French economist Thomas Piketty has turned down the Legion d’honneur on the grounds that ‘I don’t believe it’s the role of the government to decide who is honourable.’
I’m not sure what to make of this, but I thought it was an interesting remark. Any thoughts?
Laurie Johnson said:
This seems like the action of the libertarian, but he is obviously not a libertarian. Clearly he disrespects the current government, and he probably did this because of that. His action may seem impudent because it disrespects long-standing French tradition. It looks as though he disrespects his country’s heritage, and its history. But surely that is not what he wanted to do.
dan demetriou said:
Yes, at first blush this statement seemed to me to express an extremely libertarian position. Libertarian, because it says the government shouldn’t be in the business of something, and extreme because you’d think that distributing honors is less intrusive than distributing wealth or performing some other coercive act.
But I suppose you can be a sort of person who doesn’t value money or personal freedom too much, but really values prestige. You also have small government leanings. In that case, you may not mind the government doing all sorts of “big government” stuff as long as it remains neutral who deserves honor.
Whether Piketty is in this latter camp, I don’t know. Is he against officially-commissioned statues and monuments, too?
I haven’t read Piketty’s book ‘Capital’, but from reviews of it I gather that he is fairly left-wing and that his basic thesis is that returns from capital always outstrip those from labour, so that, left to its own, capitalism will always tend to produce ever growing inequality. State intervention to redistribute wealth is therefore necessary. So, he is no libertarian – quite the opposite.