42 Spectacular Thomas Piketty Quotes

Thomas Piketty is a French economist that focuses on wealth and income equality. He is a professor and associate Chair at the Paris School of Economics. As the author of the best selling book, ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century,’ he reviews wealth distribution over the course of the last 250 years. Here is a look at some of the most infamous Thomas Piketty quotes ever recorded.

“A capital tax is the most appropriate response to the inequality r > g as well as to the inequality of returns to capital as a function of the size of the initial stake.”

“All signs are that the Scandinavian countries, where wage inequality is more moderate than elsewhere, owe this result in large part to the fact that their educational system is relatively egalitarian and inclusive.”

“Among the members of these upper income groups are US academic economists, many of whom believe that the economy of the United States is working fairly well and, in particular, that it rewards talent and merit accurately and precisely.”

“As long as the incomes of the various classes of contemporary society remain beyond the reach of scientific inquiry, there can be no hope of producing a useful economic and social history.”

“At the heart of every major political upheaval lies a fiscal revolution.”

“Contrary to a tenacious myth, France is not owned by California pension funds or the Bank of China, any more than the United States belongs to Japanese and German investors.”


“Democracy will never be supplanted by a republic of experts—and that is a very good thing.”

“Economic growth is quite simply incapable of satisfying this democratic and meritocratic hope, which must create specific institutions for the purpose and not rely solely on market forces or technological progress.”

“I belong to a generation that came of age listening to news of the collapse of the Communist dicatorships and never felt the slightest affection or nostalgia for those regimes or for the Soviet Union.”

“In all human societies, health and education have an intrinsic value: the ability to enjoy years of good health, like the ability to acquire knowledge and culture, is one of the fundamental purposes of civilization.”

“In Britain, things were done differently: more slowly and with less passion.”

“In contrast to what many people in Britain and the United States believe, the true figures on growth show that Britain and the United States have not grown any more rapidly since 1980 than Germany, France, Japan, Denmark, or Sweden.”

“In Europe today, the capital/income ratio has already risen to around five to six years of national income, scarcely less than the level observed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and up to the eve of World War I.”

“Indeed, the distribution of wealth is too important an issue to be left to economists, sociologists, historians, and philosophers.”

“It is not out of the question that the two forces of divergence will ultimately come together in the twenty-first century.”

“Modern redistribution is built around a logic of rights and a principle of equal access to a certain number of goods deemed to be fundamental.”

“None of the Asian countries that have moved closer to the developed countries of the West in recent years has benefited from large foreign investments, whether it be Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan and more recently China.”

“Over a long period of time, the main force in favor of greater equality has been the diffusion of knowledge and skills.”

“Perceptions of inequality, redistribution, and national identity changed a great deal over the course of the twentieth century, to put it mildly.”

“Progress in medicine together with improved living conditions has therefore, it is argued, totally transformed the very essence of capital.”

“Redistribution through immigration postpones the problem but does not dispense with the need for a new type of regulation: a social state with progressive taxes on income and capital.”

“Refusing to deal with numbers rarely serves the interests of the least well-off.”

“Social distinctions can be based only on common utility.”

“Social scientific research is and always will be tentative and imperfect. It does not claim to transform economics, sociology, and history into exact sciences.”

“The bad news (or good news, depending on your point of view) is that things have always been like this.”

“The decrease in the top marginal income tax rate led to an explosion of very high incomes, which then increased the political influence of the beneficiaries of the change in the tax laws.”

“The general evolution is clear: bubbles aside, what we are witnessing is a strong comeback of private capital in the rich countries since 1970, or, to put it another way, the emergence of a new patrimonial capitalism.”

“The inescapable reality is this: wealth is so concentrated that a large segment of society is virtually unaware of its existence, so that some people imagine that it belongs to surreal or mysterious entities.”

“The main purpose of the educational sector is not to prepare students to take up an occupation in some other sector of the economy.”

“The principal mechanism for convergence at the international as well as the domestic level is the diffusion of knowledge.”

“The right solution is a progressive annual tax on capital. This will make it possible to avoid an endless inegalitarian spiral while preserving competition and incentives for new instances of primitive accumulation.”

“The second conclusion, which is the heart of the book, is that the dynamics of wealth distribution reveal powerful mechanisms pushing alternately toward convergence and divergence.”

“The social sciences collectively know too little to waste time on foolish disciplinary squabbles.”

“The upper classes instinctively abandoned idleness and invented meritocracy lest universal suffrage deprive them of everything they owned.”

“There is also the idea, widespread among economists, that modern economic growth depends largely on the rise of “human capital.””

“There is one great advantage to being an academic economist in France: here, economists are not highly respected in the academic and intellectual world or by political and financial elites.”

“To my knowledge, no society has ever existed in which ownership of capital can reasonably be described as “mildly” inegalitarian, by which I mean a distribution in which the poorest half of society would own a significant share (say, one-fifth to one-quarter) of total wealth.”

“To put it bluntly, the discipline of economics has yet to get over its childish passion for mathematics and for purely theoretical and often highly ideological speculation, at the expense of historical research and collaboration with the other social sciences.”

“What was the good of industrial development, what was the good of all the technological innovations, toil, and population movements if, after half a century of industrial growth.”

“When a country goes from a population of 3 million to a population of 300 million (to say nothing of the radical increase in territory owing to westward expansion in the nineteenth century), it is clearly no longer the same country.”

“When it comes to decreasing inequalities of wealth for good or reducing unusually high levels of public debt, a progressive tax on capital is generally a better tool than inflation.”

“When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems quite likely to do again in the twenty-first.”

Here is a look at the French economist Thomas Piketty as he goes on to discuss the brutal formula that explains economic inequality. This Ted Talk is focused on showing the continuous downfall to economic equality and how radical impacts may be suffered by all as a result.

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