The Perils of Piketty

posted at 9:31 am on May 25, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

In order to get an expert look into the controversy over Thomas Piketty’s work and the Financial Times’ exposé of the errors and “constructs,” I asked Ricochet writer and my good friend King Banaian to break it down for us. King also has a Saturday morning show on KYCR in the Twin Cities on economics and business policy, and is a professor of economics at St. Cloud State University. King is also a senior fellow at the Center for the American Experiment.

A small bombshell exploded Friday with the publication by the Financial Times of an article by Chris Giles and Ferdinando Giugliano detailing data errors in Prof. Thomas Piketty’s unlikely bestseller Capital in the 21st Century. As noted there, most every reader of the book, fans and critics alike, had praised the detailed data Prof. Piketty has provided. The argument heretofore has been entirely over his theory that, because the return on capital inexorably rises above that of GDP, wealth increasingly concentrates in fewer and fewer hands.

Like many people who have bought the bestseller, I haven’t been able yet to wade through all 577 pages.  I expect many copies are sitting on coffee tables next to unopened books of art or architecture that help us make statements in our homes.  (Mine is on my iPad like so many others these days.)  So I will refrain from discussing the theory and only focus on the issues Giles and Giugliano (hereinafter GG) raise.

GG show some examples, first, that there were transcription and “fat-finger” errors in the datasets that Piketty put out in an online annex. This kind of error is every scientist’s nightmare. I produce many datasets for local and regional policy makers and scholars, and even on a third or fourth read you sometimes find gremlins in the data. The errors of this nature are of a kind that were made in the criticism made of Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart’s book This Time is Different. Another book with centuries of data, at one point Rogoff and Reinhart had improperly filtered their Excel spreadsheet. The result, it turns out, wasn’t greatly changed by the properly-filtered data. If this was the total of what GG found, there’d be little to report here, and I’d be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt:  “Happens to the best of us, Thomas.”

(Steve Hayward wonders why Harvard University Press didn’t find these errors. The simple answer, from my own 30 years of publishing experience, is that there is almost no review process in academic book publishing, and not much more in the vaunted “peer-review” process. It’s worth noting that Harvard U.P. doesn’t keep the dataset on its website; Piketty does that himself. For that he should be praised: science is only science when your results are transparent and replicable.)

There is a second similarity between Piketty and Rogoff/Reinhart. GG say that Piketty didn’t weight the observations of Europe properly, saying “when averaging different countries to estimate wealth in Europe, Prof Piketty gives the same weight to Sweden as to France and the UK – even though it only has one-seventh of the population.” Well, that’s probably something I might change, but that doesn’t make what Piketty did an error or dishonest. He just picked a different averaging method that you did. The critics of Rogoff and Reinhart made the same claims, and found that the averaging method made a difference in the claims those authors make about the impact of government debt on economic growth. It isn’t obvious to me or anyone else that one way is right and the other wrong. They are just different, and it will not surpise you to find people cheering the averaging method that comes up with their preferred result.  Fun for econo-bloggers but not many others.

This criticism, however, is more serious and troubling. Let me quote GG once more:

A second class of problems relates to unexplained alterations of the original source data. Prof Piketty adjusts his own French data on wealth inequality at death to obtain inequality among the living. However, he used a larger adjustment scale for 1910 than for all the other years, without explaining why.

In the UK data, instead of using his source for the wealth of the top 10 per cent population during the 19th century, Prof Piketty inexplicably adds 26 percentage points to the wealth share of the top 1 per cent for 1870 and 28 percentage points for 1810.

It turns out the differences are huge. In a companion blog that details what they found, Giles shows that the data Piketty cited for wealth of the top 10% in the UK was different from the official source … by 71% for Piketty versus the official number of 44%. In some places Piketty’s spreadsheets had had random digits added that seemed to make the data smoother, fit better than it would have otherwise. Some data appaered to be cherry-picked and other data simply “constructed” (what the non-economist probably calls “made up.”) It’s one thing to interpolate or average over two data points when the middle one is not available, but what Piketty has done appears to be more aggresive in constructing data than that.

Piketty responded to the FT with an explanation that is not altogether satisfying:

For the time being, we have to do with what we have, that is, a very diverse and heterogeneous set of data sources on wealth: historical inheritance declarations and estate tax statistics, scarce property and wealth tax data, and household surveys with self-reported data on wealth (with typically a lot of under-reporting at the top). As I make clear in the book, in the on-line appendix, and in the many technical papers I have published on this topic, one needs to make a number of adjustments to the raw data sources so as to make them more homogenous over time and across countries. I have tried in the context of this book to make the most justified choices and arbitrages about data sources and adjustments. I have no doubt that my historical data series can be improved and will be improved in the future (this is why I put everything on line). [Emphasis mine.]

But how do you do that without doing things that could be construed as biased towards your outcome? It is a basis of scientific analysis that we agree what the data are, but it seems in some cases Piketty is saying “this is my data, there isn’t a perfect dataset out there, if you think you can do better go ahead.” Well, that is hardly a defense for your own data being definitive, Professor.

No single graph or statistical analysis will ever convince someone that the theory he didn’t think was true in fact is true. Scientists value results that are robust, meaning the results are the same across different times and places. This last error appears to make Piketty’s results less robust and so less likely to change anyone’s mind about what they already thought of inequality, and more likely to make Capital in the 21st Century an expensive, unread table book.


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Proving the hypothesis though dubious means is not proving the hypothesis.

unclesmrgol on May 25, 2014 at 9:35 AM

Fudge.

Akzed on May 25, 2014 at 9:37 AM

Sounds as reliable as the data for global warming. If the data doesn’t prove the theory then make up data to prove the theory and bury the rest

jaywemm on May 25, 2014 at 9:38 AM

Factor.

unclesmrgol on May 25, 2014 at 9:38 AM

Picketty & the Left are counting on the axiom that a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its shoes on. Hurry up & get on the talk shows, get the narrative out there before it’s too late for the debunking.

8 weight on May 25, 2014 at 9:39 AM

This kind of error is every scientist’s nightmare.

Really? Do the names Hansen and Mann mean anything to you?

corona79 on May 25, 2014 at 9:40 AM

” and more likely to make Capital in the 21st Century a left wing bible.”

Fixed that for you.

