Piketty and scientific fraud

scientific method phd comics

The diagram above works just as well for climate change as it does for almost every left-of-centre political meme based on some kind of scientific conclusion. But I mention it because of Piketty and his apparently fraudulent data on income distribution. It doesn’t surprise me that hiding the decline is a universal practice on the left. But the real issue is that it should not matter.

You have to be ignorant as the day is long not to know that capitalism has made us wealthy beyond all possible expectation, even going back thirty years never mind three hundred. We now have a vast number of people who do not work because we produce at such a prodigious rate that it just doesn’t require more than about a quarter of the working population to produce enough for us to maintain a 1950s and better lifestyle for those who choose not to bother actually earning an income. In our society who hasn’t got a phone, a car, a colour TV, enough to eat, clothes to wear and a place to live. There are always people on the fringe who circumstances have dealt a bad card, but really we are beyond any issue of deprivation that had existed for the entire course of human history up until say around that same 1950s mark.

So Piketty lied. The people who line up behind the book will care about that as much as they did about Climategate. It is about power and wealth, with the facts of the case as close to a non-issue as it is possible to be. The only interesting question about wealth distribution to these people is that they would like more of our wealth distributed to themselves.

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30 Responses to Piketty and scientific fraud

  1. MickfromVic

    The diagram isn’t appearing.


  2. Steve Kates

    Thank you. Found another source. Don’t know why it didn’t work the first time since it shows up on my machine.

  3. ACTOldFart

    I think the second part of the diagram is kinder to the scientific frauds than it needs to be. Too often with climate change and the like, the action in the box above the main line has been “Modify Data to fit Theory” rather than as stated.

  4. Kingsley

    There seems to be almost a touch of the perpetual motion machines about the Left’s desire to prove capitalism has failed. Or perhaps the black knight is a better analogy. This strange psychology to line up again and again and vainly try to prove the patently successful capitalism system has failed. What makes a person select this as their “magnificent obsession”?

  5. Baldrick

    Socialist progressives would argue – it’s not the working-out that’s important but the message.
    Just like Michael Mann and his hockey schtick.

  6. Financial Times has demolished Piketty.
    Unfortunately the original (long) article is paywalled but you can read excerpts and commentary here.

  7. Tel

    Bob Murphy caught him out on a strategically modified history of US tax rates.

    Not that it matters, I’m sure Piketty is making good money on book sales, so Capitalism still works as advertised.

  8. dover_beach

    The problem is that very little science involves observing natural phenomena and then formulating a hypothesis. In fact, almost each of those steps in the first figure are caricatures.

  9. Robert O.

    The basic tenet of science is the null hypothesis; in practical terms either the evidence fits the hypothesis, or it has to modified in the light of evidence, or thrown out. Science is littered with rejected hypotheses.
    But in the case of global warming we are told that Carbon dioxide is warming the planet, and yet there is no significant mathematical relationship between levels of carbon dioxide and global temperatures, and it appears that the planet is cooling a little anyhow due to other influences which over-ride any minimal effect of carbon dioxide, which has increased over the past decades. Computer predictions based on models do not constitute evidence, just predictions no more no less and have to be reconciled with reality, or rejected. e.g. Mann’s hockey stick.

  10. cohenite

    We know AGW science is based on lies and exaggerations because we have incontrovertible proof in the emails.

    As well we continually see AGW scandals such as the Hockeystick court case and the University of QLD debacle about Cook et al and his wretched 97% which morons in the MSM and politics still refer to.

    The thing is when you have no evidence but a lot of [government] cash, a compliant, absurdly self-absorbed and regarding MSM and equally compliant political class then you can lie and exaggerate with impunity.

    The problem therefore is with the MSM and political class.

  11. Bruce of Newcastle

    I think this is one of the consequences of rapid information flow. It was always an adage that a lie can go around the world before the truth gets its boots on. Now technology makes it even easier.

    The flood of information also trivialises everything, so children don’t have time to be grounded in solid learning: they have to butterfly from sound bite to sound bite because there is so much that we have decided they have to learn about. Therefore they are less well equipped to discern between the truth and the lie.

    Picketty (if he has lied…and not just fooled himself) is an example of this. The left jumped on his book and it has circled the world multiple times. The flaws are only just now coming to light. And many will not have the skill, education and training to determine for themselves that it is a fallacy.

    A couple thousand years ago, this was said: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” And today it is still true.

  12. .

    I knew Piketty was mad with his entirely bogus and impossible theory that the growth of profits must equalise with the growth rate of GDP for a “sustainable” economy (the throery is utterly mad and ill-conceived), but I wasn’t aware he was a fraud.

    Already, he’s probably been accepted as the usual boilerplate to argue against freedom, prosperity and to allow people to seek their own solutions to their own problems.

  13. Craig Mc

    To be fair to Piketty, his crank theory is being pulled apart as quickly as it is because he released his data and methods for others to look at.

    If only climate scientists evangelists were that up-front.

  14. I am the Walrus, Koo Koo K'Choo

    So, a left-wing academic has been caught using rubbish data, and making extravagant claims not warranted by the actual data.

