Then economists ... commenced worrying about, to name a few of the pessimisms concerning “capitalism” they discerned: greed, alienation, racial impurity, workers’ lack of bargaining strength, workers’ bad taste in consumption, immigration of lesser breeds, monopoly, unemployment, business cycles, increasing returns, externalities, under-consumption, monopolistic competition, separation of ownership from control, lack of planning, post-War stagnation, investment spillovers, unbalanced growth, dual labor markets, capital insufficiency, peasant irrationality, capital-market imperfections, public choice, missing markets, informational asymmetry, third-world exploitation, advertising, regulatory capture, free riding, low-level traps, middle-level traps, path dependency, lack of competitiveness, consumerism, consumption externalities, irrationality, hyperbolic discounting, too big to fail, environmental degradation, underpaying of care, slower growth, and more.

... [The formula is this:] First, discover or rediscover a necessary condition for perfect competition or a perfect world (in Piketty’s case, for example, a more perfect equality of income).

Then assert without evidence but with suitable mathematical ornamentation that the condition might be imperfectly realized or the world might not develop in a perfect way.

Then conclude with a flourish that “capitalism” is doomed unless experts intervene with a sweet use of the monopoly of violence in government to implement anti-trust against malefactors of great wealth, or subsidies to diminishing-returns industries, or foreign aid to perfectly honest governments, or money for obviously infant industries, or the nudging of sadly childlike consumers, or, Piketty says, a tax on inequality-causing capital worldwide.

From McCloskey in a long, but inspired and genius, review of Piketty; lightly edited for brevity from the original at

UPDATE (also lightly edited):

One begins to suspect that the typical leftist starts with a root conviction that capitalism is seriously defective. The conviction is acquired at age 16 when he discovers poverty but has no intellectual tools to understand its source.

Then the lifelong “good social democrat”, in order to support the now deep-rooted conviction, looks around when he has become a professional economist for any qualitative indication that in some imagined world the conviction would be true, without bothering to attach numbers drawn from our own world.

It is the utopianism of good-hearted leftward folk who say, “Surely this wretched society, in which some people are richer and more powerful than others, can be greatly improved. We can do much, much better!” The utopianism springs from the logic of stage theories, conceived in the eighteenth century as a tool with which to fight traditional society.