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Thomas Piketty

Thomas Piketty

Thomas Piketty (7 May 1971) is a French economist who works on wealth and income inequality. He is a professor (directeur d'études) at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), associate chair at the Paris School of Economics and Centennial professor at the London School of Economics new International Inequalities Institute.

Articles by Thomas Piketty

Will money creation save us?

July 9, 2019

Before the 2007-2008 crisis the balance sheet of the European Central Bank (that is, the totality of securities owned and loans granted by the ECB) was approximately 1000 billion Euros, or barely 10% of the GDP of the Euro zone. In 2019 it had risen to 4700 billion Euros, or 40% of the GDP of the zone. Thus between 2008 and 2018, the ECB has implemented a monetary creation equivalent to over one and a half years of the French GDP, one year of German GDP, or 30% of the GDP of the Euro zone (or 3% of GDP in additional monetary creation each year for 10 years). These considerable resources are for example three times higher than the total budget of the European Union during the same period (1% of GDP per annum, all categories of expenditure taken together, from agriculture to Erasmus to

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The illusion of centrist ecology

June 11, 2019

Good news: given the results of the European elections it would seem that French and European citizens are becoming more concerned about global warming.  The problem is that the election which has just taken place did little to further the basic issue. In real terms, which political forces do the ecologists intend to govern with and what is their programme for action? In France, the Greens achieved a respectable score gaining 13% of the votes. But, given that they had already obtained 11%  in the 1989 European elections, 10% in 1999 and 16% in 2009, there is nothing to show that an autonomous majority of the Greens is within reach. In the European Parliament the Greens will have almost 10% of the seats (74 out of 751). This is better than in the outgoing parliament where their

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The illusion of centrist ecology

June 11, 2019

Good news: given the results of the European elections it would seem that French and European citizens are becoming more concerned about global warming.  The problem is that the election which has just taken place did little to further the basic issue. In real terms, which political forces do the ecologists intend to govern with and what is their programme for action? In France, the Greens achieved a respectable score gaining 13% of the votes. But, given that they had already obtained 11%  in the 1989 European elections, 10% in 1999 and 16% in 2009, there is nothing to show that an autonomous majority of the Greens is within reach. In the European Parliament the Greens will have almost 10% of the seats (74 out of 751). This is better than in the outgoing parliament where their share

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Europe and the class cleavage

May 14, 2019

Three years after the referendum on Brexit and on the eve of the new European elections, the scepticism about Europe is still as strong, particularly amongst the most disadvantaged sections of society.
The problem is deep and long-standing. In all the referendums for the last 25 years the working classes have systematically expressed their disagreement with the Europe presented to them, whereas the richest and the most privileged classes supported it. During the French referendum on the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, we observed that 60% of the voters with the lowest incomes, personal wealth or qualifications voted against, whereas the 40% of the electorate with higher incomes voted in favour; the gap was big enough for the yes vote to win with a small majority (51%). The same thing

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Europe and the class cleavage

May 14, 2019

Three years after the referendum on Brexit and on the eve of the new European elections, the scepticism about Europe is still as strong, particularly amongst the most disadvantaged sections of society.
The problem is deep and long-standing. In all the referendums for the last 25 years the working classes have systematically expressed their disagreement with the Europe presented to them, whereas the richest and the most privileged classes supported it. During the French referendum on the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, we observed that 60% of the voters with the lowest incomes, personal wealth or qualifications voted against, whereas the 40% of the electorate with higher incomes voted in favour; the gap was big enough for the yes vote to win with a small majority (51%). The same thing

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Basic income in India

April 16, 2019

The biggest election in world history has just begun in India: there are over 900 million electors. It is often said that India learned the art of parliamentary democracy through contact with the British. The observation is not entirely false, provided that we add that India is now implementing this art on an unprecedented scale in a political community of 1.3 billion people, split along huge socio-cultural and linguistic divisions, which is a much more complex issue.
Meanwhile the United Kingdom has considerably difficulty in remaining united at the level of the British Isles. Following in the steps of Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century, it may just possibly be Scotland’s turn to leave the United Kingdom and its Parliament at this start of the 21st century. For its part,

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Basic income in India

April 16, 2019

The biggest election in world history has just begun in India: there are over 900 million electors. It is often said that India learned the art of parliamentary democracy through contact with the British. The observation is not entirely false, provided that we add that India is now implementing this art on an unprecedented scale in a political community of 1.3 billion people, split along huge socio-cultural and linguistic divisions, which is a much more complex issue.
Meanwhile the United Kingdom has considerably difficulty in remaining united at the level of the British Isles. Following in the steps of Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century, it may just possibly be Scotland’s turn to leave the United Kingdom and its Parliament at this start of the 21st century. For its part, the

Read More »

To love Europe is to change it

March 12, 2019

[embedded content]
To love Europe is to want to change it. The French and German governments which have been in power for the past 10 years claim to be Europhiles but the truth is that they are first and foremost Euroconservatives. They do not wish to make any fundamental changes to present-day Europe, for fear of losing their power and their illusory hold over Brussels affairs. By so doing, they are digging Europe’s grave. Even Brexit does not seem to give them reason for doubt.
The most recent episode is the Franco-German Treaty, or the so-called Elysée Treaty, renegotiated in January, proposing the creation of a Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly to enable the elected members from both countries to discuss questions of defence or of company law together. This is an excellent

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To love Europe is to change it

March 12, 2019

[embedded content]
To love Europe is to want to change it. The French and German governments which have been in power for the past 10 years claim to be Europhiles but the truth is that they are first and foremost Euroconservatives. They do not wish to make any fundamental changes to present-day Europe, for fear of losing their power and their illusory hold over Brussels affairs. By so doing, they are digging Europe’s grave. Even Brexit does not seem to give them reason for doubt.
The most recent episode is the Franco-German Treaty, or the so-called Elysée Treaty, renegotiated in January, proposing the creation of a Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly to enable the elected members from both countries to discuss questions of defence or of company law together. This is an excellent

Read More »

Wealth tax in America

February 12, 2019

What if the final blow for Emmanuel Macron came from the Massachusetts State senator and not from the yellow vests ? Elizabeth Warren, Harvard University law professor, not really an adept of Chavism or urban guerrilla warfare, a declared candidate in the Democratic primaries in 2020, has just made public what will doubtless be one of the key points in the coming campaign, namely the creation for the first time in the United States of a genuine federal progressive wealth tax. Carefully calculated by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, supported by the best constitutionalists, the Warren Proposal sets a rate of 2% on fortunes valued at between 50 million and 1 billion dollars, and 3% above 1 billion. The proposal also provides for an exit tax equal to 40% of total wealth for those who

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Wealth tax in America

February 12, 2019

What if the final blow for Emmanuel Macron came from the Massachusetts State senator and not from the yellow vests ? Elizabeth Warren, Harvard University law professor, not really an adept of Chavism or urban guerrilla warfare, a declared candidate in the Democratic primaries in 2020, has just made public what will doubtless be one of the key points in the coming campaign, namely the creation for the first time in the United States of a genuine federal progressive wealth tax. Carefully calculated by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, supported by the best constitutionalists, the Warren Proposal sets a rate of 2% on fortunes valued at between 50 million and 1 billion dollars, and 3% above 1 billion. The proposal also provides for an exit tax equal to 40% of total wealth for those who

Read More »

1789, the return of the debt

January 15, 2019

One of the ideas raised by the yellow vests is the possibility of a referendum on the cancellation of the public debt. For some, this type of proposal, already heard in Italy, demonstrates the extent of the ‘populist’ danger: how can one possibly imagine not repaying a debt? In reality history shows that it is customary to resort to exceptional solutions when the debt reaches this type of level. However, a referendum would not enable us to solve such a complex problem. There are numerous ways of cancelling a debt, with very different social effects. This is what should be discussed instead of leaving these decisions to others and to the forthcoming crises.
To ensure that everyone can make up their minds, I am going to give two sets of information here. The first concerns the present

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1789, the return of the debt