Snowblind on May 25, 2014 at 9:45 AM

Sounds as reliable as the data for global warming. If the data doesn’t prove the theory then make up data to prove the theory and bury the rest

jaywemm on May 25, 2014 at 9:38 AM

And the policies end up the same.

rob verdi on May 25, 2014 at 9:46 AM

Just great. Now an economical MMann to throw the world into a decade or more of moronic, imbecilic non-debate in that non-existent non-subject.

RL on May 25, 2014 at 9:48 AM

Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Philly on May 25, 2014 at 9:53 AM

———– an expensive, unread table book.

To you and I maybe… Unfortunately our top universities will be offering 4 year degrees based solely on this settled economic science.

luvntheBIGsites on May 25, 2014 at 9:54 AM

Steve Hayward wonders why Harvard University Press didn’t find these errors.

Sad to say, but having departed academia to flee the increasing imbalance between those of us who wanted to help students and the evil encroachment of self-serving pseudo-intellects and bureaucratic non-intellects, I can say it is just as likely that “they” didn’t want to find any such errors.

RL on May 25, 2014 at 9:58 AM

The interesting thing is that in the short term, Mr Picketty is right — wealth does aggregate in the hands of a few. Here in Los Angeles, real estate prices are not falling — they are rising. Why? Because a lot of very wealthy people are buying up property here. In fact, “regular people” like you or me are finding that they are outbid on homes over and over by investment firms fuelled with parked money from the wealthy. The wealthy are betting that Fannie and Freddie will continue to act as they have, thus putting pressure on prices on the lower end of the market and driving mid scale homes (such as you or I might buy) upward.

In fact, my next door neighbor owns three homes on this block (including his own) outright. As an attorney, he has much more money than I do, and is able to continue to increase his money over what I am able to do through the rents.

I don’t envy him, but the economics of the situation is obvious: Making more money means being able to buy more things that make more money.

The things which used to level income over time — death and taxes — do not operate any more, because of the patchwork of laws designed to allow the wealthy to shield their income beyond death. Look at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in which Bill has put much of his money. On paper he does not own that money any more, for he has given it away. The money is no longer taxable — for the Foundation is a non-profit enterprise. But as the chief officer of the Foundation, he controls it utterly, including its assets. It is still his — when he goes to the Foundation for a meeting, I doubt he pays for his own lunch, or even for the plane fare to get him there.

Imagine if Mr. Gates instead put his money into a family trust — a vehicle which continues, outside of probate, after his death. This is the kind of vehicle which assures Jay Rockefeller, for example, access to the “residual” family fortune. I submit that such accumulations are about as good for society in general as the wealth held by the Royal Family is good for Britain.

It’s all in how the wealth is used.

unclesmrgol on May 25, 2014 at 9:58 AM

He just picked a different averaging method that you did.

Er, how convenient for him – an economic hockey stick.

RL on May 25, 2014 at 10:01 AM

It’s a good thing King did the research instead of me. I wouldn’t have been as charitable.

Steve Eggleston on May 25, 2014 at 10:07 AM

For the time being, we have to do with what we have

Stop right there!

If you don’t have enough accurate data to support your lame hypothesis, maybe you aren’t ready to write a damn book about it!!!!!

You don’t HAVE to waste your time writing a book about an unsupportable hypothesis .. why not buy a butterfly net and mount a few specimens?

fred5678 on May 25, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Women earn 77cents for every dollar men earn.
Mann’s Hockey Stick.
97% of scientists agree with CAGW.
Fake, but accurate.
Ect., etc.

It won’t matter. The left will continue to use Piketty’s work and treat it as gospel. Once accepted, no matter how briefly before it is debunked, if it fits the meme, it is eternal.

iurockhead on May 25, 2014 at 10:13 AM

Well,

There’s always work to be found in the “field” of “Climate Disruption”. Maybe this cat should call Big Al, and see if he needs a “Scientician”?

a5minmajor on May 25, 2014 at 10:19 AM

well, i would be very surprised if Piketty data analysis that wealth is not concentration at the top was wrong. I still very in love with Piketty and as some one that lives mostly on income, i would like very much that a wealth tax be imposed. as for other liberal policies of piketty, i would pass. tax the rich, lower my income tax and less goverment is the way to go!

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 10:22 AM

Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture (Knopf, 2000), Michael A. Bellesiles

Apply similar remedies.

slickwillie2001 on May 25, 2014 at 10:22 AM

It’s all in how the wealth is used.

unclesmrgol on May 25, 2014 at 9:58 AM

Er, and who’s going to “suggest” how to use it or, to paraphrase one of history’s great imbeciles, “…at which point you’ve earned enough…”?

We are “very not” rich, but use these same mechanisms to protect some of our “savings” for our family.

Who, again, is qualified to set any limits for any imagined “inequality”? If someone – as most do who have mortgages, 2 cars and a boat or a couple of silly ATV’s – and instead puts $2,000 into 10,000 shares @ 20 cents on an “intelligent” guess, who ANYWHERE has any moral authority to decide a couple of splits when 40K shares have grown to $4 million that this honest risk taker somehow shouldn’t be allowed to protect those earnings? His colleagues wanted the mortgaged downstairs 20×30 home theater, $200+/mo. phone and dish bills, SUV and ATV’s, and they can damned well keep up with the debt and maintenance themselves.

RL on May 25, 2014 at 10:24 AM

bayam must be in mourning…

Del Dolemonte on May 25, 2014 at 10:24 AM

No single graph or statistical analysis will ever convince someone that the theory he didn’t think was true in fact is true. Scientists value results that are robust, meaning the results are the same across different times and places. This last error appears to make Piketty’s results less robust and so less likely to change anyone’s mind about what they already thought of inequality, and more likely to make Capital in the 21st Century an expensive, unread table book.

Data normalization is pretty… normal in the course of scientific work, and is conducted in standardized ways.

You cannot say since dome of this occurred that his analysis is wrong. So long as it is statistically significant, it should be viewed as evidence for his hypothesis.

BTW – when will HA cover the shootings out in CA? All I hear are crickets.

antisense on May 25, 2014 at 10:26 AM

and instead puts $2,000

RL on May 25, 2014 at 10:27 AM

fighting the numbers wont lead anywhere when public perception that the “Rich get richer” is the norm. lets assume R > G is indeed right, what is the right going to do about it? i have very little issue with taxing the wealth of rich at a small percentage as long as other taxes are lowered and goverment stays small. greater wealth imbalance will only give more ammo to the left if as time goes on if the right does not answer the problem too.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 10:30 AM

It won’t matter. The left will continue to use Piketty’s work and treat it as gospel. Once accepted, no matter how briefly before it is debunked, if it fits the meme, it is eternal.

iurockhead on May 25, 2014 at 10:13 AM

fighting piketty’s numbers is like saying “the rich are not getting richer” . lol! good luck with that!

