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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

What to do with Covid debt?

14 days ago

How are States going to deal with the accumulation of public debt generated by the Covid crisis? For many, the answer is clear: central banks will take on their balance sheets a growing share of the debts, and everything will be settled. In reality, things are more complex. Money is part of the solution but will not be enough. Sooner or later, the wealthiest will have to be called upon.
Let’s recap. In 2020, money creation has taken on unprecedented proportions. The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet jumped from $4159 billion as of February 24 to $7056 billion as of  September 28, or nearly $3 trillion in monetary injection in 7 months, which has never been seen before. The balance sheet of the Eurosystem (the network of central banks piloted by the ECB) rose from 4692 billion euros on 28

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Can the left unite on Europe?

September 15, 2020

In France, as in Germany and most other countries, the left is heavily divided on the European question, and more generally on the strategy to adopt in the face of globalisation and the transnational regulation of capitalism. While national deadlines are fast approaching (2021 in Germany, 2022 in France), many voices are calling for these political forces to unite. In Germany, however, the three main parties (Die Linke, the SPD and the Grünen) are likely to find it difficult to reach agreement, particularly on Europe, and some already predict that the Grünen (the Greens) will end up governing with the CDU. In France, the different forces have started talking to each other again, but there is no guarantee for the moment that they will manage to unite, especially on European policy.
The

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Reconstructing internationalism

July 14, 2020

Can we restore positive meaning to the idea of internationalism? Yes, but on condition that we turn our backs on the ideology of unfettered free trade which has till now guided globalisation and adopt a new model for development based on explicit principles of economic and climatic justice. This model must be internationalist in its final aims but sovereignist in its practical modalities, in the sense that each country, each political community must be able to determine the conditions for the pursuit of trade with the rest of the world without waiting for the unanimous agreement of its partners. The task will not be simple and it will not always be easy to distinguish this sovereignism with a universalist vocation from nationalist-type sovereignism. It is therefore particularly urgent

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Confronting racism, repairing history

June 16, 2020

The wave of mobilisation against racism and racial discrimination poses a crucial question: that of reparations for a past history involving slavery and colonisation. This is an issue which has still not been fully confronted. No matter how complex the question may be, it cannot be eluded for ever, either in the United States or in Europe.
In 1865, at the end of the Civil War, the Republican, Abraham Lincoln promised freed slaves that after the victory they would get “40 acres and a mule” (roughly 16 hectares). The idea was both to compensate them for decades of ill treatment and unpaid labour and to enable them to look to the future as free workers. If this programme had been adopted, it would have represented an agrarian reform of considerable dimensions at the expense, in

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The age of green money

May 12, 2020

Could the Covid-19 crisis accelerate the adoption of a new, more equitable and more sustainable development model? The answer is yes, but under certain conditions. There must be a clear change in priorities and a certain number of taboos in the monetary and fiscal sphere must be challenged. This sector must work to the benefit of the real economy and used to serve social and ecological goals.
In the first instance, we must use this forced shutdown to re-start on a different footing. After a recession of this type, the public authorities are going to have to play a pivotal role to restore growth and employment. But this has to be done by investing in new sectors (health, innovation, the environment) and by deciding on a gradual and lasting reduction in the most carbon-creating

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Avoiding the worst

April 14, 2020

Will the Covid-19 crisis precipitate the end of the financial and liberal globalisation of markets and the emergence of a new model of development which would be more equitable and more sustainable? It is possible but nothing is guaranteed. At this stage, the most urgent concern is primarily to grasp the extent of the current crisis and to do everything possible to avoid the worst, which is a full-scale hecatomb.
Let me remind you of the forecasts in the epidemiological models. Without intervention, Covid-19 could have caused the death of some 40 million people in the world, of which 400,000 in France, or approximately 0.6% of the population (over 7 billion people in the world, of which almost 70 million in France). This corresponds to almost one additional year of deaths (550,000

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Sanders to the aid of democracy in the United States

