Piketty Gets the Teeny-Bopper Treatment from the Americans

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The weekly business bible Bloomberg Businessweek went all girly yesterday over the French philosopher/economist of the moment

Any economist who sells half a million copies of his book is bound to be in for a backlash. In the case of Thomas Piketty, he wrote a book that details what is obvious to most people around the world: namely that the gap between the rich and the poor is an ever-widening one.

As a challenge to core ideas of wealth accumulation that many hold dear, it has resulted in some unusual reactions. The backlash started in earnest with the London-based Financial Times sniffily referring to “rock star economist” Piketty’s conclusions on wealth divergence increasing since the 1970s as being “constructed out of thin air.” The denial got a front page airing. But it’s the front page of the American weekly Bloomberg Businessweek that really goes to town in trying to make a mockery of the work of Piketty & Co.

Transforming its front cover yesterday into teeny-bopper/gossip magazine style, the publication went into anti-Piketty overdrive, featuring a photo of the 43-year-old with kisses on his cheek and the banner “Pikettymania” across the front, under which there is the subtitle “Why America has wealth inequality fever”. On the bottom right, there is a vignette of Karl Marx labelled “Karl Marx’s New Crush”, while on the top left, there is another vignette of American economist Dr Nouriel Roubini (one of the few economists who predicted the crash of 2008) with the label “Sorry, Dr Doom” beside a broken heart. There’s even an “Oooh la la!” to complete the picture, followed by a sub-headline promising “somber French economist pics inside!”

Thomas Piketty is director of studies at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) and professor at the Paris School of Economics. His book “Capital in the 21st Century” proposes a global taxation on wealth to tackle the rising divergence of wealth in the world. He gained his PhD at the age of 22 and is a long-time advocater of addressing the problems of wealth divergence, having worked and taught in France, Britain and the USA. Piketty is a columnist with Libération and is also a regular contributor to Le Monde.

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