Phillip W. Magness

U.S. Economic & Political History

Irreplicable Wealth Inequality in the UK

| January 27, 2015

Most of my work on Capital in the 21st Century, including the new paper in the Journal of Private Enterprise, has concentrated on data problems in Thomas Piketty’s consideration of the United States. This was an editorial decision made out of space limitations and the U.S. focus of much of the discussion around the book. Since Chris Giles’ […]


| January 22, 2015

My previous posts on the data problems in Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty First Century have focused almost entirely on errors contained within his data charts and files. But what happens when one tries to reconstruct those files? To find out, I conducted a simple experiment using Piketty’s Figure 10.5 – the widely cited depiction of […]

On certain stubborn things

| January 17, 2015

A brief note, as my last post seems to have touched a very raw nerve with one of the crankier denizens of the economics blogosphere. I remarked very specifically at the outset of my last post that “[Daniel] Kuehn isn’t exactly the most lucid writer in the economics blogosphere, so it’s sometimes difficult to discern what he is […]

Straining at gnats while swallowing Piketty’s camels

| January 17, 2015

One of the hazards of writing an academic article that garners a substantial amount of media attention is that it will often attract critics of widely inconsistent quality. While some of this criticism can be healthy and foster productive discussions, a fair amount of it tends toward the “grasping at straws” variety. Earlier this evening Brad DeLong re-posted […]

A Strauss Divided Against Itself…

| January 12, 2015

Two celebrated Straussian philosophers of the American political tradition, Walter Berns and Harry Jaffa, passed away yesterday. The two were notably students of the same philosophical strain, though also mutual interlocutors within that tradition who at times became irascible in their own exchanges.  Owing to a common Lincoln interest, my own work engaged Jaffa more directly than Berns. […]

Is Piketty’s conclusion unaffected by his data problems?

| January 7, 2015

Last night ran a decent synopsis of the new article on data errors in Capital and the 21st Century that Robert Murphy and I have coming out in the Journal of Private Enterprise, as well as the new article by Kevin Hassett and Alan Auerbach that I mentioned in my last post. While I tend to be skeptical of […]

Piketty goes cherry-picking for US Wealth Inequality

| January 2, 2015

One of the main critiques I’ve made of Thomas Piketty’s data, starting on this blog last May and appearing in my newly released paper with Robert Murphy on the subject, concerns his Figure 10.5, purporting to show the trend of wealth inequality in the United States. As I pointed out at the time, this chart suffers […]