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 10:38 AM

Uh-Oh…somebody finally read his book. That can’t be good.

kcewa on May 25, 2014 at 10:50 AM

BTW – when will HA cover the shootings out in CA? All I hear are crickets.

antisense on May 25, 2014 at 10:26 AM

It’s in Headlines right now.

Del Dolemonte on May 25, 2014 at 10:50 AM

fighting piketty’s numbers is like saying “the rich are not getting richer” . lol! good luck with that!

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 10:38 AM

What’s wrong with someone getting rich or the rich getting richer?

kcewa on May 25, 2014 at 10:51 AM

A book sitting on a coffee table is as inconsequential as an AR 15 sitting on a coffee table. Trying to debunk any of this will be about as fruitful as gun control legislation that dies in committee.

genital reach on May 25, 2014 at 10:52 AM

I have not read the book or reviewed the math but saying the it was merely a different averaging method is pretty lame.

If the numbers call for a weighted average, you need to do a weighted average. Otherwise, you get junk. Two classrooms. One produced all C’s in math, the other, all A’s. Does that mean the school had a B average? Not of one class was 3 gifted students and the other 21 gen ed students. There can be some differences in how you aggregate data but the general rules for how to combine different sets don’t change much.

I can imagine the arguments for weighting by either population or by total economic activity. But I have a hard time seeing one for not weighting at all. I would have expected a detailed explanation for this in the text somewhere. But it sounds like that is missing.

OBQuiet on May 25, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Hey, relax–it’s settled data science.

Don L on May 25, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Another problem with capitalism is that authors who fudge data about serious things tend to be richer than authors who tell the truth.

Don L on May 25, 2014 at 10:58 AM

Before I might of scoffed at economics being called a science but in light of the climate change debate it fits right in.

jmtham156 on May 25, 2014 at 10:59 AM

Another good article about the FT article:

The FT Isn’t Just Saying Piketty Made A Mistake — It’s Saying He Manipulated Data

slickwillie2001 on May 25, 2014 at 10:59 AM

(with typically a lot of under-reporting at the top)

Prove that assertion. It seems that Piketty has a point of view and only uses data that backs up his POV, and where there isn’t the data, he makes it up.

Marx continues to be wrong. And evil.

rbj on May 25, 2014 at 11:00 AM

BTW – when will HA cover the shootings out in CA? All I hear are crickets.

antisense on May 25, 2014 at 10:26 AM

PS-perhaps the reason HA just started covering this is because the story basically got no coverage Saturday; the main reason for that was because they hadn’t officially identified the attacker.

Now that they have, the floodgates have opened. In the past hour alone, ANC, CNN, al-Reuters, USA Today, and the LA Times have all published new stories.

Del Dolemonte on May 25, 2014 at 11:00 AM

You cannot say since dome of this occurred that his analysis is wrong. So long as it is statistically significant, it should be viewed as evidence for his hypothesis.

antisense on May 25, 2014 at 10:26 AM

Sure, you can that the analysis is wrong. If the R&R doesn’t fall within a specific probability range, then the data has to be defined as inconclusive, i.e. it can not be used as conclusive evidence in support of the hypothesis.

If he’s presenting as conclusive evidence, which is appears he is indeed attempting to do, then that is ethically inappropriate.

lineholder on May 25, 2014 at 11:01 AM

Constructing entire decades of data without telling exactly what the basis for that construction is, that is not science: that is throwing numbers in that ‘sound right’ to you, and you are biased when doing an analysis. No actual insight can be made from constructed data sets unless it is part of a psycho-analysis of the person doing the constructing.

The ‘fat finger’ is not just a ‘fat finger’ when someone is not forthcoming as to what their reasons for the finger being there actually is. That is dishonesty. The example of European wealth distribution must have backing reason and rationale for counting Sweden and France similarly… or, indeed, explain why differences in population size, demographics and things like culture and agriculture are not factored into the analysis. Beyond that there are extreme differences in laws for commerce between European Nations that became extremely stark when Queen Elizabeth I had to deal with pricing and population problems that had been dropped in her lap and she had poor laws drafted, agricultural laws revamped and created a patent system for rewarding innovation. Those laws and the cultural turmoil in Europe that deposited a large contingent of Protestant Dutch in England changed the entire way that life was lived from agriculture (going from a commons system to a fenced in system and then implementing the ‘Up and Down’ method of cropping) to mercantile concerns that were piecing work out (the ‘putting out system’) and the rise of the first steam engine and factories. In 80 years England saw a complete turn-around of their economic fortunes and gained more landed gentry from the yeoman class and yet had more gentry that were in business than before the laws were put into place. The rent system of the gentry had all but vanished by William and Mary and more efficient land use was creating surpluses of food crops and manufactured goods. You cannot compare that to Sweden, France or, indeed, anywhere else in Europe because of the legal changes for commercial activity and their profound effect on society. Without accounting for those changes you have an attempt to hide the Industrial Revolution and then claim that capital distribution is unequal… all at the same time that living standards were escalating at a rapid rate even for the POOR.

What analysis can be accomplished with England during that timespan from Henry VIII to William and Mary shows a massive wealth shift, yes, with more of ‘the rich getting richer’ but also the poor getting richer and being able to afford the first rudiments of education, at least enough so that even young children might have the ability to read and sign their name. All of that due to the massive changes in underlying circumstances due to unequal wealth distribution. Strange that.

