French economist Thomas Piketty, who rose to international fame after the publication of his book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” in 2013, turned down Legion D'Honneur -- France’s highest distinction -- on Thursday, according to media reports. Piketty, along with economist Jean Tirole and writer Patrick Modiano, had been named in a list published by the French government on Thursday, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
Piketty, who has been a fierce critic of the Francois Hollande-led government, reportedly stated that it wasn’t the government’s job to decide who is “honorable.”
“They would do better to concentrate on reviving (economic) growth in France and Europe,” Piketty told AFP, adding that he would have “immediately advised” the government against the nomination if he had been informed about it in advance.
Jean-Louis Georgelin, the Great Chancellor of the French national order of Legion D'Honneur, reportedly said that he regretted Piketty’s decision to reject the award.
Legion D'Honneur, established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, is awarded three times a year to civilians and twice a year to members of the military. While it is rare for anyone to turn down the award, in the past, writers like Albert Camus and philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir have also refused the award.
Piketty, who was once close to Hollande’s Socialist Party, has since criticized the president’s policies as “rather bad.”
His bestselling "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," which examines income inequality and lopsided distribution of wealth in developed nations, has sparked fierce debates among economists. The book, which climbed to the top of non-fiction bestsellers in the U.S., was reportedly described by the Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman as “the most important economics book of the year, and maybe of the decade.”