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Reforming Europe: Thomas Piketty meets Pablo Iglesias

An edited translation of the recent interview between bestselling author Thomas Piketty and Pablo Iglesias, leader of the Spanish political party Podemos, originally broadcast on Otra Vuelta de Tuerka (‘Another Turn of the Screw’) was exclusive to Juncture Online and is republished here with their kind permission.

Pablo Iglesias. Wikimedia commons. Public domainPablo Iglesias: When I was reading the introduction of your book, my attention was caught by the way you described your experience in the United States. You said you wanted to return to Europe immediately. You were criticising the deification of economists in the US and showcasing your admiration for Pierre Bourdieu and Fernand Braudel.

Thomas Piketty: I really enjoyed my stay in the US, but I couldn't wait to get back to France, to get closer to historical research, especially economic and social. Overall, I see myself as a researcher in social science rather than as an economist.

I think that the line between economics, history, sociology and political science is thinner than what economists sometimes tend to affirm. It is tempting for economists to have people believe that they created a separate science, too scientific for the rest of the world to understand. But of course this is a big joke, which has done a lot of harm. I believe we need a modest approach to economics, and that we shouldn't let economists keep economic questions to themselves.

In my work, I try to conduct research on the history of income and assets, and I don’t believe it’s possible to tackle this issue without an economic, social, political and cultural approach. This includes the representations people have of inequalities, which is why in my book I also mention representations in literature. I believe it is crucial not to leave these questions for the economists, as they are far too important.

PI: What you are saying is very interesting, as sometimes economists introduce themselves more or less as representatives of a natural science; as if they were putting on a lab coat and stepping away from social sciences. Moving on to your recent rejection of the Legion of Honour, what in your opinion should be the role of intellectuals today?

TP: We do not write books for those who govern, we do not write books for governments. We do not write books seeking official honours. We write books for anyone who reads books, and above all I try to contribute to the democratisation of economic and social knowledge. I trust the power of books, of ideas. I believe in a general democratisation of society and of economy. This can enable citizens to take up issues that are not technical. Public funding, income, assets, interest rates, salaries ... these questions are for everyone.

I'm trying to democratise this knowledge so that every citizen can be more active and take part in collective deliberation. I believe this shows more political commitment than going to official receptions. Political leaders often implement what they believe to be the prevailing opinion. Therefore, the most important thing for me is to help in transforming this opinion.

PI: You are not a Marxist economist. You say it very clearly when you describe your experience of the fall of the Berlin wall as a moment of joy as much as an observation of the failure of real socialist experiences. In that light, then, why is your book called Capital in the Twenty First Century, when it's inevitable that a comparison will be drawn between the work of Marx and any new 'Capital' in the 21st century?

TP: I was born in 1971, so I was 18 years old in 1989. I became an adult while listening to the radio, in autumn 1989, and I remember it very well: the fall of the Berlin wall, the collapse of communist regimes in eastern Europe. I was born too late to be tempted by communism, at least in its eastern European version, which was catastrophic for the economy and above all for individual freedoms. So I never had this temptation. I am, in a way, a member of the first post-cold war generation. Some people still live in the cold war and that's a problem – but it's their problem. I think it's easier for my generation to reopen questions about inequalities in capitalism, for example, without the burden of the cold war, where people were always suspected to be supporters of ‘the other model’.

The book's title is Capital in the Twenty First Century because I'm trying to return the issue of wealth distribution to the centre of political economy. Authors from the 19th century, such as Ricardo and Marx, put the question of distribution at the core of political economy. However, I'm trying to do it in a different way, because Marx's book was published in 1867 and mine in 2014.

Capital in the Twenty First Century includes four other words besidesCapital. This shows I'm trying to put capital into history, to study it as a historical object, to examine the transformation of capital and of different types of property. We went from land ownership to real estate and financial properties, intangible property rights, patents. However, the dynamics of capital accumulation haven’t changed as much as we tend to believe. In the first half of the 20th century, a series of violent shocks – the first world war, the Bolshevik revolution, the Great Depression, the second world war – enabled a reduction of inequalities in capitalist countries. In the wake of these shocks, western elites finally gave in to the kind of social and tax reforms they had denied prior 1914. Only these institutional changes allowed a certain reduction in inequalities.

