Phillip W. Magness

U.S. Economic & Political History

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 […]

Is Piketty’s conclusion unaffected by his data problems?

| January 7, 2015

Last night FoxNews.com 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 […]

An Empirical Critique of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century”

| December 29, 2014

I first became aware of Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the 21st Century last spring, though not from the onset of “Pikettymania” amidst its skyrocketing to the top of the best seller list. Rather, a couple of faculty colleagues brought it to my attention for its data. Knowing of my own research interests in historical […]

Piketty, Saez-Zucman, and the primacy of high progressive taxation

| October 28, 2014

Earlier this year I blogged at length about a series of data errors, large and small, in Thomas Piketty’s bestselling book Capital in the 21st Century (a summary of Piketty’s remaining errors may be found here, and an extended discussion of Piketty’s misuse of Soviet Union data assumptions to produce a desired result may be found here). One of […]

A Soviet Devil in the Capitalist Details

| June 10, 2014

The other day I began scrutinizing Thomas Piketty’s data on capital to national income ratios and particularly the twice-published Figure 5.8/12.4. This graph provides an important piece of evidence for Piketty’s theoretical argument in Capital in the 21st Century, and particularly his contention that “a country that saves a lot and grows slowly will over the long run accumulate an enormous stock […]

Data Problems with Piketty’s Capital/Income Ratios

| June 8, 2014

The post that follows is a bit more technical than my other posts on the data problems with Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. It also involves a more complex piece of his data, though one with significant implications to his general theory about a hypothesized inherent tendency of capital returns to outpace other earnings. With that in […]

5 remaining problems for Thomas Piketty in the wake of the FT controversy

| June 6, 2014

In the past few days Thomas Piketty and a number of his less scrupulous defenders have taken to declaring the data dispute around Capital in the 21st Century a settled matter since the publication of Piketty’s retort to Chris Giles of the Financial Times. I submit that it is anything but settled, and would draw your attention to five specific […]

About that new “study” that supposedly vindicates Piketty…

| May 31, 2014

Robert Murphy has an excellent post up today following a conversation about the new Saez-Zucman (2014) “study” of US wealth inequality that Piketty is currently trumpeting (see p. 7) as something of a vindication of his highly problematic and as-of-yet still unexplained Figure 10.5. The first takeaway is that Saez-Zucman (2014) isn’t really a study – […]