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 Joys of Recession

E conomics as a subject matter and, in its more than slightly fragile way, as a science, has two notable features. There is a plausible characteristic of the economy, well supported by both analysis and experience, that gets relatively little mention. And there is a related aspect of the economic system that is wholly proscribed in all reputable thought and discourse. The little-mentioned feature is the possibility, even the probability, of an underemployment equilibrium--an enduring situation of poor performance. The wholly unmentioned fact is that, for a substantial and politically influential section of the population, this is wholly acceptable, even good, and certainly to be preferred to the relevant remedial actions. It is three years and some months since the United States economy slipped into recession, with other countries of the developed world similarly affected. But popular and professional economic attitudes have rejected the notion that this is how the economy should be...

Who's Bashing Tyson?

L aura D'Andrea Tyson's appointment to chair the Council of Economic Advisers received savage treatment from some of her professional colleagues. According to Peter Passell of the New York Times , "jaws dropped" in academe at the announcement. Passell went on to describe Tyson as "trendy" and a "polemicist." And the addition of Princeton's Alan Blinder to the Tyson council found MIT's Paul Krugman celebrating, in print and for attribution, that Blinder would bring to the CEA "necessary analytical skills that Laura Tyson lacks." Is there a serious issue behind these attacks? Trade policy, of course, or so they say. One trade economist suggested to the Times that the Council was now to be "captured by an interest group." William Cline of the Institute for International Economics complained of the exclusion of free traders: "There's a risk a voice will be absent from the table." And Passell summarized the views of others: "Many worry that her lack of ideological commitment to free trade...

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...

Incurable Optimists:

In the status hierarchy of my profession, the Wall Street economist holds a strangely prominent role. Typically, though not always, he lacks academic standing, analytical achievement, or significant publication. Research is foreign to him; independent thought unknown. His job is mainly to get his name into the papers. At this he works exceptionally hard. And the financial pages, which in their turn exist mainly to celebrate the great financial houses, oblige. Hence the Wall Street economist has the luxury of seeing his thoughts in print, without the burden of actually, well, of actually thinking. This tribe, a year ago, was predicting up to three percent growth for 2001. They now concede that, yes, sorry to say, the economy has slowed. But, one reads, "no one saw this recession coming." And so, of course, none can blame the Wall Street economist for failing to warn of the trouble we are in. Moreover, these roosters crow in joyful chorus today. Recovery, everyone agrees, is on the...

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