Economist Thomas Piketty refuses France’s top honour


French economist and best-selling author Thomas Piketty on Thursday refused France’s highest honour – the Légion d’Honneur.


Piketty, whose 2013 book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” was a global best-seller, told AFP: "I refuse this nomination because I do not think it is the government's role to decide who is honourable."

"They would do better to concentrate on reviving (economic) growth in France and Europe," added Piketty, who was once close to the Socialist Party but has distanced himself from the policies of President François Hollande.

Piketty was named in a list traditionally published on New Year’s Day in the government’s “Journal Officiel” alongside Nobel prize-winning economist Jean Tirole.

His book, which focuses on wealth and income equality since the 18th century, shows that the gap between rich and poor is accelerating. It has sold 1.5 million copies since it was first published in French in 2013.

“Capital in the Twenty-First Century” has proved particularly popular in the United States where Piketty has met with President Barack Obama’s economic advisors.

However, despite strong sales in his native France his book has not made a similar impression on Hollande’s Socialist government, which he has criticised for failing to enact reforms to its tax system.

Piketty is not the first person to turn down the prestigious Légion d’Honneur. In 2013 French cartoonist Jacques Tardi refused the award, saying he wanted to remain “a free man”.

Other notable refuseniks include composer Hector Berlioz, radiology pioneers Pierre and Marie Curie, philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre and singer Georges Brassens.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning