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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

For an autonomous and alterglobalist Europe

28 days ago

Will Europe manage to redefine its place in the world geopolitical order? With Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine and rising tensions with China, circumstances oblige it to do so, but hesitations are emerging.
Let’s say it from the outset: we must maintain the link with the United States, but on the condition that we gain autonomy and get away from the egoism and arrogance that too often characterise the Atlantic and Western discourse towards the rest of the world. Europe has never been so rich. It has more than ever the means and the historical duty to promote another model of development and wealth sharing, more democratic, more egalitarian and more sustainable. Otherwise, the new Western alliance will not convince anyone in its self-proclaimed crusade against autocracies and the reign

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Moving away from three-tier democracy

June 14, 2022

Is it possible to break out of the present three-tier democracy in France and more generally on a European and international scale, and rebuild a left-right divide centred on questions of redistribution and social inequality? This is the central issue of the current legislative elections in France.
Let us first recall the contours of the three-tier democracy, as expressed in the first round of the presidential elections. If we add up the various candidates from the left-wing and ecological parties, we obtain 32% of the votes for the left-wing bloc, which can be described as being in favour of social-planning or social-ecological. If we combine the votes cast for Macron and Pécresse, we also obtain 32% of the votes for the liberal or centre-right bloc. We arrive at exactly the same score

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The return of the Popular Front

May 10, 2022

Let’s say it straight away: the agreement reached by the French left-wing parties under the label of the “New Popular Union” is excellent news for French and European democracy. Those who see in it the triumph of radicalism and extremism have clearly understood nothing of the evolution of capitalism and the social and environmental challenges we have been facing for several decades. In reality, if we look at things calmly, the transformation programme proposed in 2022 is rather less ambitious than those of 1936 or 1981. Rather than give in to the prevailing conservatism, it is better to take it for what it is: a good starting point on which to build further.
The programme adopted marks the return of social and fiscal justice. At a time when inflation has already begun to cut into the

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The difficult return of the left-right divide

April 12, 2022

In the first round of the 2017 presidential election, four candidates had achieved between 20% and 24% of the vote: this means that many second rounds were possible and could have occurred, within a deeply fragmented political and ideological landscape. Until the last moment, the voters of 2022 also had to face considerable uncertainties, and in particular a choice between a second round between the extreme right and the right (Le Pen against Macron, which the vast majority of voters now and quite logically place on the right) or between the right and the left (Macron against Mélenchon). This choice is anything but trivial and carries with it considerable consequences for the kind of public deliberation that will occupy the country for a fortnight (and perhaps longer): a debate centred

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Confronting war, rethinking sanctions

March 15, 2022

So war is back in Europe, in its most brutal form. A country with 45 million inhabitants is being invaded by its neighbour with three times the population and eight times the weapons. Looking at it from a distance, one might be tempted to compare the situation to the border wars which opposed France and Germany three times between 1870 and 1945. Russia considers Crimea and the Donbass to be its property, as did Germany with Alsace and Moselle.
However, there are several key differences. The demographic and military imbalance is even more marked this time (Germany was 60% more populated than France in 1870, 1914 and 1940), and the authorities in Kiev have already indicated that they are ready to discuss the political status of the disputed territories, while respecting the rights of the

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Sanction the oligarchs, not the people

February 15, 2022

The Ukrainian crisis has revived an old debate, namely, how to effectively sanction a state like Russia? Let’s say it straight away: it is time to imagine a new type of sanction focused on the oligarchs who have prospered thanks to the regime in question. This will require the establishment of an international financial register, which will not be to the liking of Western fortunes, whose interests are much more closely linked to those of the Russian and Chinese oligarchs than is sometimes claimed. However, it is at this price that Western countries will succeed in winning the political and moral battle against the autocracies and in demonstrating to world opinion that the resounding speeches on democracy and justice are not simply empty words.
Let us first recall that the freezing of

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Rightward shift, Macron’s fault