Since the Anglo-American conservative revolutions, with Thatcher and Reagan, and even more since the fall of the Berlin wall, we have entered an era of infinite faith in a self-regulating market. The whole movement of financial deregulation has contributed tremendously to higher inequalities, which in some instances have returned to pre-1914 levels. This historical perspective on inequalities in capitalism helps us to understand that there is never anything natural in changing economic situations. These evolutions depend on institutions, laws, political and legal systems. In the twentieth century, it was political shocks that were the first to alter the nature of capitalism, in one way or another. This historical perspective is crucial to conceiving of a new way to regulate today's global, patrimonial capitalism.

PI: I can't help but ask about what I see as a statement of principle at the beginning of your book, when you refer to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The Declaration states that social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good. Is this a way of saying that it is legitimate to intervene against social distinctions when they differ from the common good, the collective interest?

TP: Yes, this is how I interpret this sentence. It says: if you wish to legitimise social distinctions then you have to prove they contribute to the common good. We can't simply suppose in principle that they do. The first article of the Declaration consists of two sentences. The first one is an absolute statement about equality: 'Men are born and remain free and equal in rights.' Then, immediately after, there is a second sentence which introduces the possibility of inequality: 'Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.' After stating an absolute principle of equality, the possibility of inequality in society is introduced, providing that it is for the common good.

I think these two sentences express very well a contradiction we still have to resolve today, more than two centuries later. Inequality isn't a problem in itself, as long as it can be justified by the common good. The problem is that in real life, elites or winners always mention the general good to legitimise their position. But this is often false. I believe it's very important to think critically, to deconstruct these discourses, and never to take for granted these justifications, which are often extraordinarily hypocritical.

PI: One of the criticisms of your book centres on the absence of the labour factor as a major political element with regards to the reduction of inequalities. Is the working class as a political actor still capable of influencing our understanding of inequalities?

TP: Yes, as long as we take into account the diversity of the working class, whose members’ interests are not always the same. For me, the issues of class are not outdated or taboo. However, we need to restart the analysis in a historical perspective, seen through its evolutions, to understand today's world.

PI: You explain in your book that war is one of the historical factors that is essential to understanding the reduction of inequalities. What should we expect from our very complex geopolitical context, with new actors emerging and contesting the US hegemony? Does the only possibility of economic change in systemic terms have to come through military outbreaks?

TP: I believe we can try to do better. It's true that, in the 20th century, before the shock provided by the world wars, there was no spontaneous movement seeking to reduce inequalities, and the elites refused to accept significant reforms.

For example, France likes to present itself as an egalitarian country, but there's a lot of hypocrisy behind this. Until 1914, French republican elites refused to pay any income tax. Income tax was introduced in July 1914, not to build schools, but to finance war with Germany. Until the summer of 1914, republican elites were against a progressive income tax – all in the name of the French revolution, strangely enough. These elites were saying ‘we did the revolution, that's enough’. France doesn’t have aristocrats anymore, therefore it’s an egalitarian country. The United Kingdom could use an income tax, because it's an aristocratic society, but we don't need it. But in truth, if we check historical data on assets and inheritance during the Belle Époque, we realise that the concentration of wealth was as significant in republican France as it was in the UK.

Now, does this mean that only wars and other major shocks can trigger a reaction from the elites? I don't believe so. My book is reasonably optimistic. I want to believe that democratic forces can regain control over inegalitarian forces. At the same time, it's delusional to think that peaceful electoral process is enough to secure the changes we need. Social movements, and sometimes chaotic political movements, are essential for change.

There will continue to be several different ways in which the redistribution of wealth is ‘regulated’. Of course, I want to believe in peaceful regulations, such as a progressive tax on wealth. But sometimes inflation, debt cancellation or more chaotic political processes play an important role – and they will continue to play an important role in the future.

PI: How, then, can we reclaim sovereignty beyond the state? Despite the transfer of sovereignty from national institutions to supranational authorities, the only space that can be won politically, through elections, remains the national. Yet in your search for the democratisation of the economy you are limiting the role of national states, which is almost taboo these days. Is it possible to democratise the economy without a leading role for the state?

TP: Nation states must maintain an essential role. But we also need to build a democratic and legitimate public authority in Europe, on a continental level, or at least on a wider level than the national. In concrete terms, I believe we need Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Belgium [...] to develop a democratic authority strong enough to regulate patrimonial and financial capitalism, beyond the single currency.

