Thomas Piketty Refuses France's Legion d'Honneur

Posted on January 3, 2015

Thomas Piketty

French economist and bestselling author Thomas Piketty has refused to accept his country's highest honor: the Legion d'honneur. Piketty studies income equality and his book Capital in the 21st Century became an international bestseller.

Agence France Press quotes Piketty as saying, "I refuse this nomination because I do not think it is the government's role to decide who is honourable." Piketty is quite unhappy with the current French Socialist government, although he used to be a supporter. He further explained, "They would do better to concentrate on reviving (economic) growth in France and Europe."

Piketty, who is only 43, is a Professor of Economics at the Paris School of Economics. He has written a number of books on economics, and has authored many articles which have been published in prestigious economics journals. His nonfiction book Capital in the Twenty-First Century discussed wealth and income inequality since the 18th century in the U.S. and Europe. Piketty hit #1 on The New York Times bestseller list and generated quite a bit of controversy.

Piketty says that capitalism itself as a concept can cause either equality or inequality over time. But since the 18th century, his calculations show that inequality is increasing and is inevitable without government interference in free markets. He argues that unchecked market forces will lead to inequality because the return on capital goods investment over time outstrips economic growth. So, wage earners fall behind investors over time. Critics say that Piketty, among other things, excludes the concept of risk: not everyone will make money by investing in the stock market or owning capital goods. Piketty's most controversial proposal was a global progressive taxation plan.

Photo: Thomas Piketty