This is getting very embarrassing: After first not responding to the Financial Times' questions, Thomas Piketty now engages in name calling.

I have written about Piketty's letter to the Financial Times about the mistakes in his book.  Now Piketty has gone from not answering the Financial Times' questions to name calling.  You know that Piketty is in a lot of trouble.  From The Guardian:
In an interview with the Agence France-Presse news agency, the economist said: "The FT is being ridiculous because all of its contemporaries recognise that the biggest fortunes have grown faster."
While the available data was imperfect, it did not undermine his central argument about widening inequality, he said. "Where the Financial Times is being dishonest is to suggest that this changes things in the conclusions I make, when in fact it changes nothing. More recent studies only support my conclusions, by using different sources." . . .
As to Piketty's claim that the FT is being dishonest about the impact that these have on his numbers, all one has to do is look at the figures and how they flatten out the claimed inequality for the Britain, Europe, and the top 1% of Americans.



Blogger Chas said...

We've been down this road before, with "Arming America", and the whole AGW thing. Leftists lie to advance their agenda. When will it end?

5/28/2014 5:38 AM  
Blogger David Appell said...

Seems Piketty wanted to take the time to compose a thoughtful reply -- which is quite reasonable.

"Thomas Piketty Responds to Criticism of His Data," NY Times, May 29, 2014


"The short version: He doesn’t give an inch."

5/29/2014 5:58 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear David:
It is clearly true that Piketty isn't giving an inch, but he also isn't really answering any questions. As I posted previously, here is what a useful answers would look like:

For example, take Giles statement that: "Here’s a list of constructed data, where there appears to be no source or where the source is not described either accurately or fully." A response on the unexplained data would have been something like: if Chris Giles had looked at Appendix B in XXX, he would have clearly seen the source of the data for years XX and XX.

An explanation for the adjustments would have read something like this: while the data in the original source XX doesn't show an increase in inequality, the reason that my series added 2 percentage points to the share of wealth held by the top 1 percent in the United States in 1970 is largely due to my adjusting for YY and ZZ that were not accounted for in the original data source. Clearly, YY has to be done because of AAA.

Piketty can keep saying that there are no errors and that it doesn't alter his results, but it would be a lot more useful if he actually gave an answer of substance and the changes in the graphs look pretty clear so he could explain why so many of us seem to be misreading the graphs.

5/29/2014 7:01 PM  
Blogger David Appell said...

John: Piketty just DID reply at length and with substance:


I consider it encouraging that he took a few days to underatand the criticisms and devote himself to a very detailed reply. So rare in this day and age.

5/30/2014 5:23 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear David:
I have read his response and it is horribly done. He just refuses to directly answer the problems. Let me give you a simple example. In the US data, why did he add 2 percentage points on to his measure of inequality for the top 1 percent in the US after 1970? Piketty claims that there were absolutely no mistakes. So point to one single explanation for even the simple data errors. For the data that doesn't line up with the sources he claims that they are from, show me one place where he says regarding the source for data X see the appendix at Y. He refuses to specifically answer questions.

5/30/2014 11:56 PM  
Blogger David Appell said...

Horribly done? His reply is obviously not. You look silly for trying to claim so.

Piketty addresses adjustments on pages 5, 6 and 7:

"This is a surprising statement, because all necessary explanations are actually given in the technical research paper on which these series are based (see Piketty-Postel-2).

"Also note that the raw series display a decline in top 1% wealth share between 1908 and 1920, but a
sharp rise in the share of the next 9% (resulting into a significant increase in the top 10% share). This does not look entirely plausible and might also be due to a break in raw data sources (unless this is
due to sharp short-run variations in the relative price of assets held by these different wealth groups). Vinay-Rosenthal AER 2006) and in the chapter 10 excel file (see sheet

I'm not about to spend my time delving into the details of Piketty, the FT's claims, or Piketty's detailed response.

But, clearly, neither are you -- you're just dashing off a complaint or two, without taking the proper time to understand the details. You didn't even notice the above quote on adjustments.

That's hardly surprising -- Piketty has clearly reached a level of influence where he must be denied by conservatives, by any means necessary -- which almost always means avoiding the details of his argument, going on what a blog or two has told them, and never looking aside.

Such a reply was very predicable.

5/31/2014 12:24 AM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear David:
Piketty doesn't directly address the FT's comments. Note that you don't address by specific examples.

"In the US data, why did he add 2 percentage points on to his measure of inequality for the top 1 percent in the US after 1970?"

Your statement: "I'm not about to spend my time delving into the details of Piketty, the FT's claims, or Piketty's detailed response" tells me everything I need to know. The problem is that is exactly what you have to do to see if Piketty is actually dealing with the problems in his work. The answer is that he isn't did address the problems.

5/31/2014 3:06 AM  

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