los últimos 30 años, el ratio de riqueza e ingreso ha aumentado de manera constante. Segundo, si el retorno total sobre la riqueza es superior al crecimiento de los ingresos, la riqueza necesariamente está cada vez más concentrada. Tercero, esta desigualdad creciente se debe revertir a través de impuestos confiscatorios antes de que destruya a la sociedad.

A primera vista, los puntos podrían parecer convincentes. Pero la primera afirmación es poco más que una perogrullada, y a la segunda la contradicen los propios datos de Piketty, lo cual hace que el tercer punto resulte irrelevante.

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