James Galbraith

 

James K. Galbraith is author of Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe. He is an elected member
of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, the Italian national academy. 

Recent Articles

The Coming Budget Battle

T he passage of President Clinton's budget, marked by its one-half trillion in deficit reduction, is already restoring respect for the administration. Clinton will be tempted to move on to other issues. The urgent need to make good on health care reform and the generally sour nature of budget discussions will add to this impulse. But the administration should resist the temptation to rush off the playing field, for two reasons. First, there will be a retrospective debate over the budget that may be more important politically than all the arguments leading to its enactment. Second, over the longer run, sad to say, unacceptably slow economic growth remains likely. Since economic growth, not legislative success or failure, will determine the ultimate judgment on Clinton, he needs to prepare ground for the next wave of budget and economic policy reform. Republicans and some deficit "hawks" are already framing the retrospective debate. In a recent New York Review of Books , economist...

How the Economists Got It Wrong

The American Economic Association (AEA) met January 7-9 in Boston, for a millennial program distinguished by its attention to international policy issues, most particularly financial crises (as in Asia) and the failure of the so-called "economic transition" (as in Russia). And yet, in this odd rush to relevance, something was curiously awry. Apart from a panel including former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz, the meetings featured almost no one with a record of criticizing the institutions that gave us the Asian crisis or the transition failure. Instead, they were dominated--in session after session--by the architects of the present world order, including Yeltsin advisers Andrei Shleifer and Anders Aslund, the International Monetary Fund's Stanley Fischer, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. Even the arch-speculator Myron Scholes appeared. Never, perhaps, has such a luminous crowd gathered to discuss so disastrous a set of its own failings...

Watching Greenspan Grow

Greenspan: The Man Behind Money , Justin Martin. Perseus Publishing, 284 pages, $28.00. Maestro: Greenspan's Fed and the American Boom , Bob Woodward. Simon and Schuster, 270 pages, $25.00. For those seeking a personal portrait of America's maximum economic-policy maker, Justin Martin's biography of Alan Greenspan will serve nicely. Informed and sympathetic, Martin traces Greenspan's personal and professional lives: his early days in jazz and objectivism, his roots as an economist in the Conference Board, his participation in the old-style business-cycle studies of Arthur Burns, his ties to five presidents, and his liaisons and enduring friendships with interesting, intelligent, attractive, and loyal women. Greenspan emerges here as observers usually find him: reserved, dispassionate, thoughtful, not very pretentious--an even-tempered professional with a stable inner self, oddly at home in the outsize trappings of the chairman...

Life After Tight Money

The conservative experiment with tight money has failed. Popular monetary prescriptions—low interest rates and a more accountable Federal Reserve—are steps in the right direction. But they must go hand in hand with structural reforms to get the economy back on track.

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The Surrender of Economic Policy

As long as the big choices in macroeconomic policy are off the table, other efforts to raise living standards will not make much difference.

T here is a common ground on economic policy that now stretches, with differences only of degree, from the radical right to Bill Clinton. Across the spectrum, all declare that the main job of government is to help markets work well. On the supply side, government can help, up to a point, by providing education, training, infrastructure, and scientific research--all public goods that markets undervalue. But when it comes to macroeconomic policy, government should do nothing except pursue budget balance, and leave the Federal Reserve alone. To accept a balanced budget and the unchallenged monetary judgment of the Federal Reserve is, by definition, to remove macroeconomics from the political sphere. Thus, the remaining differences between Clinton and the Congress are over details. Should we head for budget balance in seven years, eight, or ten? Should we cut (or impose) this or that environmental regulation? Do Head Start, the AmeriCorps, and technology subsidies justify their cost? And...

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