France's Piketty bashes billionaires in new 1,200-page book

Paris (AFP) –


Reform or face ruin: the surprise literary sensation of 2013, French economist Thomas Piketty, returned with another doorstep-size book on Thursday that warns darkly about the excesses of global capitalism.

"In this book, I try hard to show how big ideological changes have happened at several times in our history," he told AFP in an interview this week, saying that inequality would eventually undermine the current economic system.

Piketty's fame thanks to his hit 2013 book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" has made him one of a handful of so-called "rock star" economists globally, and a policy advisor to leftwing politicians across Europe and in the US.

His follow-up work, the 1,200-page "Capital and Ideology", is intended to demolish the idea that the concentration of wealth in the hands of the super-rich is good for humanity, and he suggests a host of ideas to tackle the billionaire class.

These include raising death taxes up to 90 percent for the richest individuals, as well as giving large one-off handouts of pubic money to people at the age of 25 to allow them to buy property or invest.

In a developed country, he suggests these handouts should be in excess of 100,000 euros ($110,000).

The book hit French bookshelves on Thursday and will be translated into 18 languages, with an English version scheduled for March.

"The good news is that all unequal political systems end up transforming themselves," Piketty told AFP. "Often it's at times of crisis that are more violent than we would like."

"I would like it to happen peacefully, with democratic deliberation and elections," he added.

Critics of Piketty say his prescriptions would reduce incentives to work and lead to massive tax evasion by the rich.

They also point to unprecedented reductions in extreme poverty worldwide in recent decades, which has occurred at the same time as wealth has concentrated in the hands of the super-rich.

"Capital in the Twenty-First Century" sold 2.5 million copies worldwide.