March 10, 2020

Let it be said at once: the treatment received by Bernie Sanders in the leading media in the United States and in Europe is unjust and dangerous. Everywhere on the main networks and the large daily papers we read that Sanders is an ‘extremist’ and that only a ‘centrist’ candidate like Biden could triumph over Trump. This biased and somewhat unscrupulous treatment is particularly regrettable when a closer examination of the facts actually suggests that only a full-scale reorientation of the type proposed by Sanders would eventually rid American democracy of the inegalitarian practices which undermine it and deal with the electoral disaffection of the working classes.
Let’s begin with the programme.  To say emphatically, as Sanders does, that a public, universal health insurance would

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Social-federalism vs national-liberalism

February 11, 2020

The United Kingdom officially left the European Union a few days ago. So now, make no mistake; along with the election of Trump in the United States in 2016 this is a major upheaval in the history of globalisation. The two countries which had the choice of ultra-liberalism with Reagan and Thatcher in the 1980s and which, since then, have witnessed the highest rise in inequalities, have decided three decades later to opt for nationalism and a form of return to frontiers and national identity.
This change in direction can be viewed from different angles. In its way, it expresses the failure of Reaganism and Thatcherism. The British and American middle and working classes have not experienced the affluence promised by absolute liberalism, laissez-faire policies and economic deregulation.

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After the climate denial, the inequality denial

January 14, 2020

In the wake of the denial of global warming, now on the wane, at least superficially, are we at present witnessing the denial of the rise in inequality?
This is obvious in the case of the French government where all the efforts undertaken since 2017 appear to be guided by the idea that the country is suffering from a surfeit of equality. Hence the tax rewards for the wealthiest when the government came into office; hence similarly its inability to understand the demand for justice expressed in the social movement at the moment. In real terms, a universal retirement pension scheme is possible, but only on condition that everything is done to improve the small and medium pensions, even if this involves increased efforts on the part of the highest salaries and the wealthiest. Those who are

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Several universal retirement schemes are possible

December 10, 2019

Could we possibly have a reasoned debate about the several alternative retirement schemes? To judge from the government’s attitude, one might well doubt it. The current government is endeavouring to restrict the discussion to the following schema: either you support my project (which remains extremely vague) or you are an old-time defender of the privileges of the past and refuse any change.
The problem with this binary approach is that in reality there are many ways of constructing a universal retirement scheme, depending on whether the focus is on social justice and the reduction of inequalities ranging from the « common pension system » (« maison commune des régimes de retraite ») long defended by the CGT (General Confederation of Labout) to the project presented in the Delevoye

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Surpassing identity conflict via economic justice

November 12, 2019

Europeans have long observed from a distance the mix of social and racial conflicts which structure political and electoral cleavages in the United States. Given the growing, and potentially destructive, importance taken by these identity conflicts in France and in Europe, they might do well to consider the lessons to be learned from foreign experiences.
Let’s take a step backwards. After having been the party of slavery during the civil war from 1861-1865, in the 1930s the Democratic Party gradually became the party of Roosevelt and the New Deal. As far back as the 1870s, the Democratic Party had begun to reconstruct itself on the basis of an ideology which could be described by as social-differentialist: it was violently inegalitarian and segregationist towards Black Americans, but

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Towards a circular economy

October 15, 2019

The idea of the circular economy frequently brings to mind issues of recycling waste and materials and making moderate use of natural resources. But if a new system is to emerge which is sustainable and equitable the whole economic model will have to be re-thought. With the differences in wealth which exist at the moment, no ecological ambition is possible.  Energy saving can only come from economic and social restraint and not from excessive fortunes and life-syles. We will have to construct new social, educational, fiscal and climate norms through democratic discussion. These norms will have to say no to the present hyper concentration of economic power. On the contrary, the economy of the 21st century must be based on the permanent circulation of power, wealth and knowledge.
It is

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What is a fair pension system?

September 10, 2019

Even if the timing remains vague and the conditions uncertain, the government does seem to have decided to launch a vast reform of the retirement pensions system, with the key element being the unification of the rules applied at the moment in the various systems operating (civil servants, private sector employees, local authority employees, self-employed, special schemes, etc).
Let’s make it clear: setting up a universal system is in itself an excellent thing, and a reform of this type is long overdue in France. The young generations, particularly those who have gone through multiple changes in status (private and public employees, self-employed, working abroad, etc.,), frequently have no idea of the retirement rights which they have accumulated. This situation is a source of

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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 share

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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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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, the

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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,

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

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

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 »

« 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 »

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 »