The statistical image that emerges from these numbers is neither Piketty’s vision of rising returns to “capital” as such, nor Krugman’s picture of an increase in returns to managerial “labor.” Rather, we see the burgeoning of a general surplus: an excess of national income over and above what’s needed to pay the nation’s non-managerial workers, appropriated broadly by all those who control capital — whether as shareholders, managers, or financiers. The picture looks something like this chart, based on data from a forthcoming paper by Simon Mohun of the University of London, which roughly estimates the share of US national product paid out to non-managerial workers in all industries since 1964:
Here we return to the vision of the classical economists — Adam Smith, Ricardo and Marx — who saw the income distribution as the outcome of a historical struggle between capitalists and those who employ them, with no “equilibrium solution” possible.
- Piketty in One Graph
- Good Times at the Top writes Krugman
- Inequality in US – the top 20% of earners accounted for more than 80% of the rise in household income from 2008-2012
- U.S. | Measuring the increase in income inequality before-tax and after-tax