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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

Should Ukraine join the EU?

7 days ago

Is Ukraine’s possible entry into the European Union a good idea? Yes, but on the condition that the European project is also redefined at the same time. In short, it should be an opportunity to redefine the EU as a political community serving the rule of law and democratic pluralism; and to break away from the economic religion of free trade and competition as the solution to all problems, which has dominated the construction of Europe for several decades.
 
The defence of Ukraine from Russia is vitally important, and this is first and foremost for political and democratic reasons. Unlike its Russian neighbor, Ukraine respects the principles of electoral democracy, democratic alternation, separation of powers and peaceful conflict resolution.
 
Ukraine’s entry into the EU must

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When the German left was expropriating princes

March 19, 2024

Just over a century ago, in the spring of 1924, the German left launched an uphill battle to redistribute the wealth of the Hohenzollerns, the ruling family who had lost power with the abdication of Wilhelm II and the creation of the Weimar Republic in 1919. Rich in lessons for today, this little-known episode deserves to be remembered. It illustrates the ability of elites to use the language of the law to perpetuate their privileges, regardless of the scale of their wealth or the importance of collective needs. Yesterday, it was the reconstruction of European societies ravaged by war; today, it is the new social and climatic challenges.
 
The episode is all the more interesting given that the Weimar Constitution is considered one of the most advanced in social and democratic terms.

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Pesants, the most unequal of professions

February 13, 2024

The French and European agricultural crisis has demonstrated that no sustainable development trajectory is possible without a drastic reduction in the social inequalities and glaring injustices of our economic system. Instead, the public authorities in Paris and Brussels are embarking on an old-fashioned headlong rush to relaunch pesticides and pollution, without giving themselves the means to tackle injustices and liberal dogmas. This is all the more ill-adapted given that the farming world today is the most unequal of all professional universes. No viable solution can be found without starting from this basic material reality.
Let’s take a step back. In recent weeks, French public opinion has been struck by a widely shared statistic: The average annual income of farmers reached

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Rethinking Europe after Delors

January 15, 2024

With the death of Jacques Delors, president of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995, a chapter in European history has ended. The time has come to take critical stock of this decisive period and to draw lessons for the future, a few months ahead of the European elections of June 2024.
To say that the Europe we know today was shaped during this period would be an understatement, with the 1986 Single European Act (allowing for the free movement of goods and services), the 1988 European Directive on the liberalization of capital flows and the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. In particular, it was the Maastricht Treaty, narrowly adopted by French voters in September 1992 (51% yes), that transformed the former European Economic Community (EEC, established in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome) into the

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Escaping anti-poor ideology, protecting public service

December 12, 2023

Let’s be clear from the outset: the edifying investigation published by Le Monde into the intrusive and ubiquitous procedures undergone by thousands of beneficiaries of the Caisse d’Allocation Familiales (CAF), France’s welfare agency, poses fundamental issues for the future of social security and public services, in France, Europe and the rest of the world. By examining thousands of lines of unduly concealed code, meeting vulnerable people and single parents unjustly hounded for imaginary overpayments, the journalists have shown the dramatic consequences of these blind algorithmic practices on everyday lives.
It should also be pointed out that CAF employees are often the first to denounce these practices imposed by their management as well as political leaders. With limited resources,

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Taking the BRICS seriously

November 14, 2023

The war in Gaza threatens to widen the gap between North and South. For many countries in the South, and not only in the Muslim world, the thousands of civilian deaths caused by Israeli bombardments in the Palestinian enclave, 20 years after the tens of thousands of deaths caused by the United States in Iraq, will doubtless embody the West’s double standards for a long time to come.

All this is taking place against a backdrop in which the main alliance of so-called emerging countries, the BRICS, has just been strengthened at its Johannesburg summit a few months ago. Initially created in 2009, the BRICS have comprised five countries since 2011: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Expressed in terms of purchasing power parity, the combined GDP of these five

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Israel-Palestine: breaking the deadlock

October 17, 2023

The atrocities committed during the Hamas terrorist operation, and the ongoing Israeli response in the Gaza Strip, raise once again the question of political solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role that other countries can play in trying to promote constructive developments. Can we still believe in the two-state solution, rendered obsolete in the view of many by the extent of the settlements on the one hand, but also, on the other, by a desire to deny the very existence of Israel and to eliminate its citizens, which has just taken on its most barbaric form with the killings and hostage-takings of the last few days?
Can we still dream of a bi-national state, or is it not time to imagine an original form of confederal structure enabling two sovereign states to one day

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Who has the most popular vote?

