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Mainstream economists refer to it as price theory, everyone else value theory. But whatever it’s called, it’s at the center of economists’ differing explanations of what happens in (and alongside) markets. As I see it, price/value theory serves as the framework to explain a wide range of phenomena, from how and for how much commodities […]

It was Paul Samuelson who, in 1997, declared with morbid optimism that “Funeral by funeral, economics does make progress.”* What Samuelson presumed is that, over time, wrong ideas would be killed and laid to rest and better ideas would flourish, thus creating the foundation for progress in economic thought. That’s what I consider to be […]

The dystopia of the American healthcare system certainly invites a utopian response—a ruthless criticism as well as a vision of an alternative. As I showed last week, the left-wing response involves a critique of the conditions and consequences of the capitalist organization of U.S. healthcare and the fashioning of a radical alternative. Single-payer, which uses tax […]

This is the first in a series of blog posts on the utopian dimensions of healthcare. I’ve written quite a bit about the U.S. healthcare dystopia over the years—including a seven-part series back in 2016.* But I haven’t yet addressed the utopian dimensions of healthcare reform. The appearance of the new issue of Jacobin Magazine, […]

Donald Trump’s decision to impose import tariffs—on solar panels and washing machines now, and perhaps on steel and aluminum down the line—has once again opened up the war concerning international trade. It’s not a trade war per se (although Trump’s free-trade opponents have invoked that specter, that the governments of other countries may retaliate with […]

Economic inequality is arguably the crucial issue facing contemporary capitalism—especially in the United States but also across the entire world economy. Over the course of the last four decades, income inequality has soared in the United States, as the share of pre-tax national income captured by the top 1 percent (the red line in the […]

Just nine years ago, in the midst of the Second Great Depression, Newsweek declared that “we are all socialists now.” Now, it’s true, editor-in-chief Jon Meacham demonstrated little understanding of the term socialism, identifying it simply with more government spending and regulation in a capitalist economy—something akin to “a modern European state.” This is not […]

I have often argued—in lectures, talks, and publications—that every economic theory has a utopian dimension. Economists don’t explicitly talk about utopia but, my argument goes, they can’t do what they do without some utopian horizon. The issue of utopia is there, at least in the background, in every area of economics—perhaps especially on the topic […]

Much has been made of the rise of populism in recent years and the threat it poses to liberal democracy. My view is that liberal critics of populism, standing on their heads, get it wrong. If made to stand on their feet, they’d have to admit that populism actually represents the failure of liberal democracy. […]

Students are much too busy to think these days. So, when a junior comes to talk with me about the possibility of my directing their senior thesis, I ask them about their topic—and then their schedule. I explain to them that, if they really want to do a good project, they’re going to have to […]