French star economist Piketty turns down award
Star French economist and author Thomas Piketty has turned down France's highest award in protest at President Francois Hollande's policies. Piketty's "Capital in the 21st Century" is a global best-seller.
Piketty, who was once close to France's Socialist Party, on Thursday rejected the inclusion of his name among 691 nominees for France's prestigious Legion of Honor.
Instead, he told Hollande to "concentrate on reviving growth in France and Europe," adding to his criticism of the president's backtracking on fiscal reform promises.
Piketty had previously called for a widespread reform of tax laws and not just Hollande's 2012 election vow to target the super rich.
France's January 1 list of nominees for the prestigious award also includes Jean Tirole, another economist who won the Nobel Prize in economics in October for his theory that a "market needs a strong state to function normally."
Choice 'not government's role
Piketty told the French news agency AFP that he "refused this nomination because I do not think it is the government's role to decide who is honorable."
"They would do better to concentrate on reviving economic growth in France and Europe," said Piketty referring to Hollande's Socialist government.
Last June, he told the newspaper Le Monde: "There is a degree of improvization in Francois Hollande's economic policy that is appalling."
In his best selling book, Piketty used 300 years of data, also compiled by co-researcher Emmanuel Saez, to document a widening gap between rich and poor in a world of growing inequality.
Worldwide, 1.5 million copies of "Capital in the 21st Century" have been sold.
The English-language version caused a furor in the United States. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said it demolishes the myth that "great wealth is earned and deserved".
Its recommendations were not accepted by all. In his home country France, Piketty's work drew mixed reactions. In Germany, Piketty's work is currently ranked the 9th most popular factual book on the list compiled weekly by the magazine Der Spiegel.
Backing for his inequality verdict came in December in a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD told member nations that reducing inequality, for example, by diverting more tax revenues into education, would help to lift economic growth
France's highest award
The Legion of Honor is France's highest award for civilian and military service.
Also among Thursday's list of 691 nominees is Patrick Modiano, the French winner of the latest Nobel prize for literature.
France's economy is stagnant, joblessness has mounted and its deficit has risen despite repeated pledges to bring it within an EU-imposed threshold.
ipj/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)