Even the basis of concept of egalitarian wealth distribution fails, as was demonstrated by Robert Nozick back in the ’70s. He wasn’t an economist but a philosopher who dared to enter into subjective analysis and apply it to concepts of personal liberty and freedom. He came up with the conclusion that even with perfect wealth distribution, flat across the board, that there would quickly be those who have more wealth than others just by freedom of contract and choice. You don’t need fancy concepts or some evil capitalism to get this, just simple decisions made by individuals judging what they want to do for themselves. Not only did he pull up historical examples of how this functions but was vindicated in the post-Cold War era in places like Poland that handed out equal shares of State businesses to every citizen. Within 5 years of just people doing what they wanted with the shares (some burned them or used them as toilet paper, others traded them, and still others thought there might be some value in the businesses and accumulated them) there were majority owners for all the businesses. No coercion, no special favors, and nothing like the criminal cooptation in Russia, just people handed a single share in each business and told to do what they wanted with them. Any analysis that says that this cannot happen with egalitarian distribution of capital is plain wrong from the get-go. There are real world examples of just this sort of thing happening. Equal distribution of capital along with freedom of choice yields unequal distribution of capital.

Cooking the books is one thing.

Ignoring decades of work that demonstrate how and why you get to unequal distribution of wealth is something else, again.

ajacksonian on May 25, 2014 at 11:11 AM

BTW – when will HA cover the shootings out in CA?

Maybe after the NYT starts to cover the gazillions of inner-city shootings that are default for Obama’s organized city, Chicago?

Don L on May 25, 2014 at 11:14 AM

What’s wrong with someone getting rich or the rich getting richer?

kcewa on May 25, 2014 at 10:51 AM

great political motto! lol!
seriously, the way exposed by piketty is that at some point, you will get richer mostly with return from capital and capital concentration will continue in a capitalist system unless wars or progressive(meaning rich pay more taxes) taxation stops it. the famous R > G.
i am not against rich, but for sure no matter what one has done in life, having 50billion, is way too much reward for the real benefit that person did to sociaty. I allways felt that capitalist system is unfair but is the best we have. growing inequality pushes my tolerance of the system to the limit and sorry to say piketty convinced me that the capitalist system is indeed headed to self destruction if nothing is done about it.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 11:19 AM

It is a basis of scientific analysis that we agree what the data are, but it seems in some cases Piketty is saying “this is my data, there isn’t a perfect dataset out there, if you think you can do better go ahead.”

First of all, to call analysis of statical economic data “scientific” is a stretch. Uncertainly, piled on top of uncertainty, piled on top of uncertainty, piled on top of uncertainty… with the level of uncertainly uncertain all along the way… and all of it gathered by error prone and prone to bias humans, that supposedly accurately measures the behavior of other erratic and irrational humans, is always highly suspect. That is not “science”. But merely… “the best we can do”.

Well, in their time and place alchemists, astrologers, witch doctors, soothsayers, and tea readers were “the best we can do”. And remember when shock treatments and lobotomies were “the best we can do”.

To base Big Government policies on such things makes us all lab rats for the Big Government “social scientists” and “social engineers”, who are invariably socialists of one species or another. Recall Marx called his methodology and theories “scientific socialism”. And he wrote a massive book filled with statistics, data, and “scientific” reasoning to support them, in which he defined a new word, “capitalism”. We have seen the results when put into practice.

I am always more than highly skeptical of the “social sciences”. In fact, based on the results of the past century, those people scare the crap out of me.

That said, I’m willing to pay attention to the results of multiple independent studies, that all gathered their own data and that have the same result, when the result is statistically significant beyond all possible accumulated errors. I bet that rarely ever happens. However, much you try to quantify human behavior, humans are not atoms and molecules.

So this should all remain “academic” and “hypothetical” and not serve as the basis for Big Government policies created and executed by Big Government politicians and Big Government bureaucrats.

The ultimate human hubris is the arrogance to think human behavior can be carefully conditioned, controlled, and directed like the atoms and molecules in a silicon chip.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 11:31 AM

To all those who compare Piketty to Michael Mann: you might start assembling your legal defense team

Cleer1 on May 25, 2014 at 11:34 AM

Cutting through all the crap, complaints about “wealth inequality” have only one goal, wealth “distribution.”

All wealth distribution requires that some human beings be given the power to confiscate any wealth and “distribute” it to those they, and usually they alone, see fit to have it.

It’s no coincidence that these distributors usually end up a) being the ones who complained in the first place, and b) amazingly well off themselves.

TB on May 25, 2014 at 11:35 AM

To all those who compare Piketty to Michael Mann: you might start assembling your legal defense team

Cleer1 on May 25, 2014 at 11:34 AM

Steyn is going to clean Mann’s clock in court. You heard it here first.

Del Dolemonte on May 25, 2014 at 11:37 AM

i am not against rich, but for sure no matter what one has done in life, having 50billion, is way too much reward for the real benefit that person did to sociaty. I allways felt that capitalist system is unfair but is the best we have. growing inequality pushes my tolerance of the system to the limit and sorry to say piketty convinced me that the capitalist system is indeed headed to self destruction if nothing is done about it.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 11:19 AM

People seem to think that without the wealthy who earned it, this $50 billion would somehow still be out there, only in the hands of people the distributor finds more worthy. Wealth, unlike energy, can be created and destroyed.

I’d like to see a real measure of what Bill Gates contributed to our technological civilization versus what money he made from it.

TB on May 25, 2014 at 11:39 AM

i am not against rich, but for sure no matter what one has done in life, having 50billion, is way too much reward for the real benefit that person did to sociaty. I allways felt that capitalist system is unfair but is the best we have. growing inequality pushes my tolerance of the system to the limit and sorry to say piketty convinced me that the capitalist system is indeed headed to self destruction if nothing is done about it.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 11:19 AM

really reflecting on this, why we we allow other in our sociaty to have more than others? because we want to reward those who contribute more to sociaty by work and talent. at least this is my take on it. but someone still has to convince me that someone will be less motivated if they have 25b instead of 50b?
its also true that wealth is not just a reward system but also more influence in sociaty including politically. i trully hated last elections being dominated and skewed by a few wealthy billionaires tempering with the political system. both on the left and right. no one can convince me this is a good thing.
and what abut inherited wealth? if most our rich where born with their billions we would live in feudalistic system. it makes no sense to reward kids that still did not do anything constructive in sociaty with 10b. it makes no sense as a sociaty.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 11:40 AM

Piketty’s publisher Ian Malcolm, is interviewed here. From the sounds of it, he just reprinted the French version without applying the checks and balances that you’d hope would be applied to a Harvard economics book. He says how much money Piketty has made his company, and concluded by saying:

“As long as there is bullshit and inequality, we won’t go out of business.”

Quite.