The mirage of a currency without a state is what hurts us the most today. Take corporation tax: today, multinational companies barely pay any corporation tax, or they do so at a much lower rate than smaller businesses. This is not something we can resolve on a nation-state level, because European countries are getting smaller and smaller relative to the size of the global economy.

The way small countries tend to behave sometimes contradicts with our most fundamental values. They're all trying to save their skin or to find their niche. We saw it very clearly when Jean-Claude Juncker apologised over the revelation that Luxembourg was an active tax haven while he was in charge. ‘It wasn't my fault,’ he said, ‘the only possible development strategy for my country was to steal its neighbours’ tax revenues.’ But we have reached a point where apologising isn't enough anymore, and where the EU institutions are themselves to blame. If we want to achieve a democratised economy and social progress, then we need to democratise the European institutions.

If we keep the unanimity rule on tax issues, there will never be any progress towards fair taxation. If some of the 28 countries in the EU do not want this, very well, they can stay outside. But this shouldn't prevent others from opting in favour of a democratic and parliamentary sovereignty, with a common parliament, where each nation is represented proportionally to its population – no more, no less – and where it's possible to sanction countries that don’t cooperate. If we can't organise this new form of democratic public authority, one which supersedes the nation state, then I am very concerned that in the future we will see countries tempted to retreat into national self-interest.

Thomas Piketty. Wikimedia commons. Public domain.PI: And I share your concerns. Any democrat, any rational person can see this: the European parliament has almost no legislative or sovereign remit. Tax harmonisation in Europe would be a fair thing, and many stakeholders share this sentiment. But in reality this is very difficult to put into practice. One of the most important proposals in your book is a global progressive tax on wealth, but this has to be a global goal.

My question, as a player in national politics who can only aspire to the administrative power of a state, is how can we impose the rule of the majority on decision-making that occurs in those supranational spaces? How can we find a way to transform the EU into something that is not what it is today, into a democratic space where ultimately decisions are taken by popular sovereignty and not by a central bank which isn't accountable to anyone, or by a European troika which only serves Germany's interests? What could be the actual mechanism for this?

TP: First, I would like to say that the rise of Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece is one of the few bits of good news in European politics this past year. I live in a country where political innovation comes from the far right, and this is far more worrying, especially for leaders in Berlin, Paris, Brussels. They should reach out to political movements like Podemos to try to find solutions for a democratic reworking of Europe, so we can enjoy renewed social progress and move on from austerity.

I think France and Germany bear a great responsibility for the current organisation of the EU and for the austerity we are all living with. The European Fiscal Compact, which was signed in 2012, is a poor treaty – but at least it shows that it is possible to change European treaties. We sometimes refuse to have this discussion, and I believe this is a mistake. We change treaties all the time, and in 2012 it took just six months. Unfortunately, they went in the wrong direction on that occasion. We deepened the EU's technocratic federalism, based on negotiations between governments and the European Commission. This isn't working at all. Today, we have to put new proposals for a democratic reform of Europe on the table.

I believe this is where movements like Podemos can play an extraordinarily important role. In concrete terms, I think that Spain, with France and Italy, should suggest that Germany creates a genuine eurozone parliament. Each country would be represented proportionally to its population, by representatives from national parliaments. I believe we can only build a supranational parliamentary sovereignty that is based on national parliamentary sovereignty. The EU28 might play an important role one day, but I think we have to leave it aside temporarily. Or at least we have to accept that there will be a smaller number of countries that will push forward at first, and then when things work out for them, maybe other EU countries will want to join the group.

For now, no one wants to join the eurozone. A eurozone parliament – with decisions taken by majority vote and each country represented according to its population – could make effective decisions regarding levels of public deficit, public investment, corporation tax. We could vote for a common corporation tax to impose the same rate on multinationals as on SMEs.

If we had a more democratic institution, we would have created less austerity, we would have had more growth and less unemployment. I think we can still change this, and if such a proposal was on the table, Germany wouldn't be able to turn it down indefinitely. We can't have a single currency while refusing democracy, and we can't impose this on the rest of Europe.

It is vital to start discussing this type of proposal. We can't always complain about Germany: we also need to show that there are some alternatives. I believe the worst thing in Europe today is the lack of alternatives.

