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Economist refuses Légion d'Honneur

Author of best-selling Capital in the 21st Century says France "would do better to concentrate on reviving growth"

FRENCH economist and author of the best-selling Capital in the 21st Century Thomas Piketty has refused to accept France’s highest accolade - the Légion d’Honneur.

Mr Piketty’s name appeared in the New Year list published in the Journal Officiel of 691 people to be decorated - among French célebrités such as Nobel laureates Jean Tirole and Patrick Modiano, and less well-known but equally deserving nominees.

But he said that he would not accept his elevation to the rank of chevalier (knight).

He told AFP: “I refuse this nomination because I do not think it is the government's role to decide who is honourable.

"They would do better to concentrate on reviving economic growth in France and Europe."

Mr Piketty was once close to the Socialist government, but has distanced himself from President François Hollande, who he has criticised for failing to reform France’s tax system.

Capital in the 21st Century examines changes in income equality since the 18th century, and shows how far the gap between rich and poor has accelerated.

It has sold 1.5 million copies - yet the Wall Street Journal, which dubbed it last summer's "most unread book", claims that data from Amazon suggests hardly any readers make it beyond page 26 (out of 700)...

Mr Piketty joins a list of illustrious names to refuse the honour - including composer Hector Berlioz, scientist Marie Curie and her husband Pierre, writer and intellectual Simone de Beauvoir, philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, singer Georges Brassens, and actor Brigitte Bardot.

Cartoonist Jacques Tardi was the most recent to refuse a Légion D’Honneur in 2013.

Those who have accepted the award this time include resistance fighter and Second World War historian Jean-Louis Crémieux, who has been promoted to Grand Cross - the highest level of the Légion D’Honneur.

American Second World War veteran Clyde Shull, 95, who lives in Wyandot County, Ohio, will be decorated on behalf of the US soldiers who helped liberate France from the Nazis.

Mr Schull fought with the 9th Infantry in North Africa, Sicily, Normandy and at Remagen, where his field artillery battalion protected the final bridge over the Rhine from destruction by retreating Nazi troops.

Meanwhile, a young Médecins Sans Frontières nurse who survived Ebola has been decorated “in exceptional circumstances” since his age - 29 - means he has not worked in his field for the 20 years to be elevated to the rank of chevalier.

The Order has a maximum quota of 75 Grand Cross, 250 Grand Officers, 1,250 Commanders, 10,000 Officers and 113,425 Knights.

Photo: Sue Gardner / Wikimedia Commons

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