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/fraser-nelson/2014/05/why-didnt-pikettys-harvard-publisher-spot-the-errors-which-the-ft-has-exposed/

Jayrae on May 25, 2014 at 11:40 AM

The article in the FT is annoying. It has an ad over it and when you click it out, the article disappears for the home page. I’m going to try to find another source.

Cindy Munford on May 25, 2014 at 11:45 AM

i am not against rich, but for sure no matter what one has done in life, having 50billion, is way too much reward for the real benefit that person did to sociaty.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 11:19 AM

You know that Gates’ 50 billion is not real money, right?

It is simply the current market value of stock that was once worth almost nothing. And that could be worth almost nothing in the foreseeable future. See “Digital Equipment Corporation” for an example of how that can happen rather quickly.

About all it is good for is buying a company.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 11:46 AM

People seem to think that without the wealthy who earned it, this $50 billion would somehow still be out there, only in the hands of people the distributor finds more worthy. Wealth, unlike energy, can be created and destroyed.

I’d like to see a real measure of what Bill Gates contributed to our technological civilization versus what money he made from it.

TB on May 25, 2014 at 11:39 AM

but lets say, bill gates got his wealth taxed in a way he only got 25billion. the benefits he did for sociaty and the wealth he generated would be no less but he just would not be allowed to keep such a huge pile of capital on his personal name.
and for every bill gates there are countless rich that really only live of capital and rents and never did anything remotly as productive as he did.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 11:47 AM

You know that Gates’ 50 billion is not real money, right?

It is simply the current market value of stock that was once worth almost nothing. And that could be worth almost nothing in the foreseeable future. See “Digital Equipment Corporation” for an example of how that can happen rather quickly.

About all it is good for is buying a company.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 11:46 AM

I know, but now that he has those stocks, he can change them for other types of capital as stock are an highly mobile form of capital.

there are many rich that just sit their capital in goverment bonds or real estate and live of it. or have the capital piles professionally managed with more returns than most pension plans.

if there is not any new technological breaktrough to rocket growth rates to 3-4% for decades, those “rentier” rich will dominate the capital of sociaty squeezing the income of labor of everyone elses.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 11:55 AM

I know, but now that he has those stocks, he can change them for other types of capital as stock are an highly mobile form of capital.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 11:55 AM

Not really.

If he tried to sell his $50 billion tomorrow it would significantly drive down its value, for at least two reasons.

First, it would flood the market. Second, everyone would be asking why he is selling it. Why would anyone want to buy an investment Gates does not see fit to continue owning? People would want to know what other investment he was investing it in, and why he viewed that as a better investment. All of this would also drive that $50 billion value down significantly.

And if Big Government decided to confiscate and sell half of it, because they wanted to redistribute it, the same thing would happen.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Not really.

If he tried to sell his $50 billion tomorrow it would significantly drive down its value, for at least two reasons.

First, it would flood the market. Second, everyone would be asking why he is selling it. Why would anyone want to buy an investment Gates does not see fit to continue owning? People would want to know what other investment he was investing it in, and why he viewed that as a better investment. All of this would also drive that $50 billion value down significantly.

And if Big Government decided to confiscate and sell half of it, because they wanted to redistribute it, the same thing would happen.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 12:07 PM

yes, he can only sell his stock slowly and probably he has been doing it for years. he can also do stock swaps and other deals without such an impact in the market value.
confiscation of 50% of billionares capital is not I was proposing. the idea is to tax wealth in a way that big capital piles do not grow more than the economy. just enough to make R < G.
the thing is, once big capital piles are taxed, we can decrease other taxes. i still cringe at big goverment. what piketty convinced me is that we need to tax wealth to keep our capitalist system healthy.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 12:18 PM

For anyone who thinks that Gates does not really “deserve” his $50 billion, answer this. Why have other people set that value on what he owns? Gates did not set that value. Other people did. And he did not deceive them into doing it. Gates owned it when other people considered it almost worthless. And it is other people who now say it is worth that much.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 12:21 PM

yes, he can only sell his stock slowly and probably he has been doing it for years.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 12:18 PM

His charitable foundation has been selling very small amounts for years. The amount strictly controlled and regulated to prevent the sale from affecting the value of what other people own.

It is very difficult for Gates to sell any significant quantity of his stock with a lot of people asking a lot of questions and without affecting the value of MSFT stock overall.

As I said before, about all he can really do with any significant portion of his $50 billion in MSFT stock is buy another company with it. Even then people would be asking a lot of questions, such as why he thinks that is a better investment than MSFT.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 12:28 PM

i still cringe at big goverment. what piketty convinced me is that we need to tax wealth to keep our capitalist system healthy.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 12:18 PM

This is filled with contradictions and non-sequiturs.

I think we are done. Have a nice day.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 12:32 PM

i am not against rich, but for sure no matter what one has done in life, having 50billion, is way too much reward for the real benefit that person did to sociaty. I allways felt that capitalist system is unfair but is the best we have. growing inequality pushes my tolerance of the system to the limit and sorry to say piketty convinced me that the capitalist system is indeed headed to self destruction if nothing is done about it.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 11:19 AM

You need to do something about the envy eating away at you before it kills you. Or before you kill others.

kcewa on May 25, 2014 at 12:34 PM

I don’t care what method socialist progressive pigs use to manipulate data, socialism is crap and I wont ever listen to a word they say except to have a reason to spit in their faces. Socialism and progressivism is nothing more than communism lite, and communism rips freedom from everyone and murders as many as possible. We have tons of history to show how stupid, selfish, and destructive progressive socialism and communism is, the last 5-1/2 years are no exception.

You can write books with fake data until your fingers fly off, you’ll never eradicate freedom. I hope your heads explode trying to comprehend that.

Diluculo on May 25, 2014 at 12:37 PM

i still cringe at big goverment. what piketty convinced me is that we need to tax wealth to keep our capitalist system healthy.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 12:18 PM

This is filled with contradictions and non-sequiturs.

