Wearing the decoration of the Légion d'honneur without having the right to do so is an offence. Wearing the ribbon or rosette of a foreign order is prohibited if that ribbon is mainly red, like the ribbon of the Légion. French military members in uniform must salute other military members in uniform wearing the medal, whatever the Légion d'honneur rank and the military rank of the bearer. This is not mandatory with the ribbon.Here's the list of recipients. I scanned it, and it's quite a cross-section of humanity, including Desmond Tutu, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Ravi Shankar, Louis Pasteur, Sharon Stone, Alexis de Tocqeville, Paul McCartney and Jerry Lewis (a bastion of French culture, in case you didn't know). Who would not want to keep company with Ravi Shankar, Desmond Tutu, and Kristin Scott-Thomas? Piketty, apparently. And it's not like he didn't have good contemporary company. His fellow nominees were Jean Tirole (Economics Nobel Prize 2014) and Patrick Modiano (Nobel Prize for Literature 2013). So, what's Piketty's problem? He's quoted (in translation) as follows:
I just found out that I had been proposed for the Legion of Honor. I reject this appointment and I do not think it is the role of government to decide who is honorable. It would be better that it be devoted to recovery growth in France and in Europe.Now I'm really confused. I got the idea - perhaps mistaken - from Capital in the Twenty-First Century, that Piketty viewed unfettered market outcomes as seriously deficient. Society could be destroyed as the result of capitalism run wild, or some such. Is he now telling us that there is a market for honor? If you want a reward for your good deeds, you should write your own 700-page tome, and see if it meets the market test, perhaps? Maybe he has found religion, and thinks that honor is found in heaven. Inquiring minds want to know.
My suggestion is that we run an experiment. Anyone with any power to decide such things should nominate Piketty for their award, and we'll see which ones he takes, if any. I would be happy to put him up for the Hillcrest Neighborhood Holiday Season Light Display Award. I'll have to convince the neighborhood association to waive the usual rules, but that could fly.