Best-selling French economist, Thomas Piketty
Best-selling French economist, Thomas Piketty

Unlike most 696-page long economics books, Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century has sold more than 1.5 million copies and topped the Amazon best-sellers' chart.

Initially published in 2013, the book's analysis of global inequality and recommendation of a two per cent global tax on individual wealth has been praised the world over with its author even being named the most influential thinker on the planet.

But this week, as the Economist reports, the French academic's tome has just received its "most serious and substantive critique" - from a 26-year-old graduate.

Matthew Rognlie's paper which has caught the eye of several prominent academics.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate student gave three main arguments against Piketty's theory that a concentration of wealth, and thus inequality, occurs where the rate of return on capital is greater than the rate of growth (expressed as 'r>g').

The paper, "Deciphering the fall and rise in the net capital share", picks holes in Piketty's estimate that the rate of return from capital remains high over time, questions Piketty's future projections of returns on wealth and finds that income has not been distributed equally across all sectors, as Piketty posits.

The 26-year-old presented his paper at the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity last weekend, which the Financial Times (£) describes as the "prime US conference on applied policy economics" where it won plaudits from Robert Solow, a Nobel prize-winning economist, and Bradford DeLong, a former adviser to Bill Clinton.

However, as the Economist signs off, "just how inconvenient Mr Rognlie's argument is for Mr Piketty's overarching narrative is a matter of perspective".

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