The right-wing nationalists, by their nature, reject internationalism and the democratic proposals I'm suggesting. However, the left is sometimes also tempted to resist moving forward, towards a supranational democracy, if they can't be sure that policies for social progress will be enacted. But we can never know anything for certain. At some point, one has to trust in democracy. This eurozone parliament could take decisions I might not approve of, but at the same time I am certain of one thing: decision-making would be better, even with a majority which is more right-wing that I might wish for.

The current system of negotiation between national governments and the European Commission is afraid of democracy and majority rule. That is why we have such rigid rules on deficit reduction. It's the worst system. It needs reforming. And as long as we don't change the rules, there won't be any economic and social progress in Europe.

PI: I needed to hear this! So often we are told that we can't, that Germany will never yield, that it is impossible to change anything in the EU.

I would now like for you to examine a few proposals from Podemos. Internally, we discussed how to define Spain’s economic elites, and we went for the term ‘lumpen oligarchy’. We’ve pointed out the long tradition of closeness between economic elites and the political class in Spain. We have been telling those who define corruption as something that will be tackled through criminal law, that corruption is in fact fundamentally an economic problem. Corruption can be solved with more tax inspectors, but corruption can also be solved with a different political economy. Do you think that the corruption affecting Europe as a whole, and southern countries in particular, has more to do with the wider economy than a simple aggregation of misdemeanors and dishonesty by individuals from the political class?

TP: I would support this analysis. We need financial transparency, transparency on capital income. I come from a country where Francois Hollande's budget minister [Jerome Cahuzac], who was supposed to secure tax payments, himself had a bank account in Switzerland. And the worst part was that he thought this could go on forever! However, repairing this situation depends not only on individuals but above all on rules and economic institutions that are introduced to achieve greater transparency.

Transparency also allows for more democracy in the corporate realm. Armed with more information about their companies’ accounts and shares, employees can get more involved and claim a real right to intervene in the board of directors. This is something that employers in France have refused for a long time. On this matter, there could a positive influence from Germany, where employees have the right to intervene – and not only are they consulted by company boards but they also have the right to vote. This doesn't seem to prevent them from making good cars! In this way, this drive for transparency can go hand-in-hand with a real democratisation of economic power.

PI: Austerity measures seem to have failed, especially in southern Europe. Some people believe that Podemos is occupying the traditional ‘social democratic’ political space. On the contrary, however, we see social democracy as something beyond its traditional expansionist policies and measures to increase demand, policies which fail to question the principles of the market economy, and which are based on old Keynesian recipes, seeking to resolve the crisis through state interventionism and a hike in domestic demand.

TP: Austerity measures in Europe have failed, I believe that we are now sure of that. Five years ago, the eurozone and the US had the same level of public debt and unemployment. Now? The verdict is terrible for the eurozone: unemployment dropped in the US, while it rose in the EU. The problem is simple: we tried to reduce public deficits far too quickly. Such a reduction has to be compatible with growth and economic recovery. We killed growth, especially in France, where taxes were raised too high, both at the end of Sarkozy's term and at the beginning of Hollande's. The result is almost zero growth in the eurozone and a high risk of deflation. The history of public debt that I tell in my book teaches us that it is impossible to reduce a high public debt with no inflation and zero growth. I am very worried.

We have to remember that in the past it was often through inflation, debt remission or exceptional measures that we managed to extract ourselves from a public debt crisis. This is the case for Germany and France, who emerged after the second world war with a 200 per cent debt-to-GDP ratio, twice that of Spain today and higher than Greece’s. Then, all of a sudden, by 1950 there was no more public debt. What happened? We didn't pay them back. We got rid of the debt through inflation and the cancellation of the newest debts, particularly in Germany. This was a good decision, which allowed us to start over in the 1950s and ’60s, to invest in growth, public infrastructure, education...

If, on the other hand, we had had to pay back such high debts, with GDP growth of 1 or 2 or 3 per cent a year, we would still be paying it back. So it seems crazy – like an attack of collective amnesia – to see the same countries today, Germany and France, explaining to southern European countries they have to repay everything, right down to the last penny, with zero inflation.

The only historical precedent that I can see of the same mistake is perhaps the UK in the 19th century. The country spent a hundred years repaying a staggering public debt, with a 200 per cent debt-to-GDP ratio after the Napoleonic wars, and a budget surplus of 1 or 2 or 3 per cent of GDP. Over the course of a century, the UK put more money into repaying interest than it invested in the whole educational system.

