Newspaper: Best-Seller on Economics Has Bad Math

'Financial Times' calls Thomas Piketty's blockbuster into question
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2014 9:05 AM CDT
Newspaper: Best-Seller on Economics Has Bad Math
This undated photo provided by Harvard Press shows French economist Thomas Piketty.   (AP Photo/Harvard Press, Emmanuelle Marchadour)

Thomas Piketty managed to pull off the rare feat of writing a lengthy best-seller about global economics, but now the Financial Times is calling into question the validity of Capital in the 21st Century in a very basic way: "The rock-star French economist appears to have got his sums wrong," writes Chris Giles. The premise of Piketty's book is that income inequality is returning to levels last seen before World War I, but the newspaper's investigation "undercuts this claim, indicating there is little evidence in Prof Piketty’s original sources to bear out the thesis that an increasing share of total wealth is held by the richest few," writes Giles.

The New York Times runs through some of the specifics, which range from allegations of "simple data errors" to more subjective analysis disagreements. In one of the more serious points, the FT argues that Piketty got his data on Europe all wrong and that the corrected numbers "do not show any tendency towards rising wealth inequality after 1970." If this proves to be true, it "would significantly undermine the case Mr. Piketty mounts," writes the New York Times' Neil Irwin. In a response, Piketty says he welcomes the scrutiny but stands by his conclusions. Slate notes that it will take a while to suss out the newspaper's arguments, but "given that Piketty’s book is seeking to make universal claims about the nature of capitalism, he’s going to need to provide a more detailed rebuttal." (More Thomas Piketty stories.)

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