    Well, bugger me. Who’da thunk it??

    I don’t know why anyone bothers taking these twits seriously. From ‘hockey schticks’ to ‘Y = C+I+G …’ to Piketty, they can’t help themselves, think no-one is going to catch them, and when caught out pretend that nothing’s happened.

  15. JC


    Picketty’s main argument is that the rate of return on capital is higher than GDP growth. Isn’t that so fucking obvious that even someone with a moderate understanding of economics would know to be correct and reasonable.

    GDP is essentially a consumption based metric. The return on investment must be be fucking higher than GDP in order for there to be savings for investment. Only the left wing can’t understand that.

  16. .

    Walrus – Keynes only ever did the postgrad equivalent of macro I and micro I, was a good statistician but his theory is based on mathematical errors, on top of assumptions which have been empirically disproven since at least the 1950s.

  17. .

    JC – it is even simpler for me.

    Output/revenue is not the same as profit.

    He is simply an over-educated, fraudulent imecile.

  18. Lem

    They forgot a box…”more research is needed”… There, that fixes the funding issue.

  19. Fisky

    The Left would enthusiastically revive 19th Century race science if they thought it would harm capitalism in some way.

  20. .

    So Piketty lied. The people who line up behind the book will care about that as much as they did about Climategate. It is about power and wealth, with the facts of the case as close to a non-issue as it is possible to be. The only interesting question about wealth distribution to these people is that they would like more of our wealth distributed to themselves.


    In solidarity with tha wukkas, published Professors, particularly those with media profiles MUST be paid only the average wage.

    Such a policy would invoke minutemen capitalists and defenders of Ayn Rand etc.

  21. Ubique

    Whether it’s “hiding the decline”, the Great Leap Forward, the Holodomor, the Killing Fields, or the Gulag, it’s always the same for the left. The ends justify the means.

  22. 2dogs

    I’m not ok with even the top one. It is not enough to simply “Formulate hypothesis”, as though any explanation that takes one fancy will do; one must consider the whole range of possible explanations and test them all.

    Each test narrows the field of possible explanations. If you only test against the null, you might prove the null wrong, but that doesn’t mean the alternative is right.

    The rot started with too many taking this short-cut. That even those who complain about the bottom can’t see that even the top one is inadequate shows how far we have fallen.

  23. Tom

    Envy. Hatred. Theft. Whatever it takes to steal the money of the productive class using government as the Trojan horse. Welcome to the post-rational 21st Century left. Picketty is this week’s/month’s/year’s safebreaker. A hero to the parasite class trying to get their sweaty hands on other people’s money.

  24. Johno

    I’m shocked. Shocked, I tell you.

    Who would have believed that the Economist Who Is Never Wrong, His Gracious Eminence, St Paul, would have been suckered in by this fraud!

    Truly shocking!

    Of course, Giles and Giugliano will not have the last word. The debate over Piketty’s sources and the integrity of his conclusions is just beginning. One wonders, though: why didn’t any economists take the trouble to do what Giles and Giugliano, two reporters, did? And why did so many liberals leap to endorse Piketty’s data when they obviously had no idea whether it was valid or not?

    Paul Krugman, for example:
    [I]f you think you’ve found an obvious hole, empirical or logical, in Piketty, you’re very probably wrong. He’s done his homework!

  25. johanna

    It is not enough to simply “Formulate hypothesis”, as though any explanation that takes one fancy will do; one must consider the whole range of possible explanations and test them all.

    Well spotted, 2dogs. That is exactly what happened with the CO2/CAGW meme. As I have said elsewhere, it is like those crime stories where the cops decide on Day 1 who is guilty, and go from there, with disastrous consequences.

  26. JohnA

    From the rebuttal:

    “You can imagine the excitement with which Piketty has been received on the Left, especially since his book is based on actual data! It includes charts and graphs that are based on spreadsheets!”

    As soon as I read that the detail didn’t matter. Anyone who “uses spreadsheets” and anyone gullible to believe them deserves tar and feathers, nothing more.

    If a spreadsheet is larger than an A4 page, it’s probability of containing a fundamental formula error approaches unity. Past ten pages, replace probability with certainty.

  27. manalive

    “The book’s [Capital in the Twenty-First Century] central thesis is that inequality is not an accident but rather a feature of capitalism that can be reversed only through state intervention … “(Wiki).
    Like psychoanalysis, state intervention is the disease it purports to cure.
    The Spirit Level had a similar theme (capitalism and equality) using dodgy statistical techniques like including anomalous outliers to suggest a trend, not allowing for different population statistics, using different years of comparison, cherry picking and assuming correlation equals causation.
    It was thoroughly debunked by Christopher Snowdon’s The Spirit Level Delusion.

    The ‘test hypothesis via rigorous experiment’ box above means to rigorously and genuinely try to disprove it in order to avoid confirmation bias.

  28. Robert O.

    The null hypothesis in for the AGW theory is that the world hasn’t warmed significantly over a certain period which is the case for the past seventeen years or so. Therefore, the AGW theory is invalid scientifically. The science is pretty straightforward, the politics, and the religion of AGW is something else, but not related to science.

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