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Two giants of mainstream economics—Joseph Stiglitz and Lawrence Summers—have been engaged in an acrimonious, titanic battle in recent weeks. The question is, what’s it all about? And, even more important, what’s at stake in this debate? At first glance, the intense, even personal back-and-forth between Stiglitz and Summers seems a bit odd. Both economists are […]

Summers over

Posted: 15 September 2013 in Uncategorized
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The weather has turned chilly. And Larry Summers, facing mounting opposition, has withdrawn his name from consideration for the position of chair of the Federal Reserve.

  Today, in reading about the Koch brothers’ mounting pile of petroleum coke in Detroit, I was reminded of the infamous 1991 memo by Larry Summers concerning exporting dirty industries to the Third World. The neoclassical logic is impeccable: The measurements of the costs of health impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased […]

  Felix Salmon has posted the video of the entire interview, in which Summers denies having anything to do with the deregulation of markets during the Clinton administration and Krishnan Guru-Murthy pushes him in a way few if any interviewers ever have.

As I’ve argued many times on this blog (e.g., here), mainstream economists can barely glimpse, let alone fully understand, the problem of economic inequality. Larry Summers is, unfortunately, no exception. Yes, he recognizes that inequality exists and that “strengthening the economy” won’t magically make it disappear. And he even makes an important argument: that “focusing […]

Everyone, it seems, now agrees that there’s a fundamental problem concerning wages and productivity in the United States: since the 1970s, productivity growth has far outpaced the growth in workers’ wages.* Even Larry Summers—who, along with his coauthor Anna Stansbury, presented an analysis of the relationship between pay and productivity last Thursday at a conference on […]

Sometimes we just have to sit back and laugh. Or, we would, if the consequences were not so serious. I’ve been reading and watching the presentations (and ensuing discussions) at the Rethinking Macroeconomic Policy conference recently organized by the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Quite a spectacle it appears to have been, with an opening paper by […]

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence.” Here is a link to the text [ht: ja] of the speech. Here are his first three reasons for King’s breaking the silence on Vietnam: Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I […]

Millions of workers have been displaced by robots. Or, if they have managed to keep their jobs, they’re being deskilled and transformed into appendages of automated machines. We also know that millions more workers and their jobs are threatened by much-anticipated future waves of robotics and other forms of automation. But mainstream economists don’t want us to touch […]

The capitalist machine is broken—and no one seems to know how to fix it. The machine I’m referring to is the one whereby the “capitalist” (i.e., the boards of directors of large corporations) converts the “surplus” (i.e., corporate profits) into additional “capital” (i.e., nonresidential fixed investment)—thereby preserving the pact with the devil: the capitalists are the ones […]