I think we are done. Have a nice day.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 12:32 PM

no it is not! taxing wealth to keep R < G does not mean that i want that tax revenue to be spent in liberal programs. could be used to lower other taxes or pay down debt.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 12:40 PM

taxing wealth to keep R < G does not mean that i want that tax revenue to be spent in liberal programs. could be used to lower other taxes or pay down debt.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 12:40 PM

That “wealth” does not belong to you.

kcewa on May 25, 2014 at 12:43 PM

bayam must be in mourning…

Del Dolemonte on May 25, 2014 at 10:24 AM

I haven’t seen much of that one since it claimed Bezos’ purchase of WaPo would add $250 billion to the value of Amazon stock — or something equally idiotic, I’d have to look up the exact claim — and others pointed out how stupid that statement was.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 12:47 PM

You need to do something about the envy eating away at you before it kills you. Or before you kill others.

kcewa on May 25, 2014 at 12:34 PM

pfff, there is nothing wrong in questioning inequality! if our ancestors did not question it, we would be still kissing the british kings ass! calling it envy will not stop anyone from questioning wealth inequality and its fairness.
there is also the greater concern of R > G and what it means to the stability of the capitalist system we and our childreen will live in. growing inequality will breed violence and political dysfunction…

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 12:52 PM

As I make clear in the book, in the on-line appendix, and in the many technical papers I have published on this topic, one needs to make a number of adjustments to the raw data sources so as to make them more homogenous over time and across countries.


This is not science or math
– this is religious fervor justifying altering the data to support the hypothesis to support a political argument.

DATA is to be analyzed in context to its locality – not homogenized into a puree more pleasing to the authors palate.

In simpler terms … Piketty has just produced more Horseshite!

PolAgnostic on May 25, 2014 at 12:53 PM

taxing wealth to keep R < G does not mean that i want that tax revenue to be spent in liberal programs. could be used to lower other taxes or pay down debt.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 12:40 PM

That “wealth” does not belong to you.

kcewa on May 25, 2014 at 12:43 PM

but the system will only work while the populace and i include me on it, work and believe in the fairness of the system and do their share to keep that wealth in its current value. what you will see is a constant rumble and dyfuction of the populace until in the end that wealth value goes down. the wealth is not my, but the system is. i own a piece of it with my vote and with my feet.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 12:57 PM

You need to do something about the envy eating away at you before it kills you. Or before you kill others.

kcewa on May 25, 2014 at 12:34 PM

This. Plus about 50 billion.

Re-arranging capital in a capitalist system isn’t what keeps the system healthy. The ability of the system to create new wealth keeps it healthy, as does the ability of individuals to prosper in that system. Take wealth creation away, or make the mobility of individuals static and you have a sick system (like we have now).

What someone has doesn’t mean anything to others, unless that individual were to do something totally irrational with it. It simply isn’t their business.

trigon on May 25, 2014 at 1:05 PM

You need to do something about the envy eating away at you before it kills you. Or before you kill others.

kcewa on May 25, 2014 at 12:34 PM

It’s not envy. It’s all very scientific. Our Big Brothers in Big Government will keep our economy healthy by confiscating “excessive” wealth and redistributing it.

With his made up data Piketty has shown usthe way. We should trust Piketty and his fictional data because he knows how to do it right. Though they had many other faults Marx, Lenin, Mao, Castro, and Pol Pot were on the right track in confiscating and redistributing property, they just did it all wrong.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 1:18 PM

Take wealth creation away, or make the mobility of individuals static and you have a sick system (like we have now).

trigon on May 25, 2014 at 1:05 PM

we agree with this! really! now if we have R > G, how it will ever be better?
exactly as piketty wrote, inequality is good and necessary in a capitalist system. but it can reach a point, if high enough where it can actually hurt the system.
what is the right’s answer to this fundamental question? I only hear denial because the real solution involve something sacreligous to the right, that is a new tax.
honestly i moved ideologically because of piketty i now want taxes on the rich wealth. the hell with libertarian purity. I still want a small goverment as i dont really trust goverment to provide me services but leaving capitalism to its own devices will not work. i still remenber 2008 and how pissed i was with the system. now i am convinced a pure libertarian policy will not fix a fundamental problem in our capitalist system.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 1:31 PM

We don’t need to tax wealth or have confiscatory taxes on income to stop and reverse the increasing income inequality.

All we have to do is stop flooding the market with cheap labor and stop strangling competition with regulations that favor the large, already established businesses.

If we just do those two simple things, income inequality will begin falling again.

I don’t need to read a 577 page pile of crap to know this, just a basic understanding of supply and demand and awareness of the destructive effect of big business/big government cronyism.

fadetogray on May 25, 2014 at 1:34 PM

He did strange things with the US data too, according to GG. Surprised, Ed didn’t mention it. In the US data, he simply adds 2 percentage points to the top 1 per cent wealth share for his estimate of 1970 (GG included the graph in their FT article). The 1970 formula is also ‘interesting’ as it relates the top 1 per cent wealth estimate in 1970 to the change in a different source’s wealth share of the top 0.1 per cent (also shown in the excell sheets in GG’s article). This odd assumption is not explained in any way. I think Piketty has a ‘hockey stick’ on his hands :)

jimver on May 25, 2014 at 1:34 PM

It’s not envy. It’s all very scientific. Our Big Brothers in Big Government will keep our economy healthy by confiscating “excessive” wealth and redistributing it.

With his made up data Piketty has shown usthe way. We should trust Piketty and his fictional data because he knows how to do it right. Though they had many other faults Marx, Lenin, Mao, Castro, and Pol Pot were on the right track in confiscating and redistributing property, they just did it all wrong.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 1:18 PM

that’s what they call piketty marx 2.0 rofl!
but in a nutshell that is it, redistributing wealth was not wrong, what was wrong was trowing away completly the capitalist system(meaning the engine of wealth creation) and confiscating too much(100%) instead of little (1% a year)
of course, 100% redistribution also means a complete totalitarian violent state. 1% redistribution a year does not mean any such thing. for those that live of their income, we already are taxed much higher…

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 1:38 PM

growing inequality will breed violence and political dysfunction…

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 12:52 PM

It hasn’t. Historically just the opposite has been true.

kcewa on May 25, 2014 at 1:39 PM

taxing wealth to keep R < G does not mean that i want that tax revenue to be spent in liberal programs. could be used to lower other taxes or pay down debt.
nathor on May 25, 2014 at 12:40 PM

that’s insanely naive, what liberal govt EVER (and I reiterate that, EVER) has used the tax revenue to pay down debt??? Your commies brethren’s ideology is sll about spreading the wealth and creating more debt in the process if that’s what it takes, it’s ne er about paying down the debt. They repeatedly said that the US debt is not a problem and that we don’t have a debt problem actually, obviously you don’t oay attention to your masters’ narrative, crafted by the likes of Krugman in conclusion, you’re smoking the most impure form of crack there is.

jimver on May 25, 2014 at 1:44 PM

We don’t need to tax wealth or have confiscatory taxes on income to stop and reverse the increasing income inequality.

