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Piketty’s Missing Entrepreneurs

Jag har en artikel i National Review Online där jag kritiserar den franska nationalekonomen Thomas Piketty för faktafel om Amerikanska rika.

Piketty menar i sin bok att ca 60 procent av de som tjänar mest i USA är chefer i storföretag, vilka Piketty kallar ”supermanagers”. Enligt boken beror ökning av ojämlikhet till stor del på att Vd:ar i hierarkiska storföretag har förhandlat till sig högre löner. Piketty felciterar och missförstår de Amerikanska studierna. En större del av de Piketty kallar ”supermanagers” är i själva verket egenföretagare som äger och aktivt förvaltar sina bolag. Rika egenföretagare utgjorde år 2010 ca 70 procent av de 0.1 procent rikaste Amerikanerna i termer av förmögenhet och stor för knappt 50 procent av toppinkomster.

Att en så stor del av de rika visar sig vara företagare snanare än anställda Vd:ar underminerar Pikettys förklaring för ökat ojämlikhet. Egenföretagare och entreprenörers avkastning bestäms inte främst genom hierarkiska förhandlingar, utan av marknadskrafter och tillgångspriser. Jag visar också att Piketty saknar belägg för tesen att de flesta miljardärer i USA har ärvt sin förmögenhet:

“In the book, Piketty vehemently disputes the idea that most billionaires are self-made entrepreneurs. He admits that he has no evidence for this, but suggests that it is the other way around and that inherited wealth constitutes 60 to 70 percent of billionaires. Forbes estimates, he says, are methodologically biased because billionaire entrepreneurs are easier to find. The Forbes list is obviously not a precision estimate. Forbes itself refers to its estimates as “highly educated guesses.”

But external evaluation using tax data have nevertheless shown that Forbes’s list is surprisingly accurate. Piketty seems to be unaware that researchers working for the IRS have matched the Forbes billionaire list with estate-tax data available to the Internal Revenue Service. For example, one study by IRS researchers Raub, Johnson, and Newcomb compared the tax returns of the wealthy and their families with the Forbes list. For Piketty’s view to be correct, the Forbes list must suffer from a massive methodological bias that makes it miss the majority of billionaire heirs. But Raub, Johnson, and Newcomb only found a small number of billionaires who should have been on Forbes list but weren’t — just 26 individuals in the tax data who should have been on the list but weren’t, compared with 376 who were in the tax data and the list.

Piketty himself suggest another way to indirectly test whether Forbes systematically misses inherited wealth. Fortunes above $10 billion, he says, are easy to find and therefore fairly accurate, whereas there is a large bias in smaller fortunes. If Piketty is right that most billionaires are heirs and Forbes is just missing it, we should expect the share of inherited wealth to be, ceteris paribus, higher above $10 billion range, where Forbes is supposedly more accurate. This is not the case. In last year’s Forbes 400 list, 32 percent of billionaires with fortunes at or above $10 billion had inherited their wealth. Among those with fortunes in the $1–10 billion range, the share of inherited wealth was also 32 percent.

It is worth noting that Forbes has no problem finding inherited wealth in societies where inheritance is more important: In France, Forbes estimates that 70 percent of the wealth of billionaires is owned by heirs. This is not far from Piketty’s own estimates of the aggregate inherited wealth share in France. Perhaps the problem isn’t Forbes, but Piketty’s theory.”

Läs hela min artikel här.

P.S

Tim Worstall på Forbes skriver:

“There’s an excellent piece over in National Review by Tino Sanandaji (the only Kurdish/Swedish economist that I know of and one very much to my own heart, as he likes to actually read footnotes and then check them) discussing one of the major planks of Thomas Piketty’s thesis on increasing wealth and income inequality. Tino agrees that there is increasing inequality and also that this might well be problematic. But Piketty assumes, having dismissed other possible interpretations, that this is all a result of rent seeking by the corporate managerial classes…..Imagine that it is all about rent seeking. That those corporate managers are able to oppress the workers and then diddle the shareholders out of those super-profits by paying them to themselves as salaries rather than out as dividends? That is, after all, what Piketty’s argument is. So, if this were true then we would see that pay packages at public companies, those with widely dispersed shareholder registers, would be higher than pay packages at closely held companies, or private equity owned outfits. For private equity and closely held companies would not be suffering from that principal/agent problem which is what allows the corporate managerial class to rent seek. So, do we see that? No, we don’t: pay for managers in private equity is substantially higher than it is in publicly held companies.”

Se även James Pethokoukis på AEIdeas.