From the Financial Times today, on the occasion of awarding a prize named after his paper (“FT and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award”) to the book “Capital in the 21st century” by Thomas Piketty:
“While not everyone agreed on the policy prescriptions, we recognised the quality of the scholarship,” Mr Barber said on behalf of the judges. He called it “a challenging, but ultimately important book”.
Here is Chris Giles and Ferdinando Giugliano writing back in May:
An investigation by the Financial Times, however, has revealed many unexplained data entries and errors in the figures underlying some of the book’s key charts.
These are sufficiently serious to undermine Prof Piketty’s claim that the share of wealth owned by the richest in society has been rising and “the reason why wealth today is not as unequally distributed as in the past is simply that not enough time has passed since 1945”.
After referring back to the original data sources, the investigation found numerous mistakes in Prof Piketty’s work: simple fat-finger errors of transcription; suboptimal averaging techniques; multiple unexplained adjustments to the numbers; data entries with no sourcing, unexplained use of different time periods and inconsistent uses of source data.
What possible reason would an editor have to contradict his own journalism so thoroughly?
Check your premises Mr Barber. A book is not worthy of a gong just because it is “important” (code for, he likes it) the usual definition of a good book – the one your audience will expect you to apply – is that it should be true.
The fact that Chris Giles is economics editor, no less, means Lionel would be aware that the book has issues, and that there is a cost to him personally in giving it the prize. Lionel must have really liked it.
LATER: Chris Giles actually spoke about Piketty at a Policy Exchange event prior to the announcement. The audio went up yesterday (very good timing Policy Exchange).
Top Quote: “I don’t think this is a very truthful book”. Wow.