Celebrated author and liberal darling Thomas Piketty may have skewed data about Western inequality in his latest bestseller.
According to an investigation conducted by the Financial Times economics editor Chris Giles, Piketty’s newest book about the growing inequality in Western world, “Capital in the 21st Century,” is chock-full of serious factual errors.
Giles wrote in an FT article on Friday that the arguments in Piketty’s 571-page critique of capitalism were undermined by “mistakes and unexplained entries in his spreadsheets.”
He explained that due to the misinformation presented in the book, there is little weight behind Piketty’s argument on economic inequality.
“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,” wrote Giles.
Upon reviewing Piketty’s sources and research methodologies, Giles says he found transcript errors in the author’s spreadsheets and evidence that he used incorrect formulas.
Implying that these miscalculations may have been deliberate mistakes, Giles noted that some of the information used in the book looked like it had been “cherry picked.”
When FT contacted Piketty to question him about how he gathered his data, he told the outlet that he had used “a very diverse and heterogeneous set of data sources … [on which] one needs to make a number of adjustments to the raw data sources.”
Piketty added, “I have no doubt that my historical data series can be improved and will be improved in the future … but I would be very surprised if any of the substantive conclusion about the long-run evolution of wealth distributions was much affected by these improvements.”
Ever since its release last year, Piketty’s book has been enthusiastically applauded among left-leaning groups, lawmakers and economists.
Economist and Professor Paul Krugman of Princeton University, said he considered the book to be the “most important economics book of the year – and maybe of the decade”.
And during the US portion of his book tour last month, Piketty had a meeting with US Treasury secretary Jacob Lew, gave a presentation to the White House Council of Economic Advisers and lectured at the International Monetary Fund and the UN.
In an email to the FT responding to Giles’ article, Piketty defended his findings, adding that income inequality might be even more pervasive in the West than what he outlines in his book.
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