January 11, 2022

How can we explain the rightward shift of the French political landscape? Even if the question is complex and admits of multiple answers, there is little doubt that the experience of Macronism in power bears an overwhelming responsibility.
Let us be clear: the dispersion of candidates on the left and the discouraging effect on voters also contribute to explaining this situation. However, this explanation is insufficient. If we take the total of all the left-wing candidates (socialists, ecologists, insoumis, communists, etc.), the total is a figure that is dismally low. According to the latest opinion poll carried out by Le Monde in December among 10928 people, the total of those intending to vote for a left-wing candidate in the first round of the presidential election scheduled for 10

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The new global inequalities

December 14, 2021

What can we learn from the new World Inequality Report 2022 published this week? The result of the contributions from over a hundred researchers from all continents, this Report, published every four years, allows us to examine the major fault lines in the world’s inequalities. Beyond the now well-known findings on the rise of income inequalities over the last few decades, three main new features can be identified, relating to wealth, gender and environmental inequalities.
Let us start with wealth. For the first time, thanks to the work of Luis Bauluz, Thomas Blanchet and Clara Martinez-Toledano, researchers have gathered systematic data that allows for a comparison of wealth distributions in all countries of the world, from the bottom of the distribution to the top. The overall

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Can the French presidential election be saved?

November 16, 2021

With less than five months to go before the first round, what can we expect from the French presidential election scheduled for next April? The question can be asked at two levels: that of the 2022 election, and the broader question of the place of the presidential election in the French political system.
As far as the 2022 election is concerned, we have to admit that it is not off to a good start. Given the increasing tendency of the political landscape towards the extreme right-wing, an evolution to which Macronism in power is no stranger, it has become almost impossible to debate the major social and economic issues that will structure our common future.
To win the battle for emancipation, intelligence and human capital, the central issue remains investment in education and training.

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« Pandora Papers »: maybe it is time to take action?

October 12, 2021

After the « LuxLeaks » in 2014, the « Panama Papers » in 2016 and the « Paradise Papers » in 2017, the revelations of the « Pandora Papers », resulting from a new leak of 12 million documents from offshore finance, show the extent to which the wealthiest continue to evade taxes. Contrary to what is sometimes claimed, there is no reliable indicator that the situation has improved over the last ten years.
Before the summer, ProPublica revealed that US billionaires pay almost no taxes compared to their wealth and what the rest of the population pays. According to Challenges, the top 500 French fortunes jumped from 210 billion euros in 2010 to more than 730 billion in 2020, and everything suggests that the taxes paid by these large fortunes (quite simple information, but which the public

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Emerging from september 11

September 14, 2021

Twenty years ago, the World Trade Center towers were struck by aeroplanes. The worst attack in history was to lead the United States and some of its allies into a global war against terrorism and the ‘axis of evil’. For the US neo-conservatives, the attack was proof of the theses put forward by Samuel Huntington in 1996: the « clash of civilisations » was becoming the new way of interpreting the world. This publication was their oft-quoted favorite, just as the works published by Milton Friedman in the 1960s and 1970s were those of the Reaganites in the 1980s.
Unfortunately, we now know that the US desire for revenge and the resulting brutalisation of entire regions and societies has only exacerbated identity-based conflicts. The invasion of Iraq in 2003, with its state-sponsored lies

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The G7 legalizes the right to defraud

June 15, 2021

Last weekend, the G7 ministers announced their intention to apply a minimum tax rate of 15% on the offshore profits of multinationals. Let us be clear: if we leave it at that, it is nothing more and nothing less than the formalisation of a real licence to defraud for the most powerful players. For small and medium-sized enterprises as well as for the working and middle classes, it is impossible to create a subsidiary to relocate its profits or income to a tax haven. For all these taxpayers, there is no choice but to pay ordinary tax. However, if we add up taxes on income and profits and social security contributions, both employees and the small and medium-sized self-employed find themselves paying rates in all the G7 countries well above 15%: at least 20-30%, and often 40-50%, or even

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From basic income to inheritance for all

May 18, 2021

The Covid crisis is forcing us to rethink the tools of redistribution and solidarity. Proposals are springing up everywhere: basic income, job guarantee, inheritance for all. Let’s say it straight away: these proposals are complementary and not substitutable. In the long run, they must all be implemented, in stages and in this order.
Let’s start with basic income. Such a system is dramatically lacking today, especially in the South, where the incomes of the working poor have collapsed and containment rules are unenforceable in the absence of a minimum income. Opposition parties had proposed introducing a basic income in India in the 2019 elections, but the ruling nationalist-conservatives in Delhi are still dragging their feet.
In Europe, various forms of minimum income exist in most