All we have to do is stop flooding the market with cheap labor and stop strangling competition with regulations that favor the large, already established businesses.

If we just do those two simple things, income inequality will begin falling again.

I don’t need to read a 577 page pile of crap to know this, just a basic understanding of supply and demand and awareness of the destructive effect of big business/big government cronyism.

fadetogray on May 25, 2014 at 1:34 PM

famous quote by piketty: “a perfect market does not mean R G and wealth inequality would grow. it sucks!

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 1:48 PM

that’s insanely naive, what liberal govt EVER (and I reiterate that, EVER) has used the tax revenue to pay down debt???

jimver on May 25, 2014 at 1:44 PM

Not to mention that confiscating “excessive” wealth to pay down debt incurred by out of control wealth redistribution schemes is nothing more than deferred wealth redistribution.

But rest assured. Piketty has shown us scientifically, using fictional but scientifically made up data, that this will really work.

Unlike all other failed wealth confiscation and redistribution schemes that were scientifically based on fictional made up data and wishful thinking, this one is not based on wishful thinking. Only on wishful data.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 1:53 PM

that’s insanely naive, what liberal govt EVER (and I reiterate that, EVER) has used the tax revenue to pay down debt??? Your commies brethren’s ideology is sll about spreading the wealth and creating more debt in the process if that’s what it takes, it’s ne er about paying down the debt. They repeatedly said that the US debt is not a problem and that we don’t have a debt problem actually, obviously you don’t oay attention to your masters’ narrative, crafted by the likes of Krugman in conclusion, you’re smoking the most impure form of crack there is.

jimver on May 25, 2014 at 1:44 PM

exactly!!!!! i dont really trust the left, that is why this tax should be proposed by the right instead of using the ostrich technique against piketty. if not, this tax will still likely come and the right will not be able to guide where that $ will be used!

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 1:55 PM

growing inequality will breed violence and political dysfunction…

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 12:52 PM

It hasn’t. Historically just the opposite has been true.

kcewa on May 25, 2014 at 1:39 PM

uh? are u claiming that feudalism was a stable system? might have been, but today’s peasants are too rebelious! rofl!

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 2:00 PM

honestly i moved ideologically because of piketty i now want taxes on the rich wealth. the hell with libertarian purity. I still want a small goverment as i dont really trust goverment to provide me services but leaving capitalism to its own devices will not work. i still remenber 2008 and how pissed i was with the system. now i am convinced a pure libertarian policy will not fix a fundamental problem in our capitalist system.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Well, evidently you are moved ideologically by a liar.

As to 2008, it was caused entirely by government policy. There was no flaw in Capitalism. Government did it. Government has screwed up the recovery. Government is the very last actor we should be looking to for any sort of benefit.

trigon on May 25, 2014 at 2:01 PM

I’m working my way through the book currently. My biggest issue so far is that he just makes up the history of the minimum wage in the US, saying that Obama has raised it and that Bush never did, which is the complete opposite of the truth. He can’t blame this on a mistake or a difference of opinion, he is just making up crap to fit his agenda.

JamesB on May 25, 2014 at 2:01 PM

The critics of Rogoff and Reinhart made the same claims, and found that the averaging method made a difference in the claims those authors make about the impact of government debt on economic growth. It isn’t obvious to me or anyone else that one way is right and the other wrong.

The difference, as I understand it, is that R&R did an analysis about government – so in that case it make sense to average by country. Piketty’s analysis is about individual inequality, where it makes little sense to average by country and then weight the countries equally.

lymond on May 25, 2014 at 2:01 PM

…less likely to change anyone’s mind about what they already thought of inequality

Right, not persuasive, but useful nonetheless. Like the govt-funded global warming studies, it will be used to cram redistributive/totalitarian programs down our throats.

petefrt on May 25, 2014 at 2:05 PM

We don’t need the market to be perfect, but it has to at least not be warped out of all sanity.

This is where I come down that if the elites cram their damnable amnesty down our throats, I’m going to be with the leftists calling to tax the super rich until they squeal like the pigs they are, and if we can seize their wealth, all the better.

They want a Latin America style economy? Then let’s give it to them good and hard.

fadetogray on May 25, 2014 at 2:06 PM

uh? are u claiming that feudalism was a stable system? might have been, but today’s peasants are too rebelious! rofl!

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 2:00 PM

There was LESS inequality under feudalism. Everyone except the 0.00000001% were poor. And more violence.

Poverty leads to violence and the economic policies you and Piketty espouse will lead to poverty. Economic growth cures poverty and violence.

kcewa on May 25, 2014 at 2:08 PM

I’m working my way through the book currently. My biggest issue so far is that he just makes up the history of the minimum wage in the US, saying that Obama has raised it and that Bush never did, which is the complete opposite of the truth. He can’t blame this on a mistake or a difference of opinion, he is just making up crap to fit his agenda.

JamesB on May 25, 2014 at 2:01 PM

So he is not only scientifically making up data, he is making up history. Scientifically, I assume.

Yeah, it may be a work of social science fiction, but he has the Left right idea and the best of intentions. And that’s all that really matters.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 2:09 PM

Poverty leads to violence and the economic policies you and Piketty espouse will lead to poverty. Economic growth cures poverty and violence.

kcewa on May 25, 2014 at 2:08 PM

a 1% wealth tax will lead to poverty? how? i live of income, so it would not bother me much.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 2:14 PM

There was no flaw in Capitalism.
trigon on May 25, 2014 at 2:01 PM

except R > G. its an article of faith at the moment to believe otherwise. and the only thing worse than big goverment, is big goverment dominated by rich oligarchs. :(

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 2:23 PM

The averaging stuff is just an issue with the unit of measure you choose. If your analysis is at the state level, i’m not sure the weighted average adds that much.

But still…the left always seems to fall for the lie that capitalism is just an Evil enterprise…and of course it is not really ‘capitalism’ that they hate…they seem to perfectly happy with our state-run capitalism system. What they seem to hate is the freedom to choose. Be it food or energy or light bulbs…they just H8 that people want to do what they want to do.