January 15, 2019

One of the ideas raised by the yellow vests is the possibility of a referendum on the cancellation of the public debt. For some, this type of proposal, already heard in Italy, demonstrates the extent of the ‘populist’ danger: how can one possibly imagine not repaying a debt? In reality history shows that it is customary to resort to exceptional solutions when the debt reaches this type of level. However, a referendum would not enable us to solve such a complex problem. There are numerous ways of cancelling a debt, with very different social effects. This is what should be discussed instead of leaving these decisions to others and to the forthcoming crises.
To ensure that everyone can make up their minds, I am going to give two sets of information here. The first concerns the

Read More »

« Yellow vests » and tax justice

December 11, 2018

The crisis of the ‘yellow vests’ raises a key issue both in France and in Europe, namely that of fiscal justice. Since his election, Emmanuel Macron has spent considerable time in explaining to the country that the « premiers de cordée », i.e. the leading fortunes and industrialists, should be treated with care; the top priority was to grant tax cuts to the wealthiest, and as a start, the wealth tax abolished. All this was done at top speed, in a spirit of invincibility and without the slightest qualm of conscience. Even Nicolas Sarkozy had been wiser in 2007 with his ‘tax shield’ which he did nevertheless have to cancel in 2012. Inevitably all those who do not consider themselves to be ‘leading lights’ have felt abandoned and humiliated by the Macron discourse, and this is how we

Read More »

« Yellow vests » and tax justice

December 11, 2018

The crisis of the ‘yellow vests’ raises a key issue both in France and in Europe, namely that of fiscal justice. Since his election, Emmanuel Macron has spent considerable time in explaining to the country that the « premiers de cordée », i.e. the leading fortunes and industrialists, should be treated with care; the top priority was to grant tax cuts to the wealthiest, and as a start, the wealth tax abolished. All this was done at top speed, in a spirit of invincibility and without the slightest qualm of conscience. Even Nicolas Sarkozy had been wiser in 2007 with his ‘tax shield’ which he did nevertheless have to cancel in 2012. Inevitably all those who do not consider themselves to be ‘leading lights’ have felt abandoned and humiliated by the Macron discourse, and this is how we now

Read More »

Manifesto for the democratisation of Europe

December 10, 2018

The Manifesto reproduced below has been open to signature by over 120 intellectuals, legal scholars, historians, economists and politicians from all over Europe (www.tdem.eu).

We, European citizens, from different backgrounds and countries, are today launching this appeal for the in-depth transformation of the European institutions and policies. This Manifesto contains concrete proposals, in particular a project for a Democratization Treaty and a Budget Project which can be adopted and applied as it stands by the countries who so wish, with no single country being able to block those who want to advance. It can be signed on-line (www.tdem.eu) by all European citizens who identify with it. It can be amended and improved by any political movement.
Following Brexit and the election of

Read More »

Manifesto for the democratisation of Europe

December 10, 2018

The Manifesto reproduced below has been open to signature by over 120 intellectuals, legal scholars, historians, economists and politicians from all over Europe (www.tdem.eu).

We, European citizens, from different backgrounds and countries, are today launching this appeal for the in-depth transformation of the European institutions and policies. This Manifesto contains concrete proposals, in particular a project for a Democratization Treaty and a Budget Project which can be adopted and applied as it stands by the countries who so wish, with no single country being able to block those who want to advance. It can be signed on-line (www.tdem.eu) by all European citizens who identify with it. It can be amended and improved by any political movement.
Following Brexit and the election of

Read More »

« Le Monde » and the billionaires

November 13, 2018

So, the share ownership of the newspaper Le Monde is going to change. A French investment banker is going to sell his shares to a Czech billionaire who himself made a fortune in coal mining and frequently used tax havens. Should we acquiesce in this situation or is it not time to consider the legal and fiscal regime which would enable us to re-shape the model of the media? Let us be very clear: we in no way wish to question the journalists or the management of the press. They campaign with courage and integrity to obtain from their shareholders all possible guarantees of independence both at Le Monde and in the other daily papers. The fact remains that one cannot avoid thinking about the laws which would have to be changed to avoid this type of situation.
It should be specified that in

