If only Mr. Rogoff had waited a couple of weeks before reviewing Mr. Piketty's opus here the result might have been far more entertaining (as well as thought-provoking).
Why? Mr. Piketty got the R&R treatment from the FT this week (right here, you may have to register to see). Some of the criticism is about data sources; some is about data adjustments; and some concerns data selection. But the underlying question is about the combination of these and their subsequent interpretation.
The New York Times captures that last point when commenting on this graphic from the FT piece written by their economics editor, Chris Giles:
Citing the FT piece the NYT says:
Speaking of Britain, for example, Mr. Giles writes, “There seems to be little consistent evidence of any upward trend in wealth inequality of the top 1 percent.” He further writes that if one incorporates the different British data into numbers for Europe as a whole, and weights by population instead of weighting Britain, France and Sweden equally, “there is no sign that wealth inequality in Europe is rising again.”
That is a damning conclusion, and if it holds up to scrutiny, would significantly undermine the case Mr. Piketty mounts. But Mr. Giles himself writes that “while this post is clear about what is wrong with Piketty’s charts, it is much less certain about the truth.”
Mr. Piketty remains in Zen-mode so far.