We are doing something very similar today in Europe. In Spain and Italy, the interest paid each year is higher than the budget for their entire university systems. In Italy, around 5 or 6 per cent of GDP is spent on public debt interest rates, when the whole budget for the university system is just 1 per cent of GDP. Is this a good strategy to prepare for the future, especially for the younger generations? Obviously not.

PI: But if all this is so obvious, why are you and I discussing the methodical restructuring of debts, when the rest of the political class, including the social democrats, call us mad? Talking about debt restructuring seems to be an apocalyptic notion. Why is there this absurd consensus among the ruling forces that debt restructuring is impossible, when an increasing number of voices rises to say that this amount of debt can't be repaid, that it is simply a drag on us getting out of this crisis?

TP: The main problem is that people have always had trouble recognising their own errors. The 2012 fiscal compact was a mistake, but the error came from both ends of the political spectrum. In France, the treaty was negotiated during the previous term, under Sarkozy, and was then signed in the new term, under Hollande. This is why the French political class, right and left, has a hard time today admitting their mistakes, because they are all responsible.

It's possible that in Spain too there are shared responsibilities on both sides. Every country is responsible, not only Germany, but France, Spain, Italy as well. What matters now is the next steps, and we have to be aware that we need to reform European democracy in order to reconnect with social and economic progress.

It is crucial to think about how to organise democratic reform of the EU. What scares Germany – sometimes rightfully so – is the question of how we are going to choose common deficit levels. So far, there haven’t been any proposals forthcoming. In France, Hollande acts as if he is renegotiating the 2012 treaty, but he's not renegotiating anything. He pretends he offered Germany the pooling of public debts, but in truth he never proposed any political mechanisms, like a eurozone parliament, that would allow collective decision-taking on deficit levels. If we are to pool public debts then we need a democratic parliamentary institution to decide on our deficit levels. We can't just have a European Central Bank and a currency without a democratic public authority. This is what we are lacking now, and this is the path we definitely have to take.

PI: Today, it is certain that the eurozone cannot be overlooked. However, was the Maastricht treaty reasonable? States had to hand over something as critical as their monetary sovereignty to an institution over which they don't have any control, and which doesn't even bear similarities with the US federal reserve, and which doesn't allow the buyout of public debts or the issue of eurobonds, according to treaties and despite recent interpretations. In that light, then, did the creation of a single currency like the euro make sense?

TP: We have to take into account the context in which the Maastricht treaty was concluded. The intellectual and political background was very different in 1992. The treaty was negotiated at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the ’90s, when Europe was just emerging from the stagflation of the ’70s, with high inflation and unemployment. At the time, people were obsessed with the idea of an independent central bank to fight inflation. In that context, having a currency without a state seemed like a good idea, so that it could be truly independent.

Today, the context is very different. We now understand, after the 2008 crisis, that central banks were not only there to watch trains go by and make sure inflation stayed stable. In a moment of very serious financial crisis, where the entire financial system might collapse, central banks have to play a very important role in staving off a chain reaction of bankruptcies. Because that’s what happened during the Great Depression, which led to complete economic disaster. But for central banks to play this role, they need to have an economic government in front of them. One of the main problems we have with the European Central Bank today is how to unify public debts. If the US federal reserve had to choose every day between California's debt or Texas's debt, it would be a mess. There would be the same lack of trust we see today in Europe.

PI: In our country, the bursting of the real estate bubble set off a wave of evictions for default. One of the main claims made by social movements against evictions was in support of dation-in-payment [a form of mutually agreed payment in kind]: the option to sell off the mortgage in transferring the ownership of the estate to the bank, to spare people from dragging debts around for life (debts which are based on property values at the peak of the bubble). We believe Spanish private banks which own these debts, such as BBVA or Santander, should find a way to cancel or reduce these debts, or to generalise the use of dation-in-payment for families suffering from chronic debt. A reasonable framework which would enable them to live a normal life. Many Spanish families remain completely excluded from society. Once again, however, our critics have said that this proposal is impossible and that we can't ask the banking sector to take responsibility for the state.

TP: I'm not very familiar with details of current proposals in Spain. It appears there is a collective responsibility from the state and financial regulators, who let the real estate bubble grow to unsustainable levels. Today, we need to find solutions to combat over-indebtedness in Spain, as happens in other countries. In the US, for example, where some students find themselves over-indebted, there are some people, not extremists at all, who are offering to cancel their student loan debts. This could work for household over-indebtedness as well. I think we should keep an open mind on all these questions.