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« Le Monde » and the billionaires

November 13, 2018

So, the share ownership of the newspaper Le Monde is going to change. A French investment banker is going to sell his shares to a Czech billionaire who himself made a fortune in coal mining and frequently used tax havens. Should we acquiesce in this situation or is it not time to consider the legal and fiscal regime which would enable us to re-shape the model of the media? Let us be very clear: we in no way wish to question the journalists or the management of the press. They campaign with courage and integrity to obtain from their shareholders all possible guarantees of independence both at Le Monde and in the other daily papers. The fact remains that one cannot avoid thinking about the laws which would have to be changed to avoid this type of situation.
It should be specified that

Read More »

Brazil: the First Republic under threat

October 16, 2018

In the United States, it was not until the mid 1960s that the former slaves finally obtained the right to sit in the same buses as whites, to go to the same schools and, at the same time, accede to the right to vote. In Brazil, the right to vote for the poor dates from the 1988 constitution, just a few years before the first multi-racial elections in South Africa in 1994.
The comparison may shock: the population in Brazil is much more mixed than the two other countries. In 2010, in the last census, 48% of the population declared themselves to be ‘white’, 43% ‘mixed’, 8% ‘black’ and 1% ‘Asian’ or ‘natives’. In reality, more than 90% of Brazilians are of mixed origin. The fact remains that social and racial divisions are closely linked. While Brazil is not a country devoid of racism, it

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Brazil: the First Republic under threat

October 16, 2018

In the United States, it was not until the mid 1960s that the former slaves finally obtained the right to sit in the same buses as whites, to go to the same schools and, at the same time, accede to the right to vote. In Brazil, the right to vote for the poor dates from the 1988 constitution, just a few years before the first multi-racial elections in South Africa in 1994.
The comparison may shock: the population in Brazil is much more mixed than the two other countries. In 2010, in the last census, 48% of the population declared themselves to be ‘white’, 43% ‘mixed’, 8% ‘black’ and 1% ‘Asian’ or ‘natives’. In reality, more than 90% of Brazilians are of mixed origin. The fact remains that social and racial divisions are closely linked. While Brazil is not a country devoid of racism,

Read More »

Social-nativism, the Italian nightmare

September 11, 2018

Since Spring 2018, Italy has been governed by a strange social-nativist coalition of the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the Lega, (the former Northern League). The Five Star Movement (M5S) is an anti-system and anti-establishment party, which is unclassifiable in the usual left-right typologies but one of its leitmotifs is a guaranteed basic income. The Lega is a regionalist and anti-tax movement, now converted into a nationalist party specialised in hunting foreigners. It would be an error to attribute this astonishing partnership to an Italian taste for exoticism. In reality, all the European governments have a share in the responsibility for the emergence of this type of coalition, as desperate as it is incoherent. If we are not careful the Italian social-nativist nightmare could

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Europe, migrants and trade

July 10, 2018

While European leaders are preparing to tighten the conditions of entry into the European Union it is worth trying to get a clearer picture of the current patterns of migration and more broadly of Europe’s positioning in the globalisation process.
The data available are incomplete but are sufficient to establish the main orders of magnitude. The most comprehensive data are those gathered by the United Nations Population Division on the basis of demographic statistics provided by each country and a patient labour of homogenisation. They serve to indicate the trend of the migratory flows entering and leaving the different countries in the world; they also include the sensitive issue of the World Population Prospects established for the decades to come. If we consider the most recent

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The Transferunion fantasy

June 12, 2018

While the political crisis deepens in Italy and in Spain, France and Germany are still demonstrably incapable of formulating precise and ambitious proposals for reforming Europe. All that is required however is for these four countries, who alone account for three quarters of the GDP and the population of the Euro zone, to agree on a common approach and the way to reform would be open. How can we explain such extraordinary inertia and why is it so serious?
In France, there is a tendency to lay the blame on other people. The official view is that our young and dynamic president has made innovative proposals for the reform of the Euro zone, its budget and its Parliament. But the unfortunate thing is that our neighbours are incapable of taking these into account and responding with