September 19, 2023

The question of the popular or bourgeois profile of different votes has always given rise to a great deal of controversy. In our « History of political conflict« ,  Julia Cagé and I developed a method for establishing a number of facts and trends. We begin by compiling the electoral results at muncipality level for all legislative and presidential elections from 1848 to 2022, as well as for the most significant referendums from 1793 to 2005. We then classify the 36,000 municipalities  (communes) according to their average wealth, from the poorest 1% of communes to the richest 1%, and observe how the score obtained by the various candidates and political currents evolve in proportion to their national average score. We use several wealth indicators, in particular the average income per

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France and its territorial divides

July 11, 2023

To analyse the urban riots of 2023 – by far the most serious since those of 2005 – and the political misunderstandings to which they give rise, it is essential to go back to the roots of France’s territorial malaise. The suburbs that are currently catching fire have much more in common with the abandoned villages and midsize towns than is sometimes imagined. The only way out of the current contradictions is to bring these different disadvantaged areas together politically.
 
Let’s look back. Between 1900-1910 and 1980-1990, territorial inequalities decreased in France, both in terms of differences in gross domestic product per capita between departments and inequalities in property wealth or average income between communes and departments. The opposite has been true since 1980-1990 (J.

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For a European Parliamentary Union (EPU)

June 13, 2023

Faced with new social, climatic and geopolitical challenges, Europe has no choice but to reinvent itself if it wants to play a useful role for its citizens and the planet. It is with this in mind that a new organisation created in 2022 met a fortnight ago in Moldova: the European Political Community (EPC). The initiative deserves to be applauded. By bringing together 47 countries, from the United Kingdom to Ukraine and from Norway to Switzerland and Serbia, the EPC is a reminder that the 27-nation European Union (EU) is not set in stone forever. Increasingly advanced discussions and cooperation must extend to the whole continent and beyond, if only to assert and defend a minimum foundation of common political rules and principles, which is no mean feat. However, it is clear that the EPC

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What if economists were about to change?

May 9, 2023

Let’s celebrate. The American Economic Association (AEA), the main professional organisation for economists in the United States, has just awarded the Clark Medal to Gabriel Zucman for his work on the concentration of wealth and tax evasion.
Awarded each year to a winner under the age of 40, the distinction is given in particular for innovative work demonstrating the considerable importance of tax evasion by the richest, including in Scandinavian countries, which are often considered models of virtue. Endowed with an immense capacity for work, a rare attention to detail and an unparalleled talent for unearthing new data and making it speak for itself, Gabriel Zucman has also revealed the unsuspected extent of corporate tax evasion by multinationals in all countries.
Now director of the

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Can we trust constitutional judges?

April 11, 2023

As the ‘wise men’ of the Constitutional Council prepare to give their decision on pensions, it is worth asking a simple question. In general, can we trust constitutional judges? Let us be clear: constitutional courts play an absolutely indispensable role in all countries. Unfortunately, like all powers, these precious and fragile institutions are sometimes instrumentalised and damaged by the people to whom these eminent functions have been entrusted, who often try to impose their own political preferences under the guise of law.
There are many examples in history. In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled in 1896 in the ominous Plessy vs Ferguson decision that it was perfectly legal for southern states to segregate as much as they wanted. The ruling formed the legal basis for the

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Macron, the social and economic mess

March 14, 2023

Let’s say it straight away: Macron is in the wrong era and is wasting our time. He is applying recipes that are completely unsuited to the world of the 2020s, as if he had remained intellectually stuck in the era of the market euphoria of the 1990s and early 2000s, the world before the 2008 crisis, Covid and Ukraine. Yet the current context is one of rising inequality, hyper-prosperity of wealth and the climate and energy crisis. The urgent need is for investment in education and health and the establishment of a fairer economic system, in France and in Europe, and even more so on an international scale. But the government continues to pursue an anti-social policy from another age.
 