PI: Two final topics to conclude this interview. Regarding the terrorist attacks in France, we were discussing, off the record, the reaction of [former] Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras, who stated very fervently, in response to the Paris shootings, that Syriza in power would open the door to mass immigration. Why is there, according to you, such distrust of Syriza, not only in Greece but among most of the European elite – and especially in Germany, which was threatening to exclude Greece from the eurozone, before being called to order by Brussels. Why such violence?

TP: I found Mr Samaras’s statement to be utterly detestable. After what happened in France, the political class is going to make political hay – especially the far right, which has already started. Will they succeed? I'm not sure, because voters in France might say to themselves ‘we already have madmen in the street, so let's not have madmen in power as well’. It is difficult to predict the voters’ reaction.

I think it would be a very serious mistake if leaders in Paris, Berlin or Brussels start blaming in advance Greek electors who vote for Syriza. European leaders would be wise to understand that parties like Syriza or Podemos are fundamentally internationalist and pro-European, but they are calling for a different Europe. We could say that Syriza's proposals are not always as accurate as they should be, but we should reach out to them and help them build a democratic reform agenda in the EU and the eurozone. We all need this.

You know, there might be political shocks later this year in France. Regional elections will be held in December and the far right will certainly win several regions. This is far more dangerous for governments in Paris or Berlin than Syriza or Podemos. I believe it's time for political leaders to stop fighting the wrong enemy and assume their share of responsibility. France and Germany are highly responsible for the poor strategies implemented in Europe. They should reach out to movements that want to fight austerity and unemployment, and seek to find better solutions together.

PI: Finally, there is a phenomenon which appeared in Greece and which, I believe, could appear again in Spain and maybe also in France: 'pasokisation'. Socialist parties who choose to make alliances with the conservatives or implement right-wing policies then become subordinate political forces. I would like to ask you in particular about François Hollande. Hollande came to power in France as the manifestation of a new hope for those who were against Merkel's austerity policies. However, the path he has taken has frustrated many hopes. He purged from his cabinet the most sovereignist ministers, who were demanding policies more in line with traditional French socialism than what is generally seen as the third way. Do you think the French Socialist party, with Hollande, could follow the same path as the Greek Socialists?

TP: I think France under Hollande made a very selfish choice in 2012. France told itself: we have an interest rate of zero per cent, 1 per cent, like Germany, so we are on the right side of the fence. We are not going to share this interest rate – too bad for Spain, too bad for Italy, too bad for Greece. This is a very selfish decision, and it's sad to see how nationalism and national self-interest can obscure the domestic political divide. Both the left and the right made the same choice. However, I believe socialist political leaders in France and Germany understand that things are not working very well in their countries. Even Germany's growth is half of the UK’s. So it's the entire eurozone that is experiencing a period of stagflation and of poor economic performance, all because of those selfish decisions.

They are clearly having a hard time acknowledging their mistakes, which are too recent. Holland invested a lot of political capital in convincing the country that he renegotiated the treaty in 2012, when he actually didn't do anything. He said it so many times that it is difficult today to say otherwise, even if I believe he should admit his error.

I also think a salutary shock can come from southern European countries, from Spain in particular. They can put new proposals for the reform of European treaties on the table, and by doing so they could compel French socialists and German socialists to reconsider things. There are SPD representatives who are ready to say ‘if there were proposals for a real political union on the table, and for a strengthened democracy in the eurozone, we would consider them’.

Unfortunately, change won't come in the short term, this year or the next, from France and Germany. Other countries, especially in southern Europe, who have suffered the most under austerity, must bring forward constructive solutions, with clear proposals, to reform the EU. I hope they will spread this to progressive parties in France and Germany – or to what is left of them at least.

PI: Thomas Piketty, many thanks for coming to 'La Tuerka'. Let me give you a souvenir mug – of course, it is left-handed! I now invite you to face the camera and raise a toast, if you wish.

TP: Yes, I would like to raise a toast to the upcoming elections in Spain, which I hope will bring the changes we all need in Europe, and not only in Spain.

PI: Thank you very much.

This interview was originally published in Juncture Online at the Institute for Public Policy Research

About the authors

Thomas Piketty is the author of Capital in the Twenty First Century (trans Arthur Goldhammer, 2014, Harvard University Press).

Pablo Iglesias is the leader of Spanish political party Podemos.

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