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May 1968 and inequality

May 8, 2018

Should we burn May ’68? Critics claim that the spirit of May ’68 has contributed to the rise of individualism, even to ultra-liberalism. In truth, these assertions do not stand up to close scrutiny. On the contrary, the May ’68 Movement was the start of a historical period of considerable reduction in social inequalities in France which ran out of steam later for quite different reasons.
Let’s go back for a moment. In France the years 1945-1967 are marked by high rates of growth, but also by a movement of reconstitution of inequalities, with, at one and the same time, a steep rise in the share of profits in national income and the reconstitution of highly ranked salary scales. The share of the 10% highest incomes which was barely 31% of total income in 1945 gradually rose to 38% in

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Capital in Russia

April 10, 2018

Next month Karl Marx will be 200 years old. What would he have thought of the sad state Russia is in today? This is a country which never ceased to claim to be ‘Marxist Leninist’ throughout the Soviet period. Doubtless he would have denied any responsibility for a regime which appeared long after his death. Marx grew up in a world of censitory oppression and private property sacralization, where even the owners of slaves could be handsomely compensated if their property was violated (for ‘liberals’ like Toqueville this was a matter of course). It would have been difficult for him to anticipate the success of social democracy and the welfare state in the 20th century. Marx was 30 years old at the time of the 1848 revolutions and he died in 1883, the year of Keynes’ birth. Both were

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Towards a Union in the Union

March 13, 2018

After the Italian elections and Trump’s commercial antics one might well feel depressed and be tempted to use Europe to play the same silly game of introverted assertion of identity – strengthening immigration laws and ramping up protectionist measures. In so doing, we would be forgetting two key points.
One: contrary to what we sometimes hear, the rise of European populism is not explained by any flood of immigrants. The truth is that the number of migrants entering the UE was much higher before the financial crisis (1.2 million per year between 2000 and 2008). The numbers then collapsed (500,000 per year between 2008 and 2016) whereas the geo-political situation would have demanded greater openness. If we had not made serious mistakes in managing the economy, provoking a further

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Parcoursup: could do better

February 13, 2018

All societies need a grand narrative to justify their inequalities. In contemporary societies, the focus is on the meritocratic narrative. Modern inequality is just because it is the outcome of a process which is freely chosen in which each individual has the same opportunities. The problem is that there is a yawning gap between the official meritocratic declarations and the reality.
In the United States, the chances of acceding to higher education are almost entirely determined by the income of one’s parents; barely 20% for the poorest 10%, and over 90% for the richest 10%. We should moreover make it clear that we are in no way talking of the same higher education in the two cases. Possibly, the situation is not quite as extreme in France. But the truth is that we do not really

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Democratising Europe begins with ECB nominations

January 29, 2018

This collective op-ed was initially published on January 22 2018 in Le Monde (in French) and in VoxEurop (in English).

While our eyes are glued to the interminable vicissitudes of the German Groko, a no less important story is playing out in Brussels, but has so far met with indifference. On January 22nd and February 19th, Eurogroup finance ministers will hold private meetings that will mark the beginning of a profound renewal of the European Central Bank executive board. The first big change will be the planned replacement of current Vice-President, Vitor Constancio. In the next two years, no less than 4 of the 6 members of the executive body of the ECB, Mario Draghi included, will be replaced.
All signs indicate that the future of economic, fiscal and monetary policy in eurozone

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2018, the year of Europe

January 16, 2018

Ten years after the financial crisis, will the year 2018 see Europe making a great leap forward? Several factors contribute to this view, but the outcome is far from certain.
The crisis in 2008, which triggered the sharpest global recession since the 1929 crisis, clearly originated in the increasingly obvious weaknesses of the American system: excessive deregulation, an explosion in inequalities, indebtedness of the poorest. Supported by a more equalitarian and inclusive model of development, Europe could have seized the opportunity to promote a better system of regulating global capitalism. However, the lack of trust between the members of the European Union, confined within rigid rules applied inappropriately, led them to provoke a further recession in 2011-2013 from which they

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