On pensions, Macron had tried in 2019 to promote the idea of a ‘universal’ pension, with a unification

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Emerging from the pension crisis

February 14, 2023

February 2023 may go down in history as the month when India became more populous than China, whose population is expected to be around 700 million by 2100 according to the United Nations, close to Europe. We could also focus on the earthquake that has just hit Turkey and Syria, in a region devastated by wars and oil interests, or on the consequences of global warming in Pakistan or the Sahel, or on the glaring inadequacies of sanctions against Russian oligarchs and support for Ukraine. Instead, what are we talking about in France? A profoundly unfair pension reform that is out of touch with reality, when we could do so much better to prepare for the future, such as debating an ambitious energy renovation plan, an investment programme in training and research that is finally up to

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President of the rich, season 2

January 10, 2023

In 2023, will Emmanuel Macron once again fall into the wrong era by illustrating himself as president of the rich? Unfortunately, this is what is in store with the pension reform. During his first term, he had already chosen to focus on the « first in line » and the abolition of the wealth tax. The result was a powerful feeling of injustice that led to the “gilets jaunes (or yellow waistcoats) » movement, fed up with the new taxes on fuel that they were ordered to pay while the richest received cheques. In just a few months, the government has thus succeeded in permanently undermining the very idea of a carbon tax in France, which, to be accepted, would have to exempt the most modest and require proportionally much greater efforts from the most affluent.
In general, solving the climate

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Rethinking protectionism

December 13, 2022

Should we have boycotted the World Cup in Qatar? Probably not. Since we have always accepted to participate in sports competitions with regimes far removed from social and electoral democracy, starting with China (2008 Olympic Games) and Russia (2018 World Cup), the boycott of Qatar would have been interpreted as a new mark of the hypocrisy of Westerners, always ready to give lessons to a few small countries when it suits them, while continuing to do business with all those who bring them enough money.
Even if we choose not to boycott, his does not mean however that we should not do anything. On the contrary: we must act on the commercial lever, which is far more effective than the sporting lever. It is time for each country to redefine the conditions of trade with other territories,

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Redistributing wealth to save the planet

November 8, 2022

Let’s say it straight out: it is impossible to seriously fight global warming without a profound redistribution of wealth, both within countries and internationally. Those who claim otherwise are lying to the world. And those who claim that redistribution is certainly desirable, sympathetic, etc., but unfortunately technically or politically impossible, are lying just as much. They would be better off defending what they believe in (if they still believe in anything) rather than getting lost in conservative posturing.
Lula’s victory over the agribusiness camp certainly gives some hope. But it should not obscure the fact that so many voters remain sceptical of the social-ecological left and prefer to rely on the nationalist, anti-migrant right, both in the South and in the North, as the

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Rethinking federalism

October 11, 2022

In the face of the geopolitical and climate crisis, the question of sovereignty is on everyone’s lips. Each country is seeking to regain control of its destiny, its supplies and its production chains. People are even talking about European sovereignty, sovereignist federalism or federal sovereignism. A contradiction in terms? Not necessarily, but on condition that we agree on the content. To avoid the pitfalls of nationalism and empty shells, it is essential to rethink the question of federalism, which must become a tool in the service of the best social, fiscal and environmental objectives on offer, and no longer a means of reducing the power of the states and promoting a logic of dumping and generalised competition between territories.
Let us look back. In its early days, European

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A Queen with no Lord?

September 13, 2022

With the death of Elizabeth II, it is tempting to talk about the immutability of British institutions, in contrast to France and its many revolutions and constitutions. In reality, things are more complex, and the two countries are closer than they sometimes imagine, including when it comes to their political systems and institutions. The United Kingdom has seen its share of constitutional revolutions and upheavals, including the fall of the House of Lords, which has been without real power since the People’s Budget crisis of 1909. Deprived of its Lords, who until then had been the backbone of the government and of executive and legislative power (most of the prime ministers had come from them), the British monarchy has been nothing more than a facade, governed entirely by its House of

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For an autonomous and alterglobalist Europe

July 12, 2022

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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