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Economist Thomas Piketty turns down France’s Legion d’Honneur

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French economist and author Thomas Piketty.Photograph by John MacDougall — AFP/Getty Images

France’s star economist Thomas Piketty, who shot to fame and topped best-seller lists in 2014 with his controversial book on wealth and inequality, has declined the country’s highest award, the Legion d’Honneur, local media said on Thursday.

“I refuse this nomination because I don’t think it’s up to a government to say who is honorable,” Piketty told AFP news agency. “They would do better to focus on reviving growth in France and Europe.”

Together with Nobel Economics laureate Jean Tirole and Nobel Literature prize winner Patrick Modiano, Piketty was named on Wednesday on a list of new recipients of the Legion d’Honneur, awarded by President Francois Hollande.

His book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” has attracted both praise and invective on its way to the top of the Amazon.com books best-seller list. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has called it a game-changer that demolishes the myth that “great wealth is earned and deserved.”

Once close to France’s ruling Socialist party, Piketty has become very critical of Hollande. “There is a degree of improvisation in Francois Hollande’s economic policy that is appalling,” he told Le Monde daily in June.