Larry Summers had a very nice take down of Piketty before this was uncovered, from a theoretical point of view and the fact that some of his suggestions, i.e. the International Wealth Tax, is not doable anyway

But it is interesting to watch the little socialist hacks try to make a purse out of a sow’s ear by cheering picking graphs. Which shows that a hack is Always a Hack.

And there is a lot of Hacks in the world…socialist Hacks

r keller on May 25, 2014 at 2:26 PM

no it is not! taxing wealth to keep R < G does not mean that i want that tax revenue to be spent in liberal programs. could be used to lower other taxes or pay down debt.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 12:40 PM

Your disconnect from reality is obvious to all, except for yourself.

The 400 wealthiest Americans are worth just over $2 trillion, roughly equivalent to the GDP of Russia.

What is 1% of 2 trillion? Then compare your 1% ‘wealth confiscation’ to one months worth of interest on our national debt….I know math is hard, but statism/collectivism is still statism/collectivism even when covered under the umbrella of ‘fairness’…….

tanked59 on May 25, 2014 at 2:37 PM

The other problem I have, although perhaps it is explained away later in the book is this whole r > g thing. For starters, it completely conflates wealth and consumption, two entirely different things. He seems to make the bizarre assumption that all capital is owned by the rich, and they never spend any of it, but just build up their empires in a maniacal manner until it takes over the universe. If this is true, then what is the problem? The rich build up our productive capacity and take nothing in return, more for the rest of us. Not to mention that it violates the law of diminishing marginal returns, and the problem that has been noted for years of an investment glut, where an overabundance of savings is having difficulty finding adequate returns.

This also ties in the with the false assumption that no capital is owned by the middle class (my 401k would say otherwise) and that the rich essentially live forever, and there is no dilution of their empire through philanthropy or inheritance. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and David Koch prove otherwise. When was the last time you heard about a Rockefeller?

JamesB on May 25, 2014 at 2:41 PM

JamesB on May 25, 2014 at 2:41 PM

This article addresses Piketty’s failure to address the impact of savings, both by capitalist and worker.

Unfortunately, it looks like the numbers get even worse.

fadetogray on May 25, 2014 at 2:48 PM

If your analysis is at the state level, i’m not sure the weighted average adds that much.

r keller on May 25, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Among this and other things, a problem with analysis at the state level is the tacit assumption that all states are somehow equal. Or close enough to it. Or close enough that the “data” (that is, what is being passed off as validly comparable “data”) can be fudged to make it so.

That assumption is not even close to valid. And certainly not close enough to fudge the data in any way so they can be treated as if they are. And certainly not for any purpose other than creating a parlor game or an academic exercise.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 2:49 PM

exactly!!!!! i dont really trust the left, that is why this tax should be proposed by the right instead of using the ostrich technique against piketty. if not, this tax will still likely come and the right will not be able to guide where that $ will be used!

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 1:55 PM

I got your point now.

jimver on May 25, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Among this and other things, a problem with analysis at the state level is the tacit assumption that all states are somehow equal. Or close enough to it. Or close enough that the “data” (that is, what is being passed off as validly comparable “data”) can be fudged to make it so.

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 2:49 PM

That!!!

jimver on May 25, 2014 at 2:54 PM

I got your point now.

jimver on May 25, 2014 at 2:52 PM

The RINO War Cry….

Socialism, centralized economic planning, wealth confiscation and redistribution, and Big Government are inevitable. And can be good. So let us do it rather than those idiotic Lefties. We know how to do it the Right way. Trust us.

Forward, prudently!

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 2:59 PM

“I stand fully behind my findings, because … because … *sputter* Charles Koch!!!!11!!

KS Rex on May 25, 2014 at 3:06 PM

The RINO War Cry….

Socialism, centralized economic planning, wealth confiscation and redistribution, and Big Government are inevitable. And can be good. So let us do it rather than those idiotic Lefties. We know how to do it the Right way. Trust us.

Forward, prudently!

farsighted on May 25, 2014 at 2:59 PM

pfff! just puritanical drivel! i still want smaller goverment.

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 4:00 PM

When the book first came out to great fanfare, the very first critics were raising questions about the data.

Pretty darned good snap call, there.

There is a pretty simple test for misuse of data. If your adjustments to the data make it significantly more confirming of whatever you are trying to prove, it is most likely bias has crept in.

├─┬┘

Of course, to the left this is not a problem, their official policy is to lie at all times. They have practiced enough to be almost sincere at it. So this won’t affect much of the cheerleading.

And because the left is even less worried about truth and facts now than they were a few years ago, the damage to Piketty’s book will be far less than that to Bellesiles’ some years ago.

Adjoran on May 25, 2014 at 5:16 PM

A conclusion in search of data. Tends toward warped scientific methodology.

GWB on May 25, 2014 at 5:31 PM

really reflecting on this, why we we allow other in our sociaty to have more than others? because we want to reward those who contribute more to sociaty by work and talent. at least this is my take on it. but someone still has to convince me that someone will be less motivated if they have 25b instead of 50b?

The strangest idea in there is that you think you are rewarding someone for doing something by allowing them to keep their property.

It’s beautifully socialistic. All wealth is communal, and you are allowing people you think are contributing “more to society” to keep a bigger pile, as long as the pile isn’t too big.

The truth is nothing I own is society’s. It’s mine. This is not our stuff — this is my stuff. I have every right to share it (though the Supreme Court has said that I don’t) if I choose to, and I have every right to pile it up and die on it while you drool over it.

There’s more to be said about that, but saying it requires a deference to the will of the Christian God in writing the law, and I’ve never met a Socialist who cared about God’s will one way or another.

and what abut inherited wealth? if most our rich where born with their billions we would live in feudalistic system. it makes no sense to reward kids that still did not do anything constructive in sociaty with 10b. it makes no sense as a sociaty.

Again, allowing people to keep their property is not “rewarding” them. (The remark about feudalism is nonsensical; children are “born with their billions” every day and we’re not feudal.)

nathor on May 25, 2014 at 11:40 AM

Wow. Pure stuff there.

Axe on May 25, 2014 at 6:12 PM

This last error appears to make Piketty’s results less robust and so less likely to change anyone’s mind about what they already thought of inequality, and more likely to make Capital in the 21st Century an expensive, unread table book.

This is a pretty circumspect way to summarize an analysis of falsified data.

Axe on May 25, 2014 at 6:14 PM

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