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Rights for poor countries

April 13, 2021

The Covid-19 crisis, the most serious global health crisis in a century, forces us to fundamentally rethink the notion of international solidarity. Beyond the right to produce vaccines and medical equipment, it is the whole question of the right of poor countries to develop and to receive part of the tax revenues of the world’s multinationals and billionaires that must be asked. We need to move beyond the neo-colonial notion of international aid, paid at the whim of rich countries and under their control, and finally move towards a logic of rights.
Let’s start with vaccines. Some argue (unwisely) that there would be no point in lifting patent ownership rights because poor countries would be unable to produce the precious doses. This is not true. India and South Africa have significant

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Combatting discrimination, measuring racism

March 16, 2021

As the trial of George Floyd’s killer opens in the United States, identity conflicts are festering in Europe and France. Instead of fighting discrimination, the government has embarked on a  course of pursuing the far right and hunting down  social scientists. This is all the more regrettable because there is an urgent need to set up a genuine French and European model to combat discrimination. A model which would embrace the reality of racism and ensure the means to measure and correct it, while placing the fight against discrimination within the broader framework of a social policy with a universalist agenda.
Let me start with the question of measuring racism. Numerous research studies have demonstrated the reality of racism, but we lack a real Observatory of Discrimination that

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Time for social justice

February 16, 2021

As the pandemic crisis fuels the demand for social justice more than ever, a new investigation by a consortium of international media (including Le Monde) has just revealed the financial turpitudes of Luxembourg, a tax haven nestled in the heart of Europe. There is an urgent need to get out of these contradictions and to launch a profound transformation of the economic system in the direction of justice and redistribution.
Let’s start with the most immediate. The first priority should be social, wage and ecological recovery. The Covid crisis has brought to light low pay in many key sectors. The CFDT, a union that is considered centrist, called in January for an immediate 15% increase in all low- and middle-wage workers in the medico-social sector. The same should be done in education,

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The fall of the U.S. idol

January 12, 2021

After the invasion of Capitol Hill, the bewildered world wonders how the country that has long presented itself as the self-proclaimed leader of the « free » world could have fallen so low. To understand what has happened, it is urgent to leave the myths and idolatry on one side and to go back to history. In reality, the Republic  of the United States has, since its beginnings, been run through by weaknesses, violence and considerable inequalities.
The Confederate flag, the emblem of the pro-slavery South during the Civil War of 1861-1865, which was waved a few days ago by the rioters on the floor of the federal parliament was not there by chance. It refers to very heavy conflicts that need to be confronted.
The system of slavery played a central role in the development of the United

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How to finance religion?

December 15, 2020

At a time when religious disputes seem to be flaming up again in France, it is worthwhile considering a question that is not so much material as central: how to finance religions, while ensuring the neutrality of public power with regard to different beliefs?
In France, we like to give lessons in secularism to the whole world.  It is not here that a president would take an oath on the Bible!  The problem is that this great national narrative is sometimes accompanied by monumental hypocrisy. In reality, there is nothing particularly neutral or exemplary about the system in place in France.
Thus places of worship are not officially subsidised, except when they were built before the 1905 law. In practice this applies almost exclusively to  Christian churches. And so much the worse if the

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Global inequalities: where do we stand?

November 17, 2020

Thanks to the combined efforts of 150 researchers from all continents, the World Inequality Database (WID.world) has just put new data online on the distribution of income in the different countries of the world. What does it tell us about the state of global inequality?
The main innovation is that the data collected make it possible to cover almost all countries. Thanks to research carried out in Latin America, Africa and Asia, 173 countries representing 97% of the world’s population are now covered. The new data also makes it possible to analyse for each country the detailed evolution of the overall distribution, from the poorest to the richest.
In concrete terms, we already knew that the widening in inequalities has been made at the top over the last few decades, with the well-known

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What to do with Covid debt?

October 13, 2020

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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