Richard Parker

Richard Parker is the author of John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics. He teaches at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Recent Articles

A General Theory of Keynes

John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Freedom, 1937-1946 By Robert Skidelsky, Viking, 580 pages, $34.95. J ohn Maynard Keynes was an economist, a policy adviser to the British government (and, at times, a coruscating critic), an influential figure in the Liberal Party, an intimate member of the Bloomsbury Group, a prolific journalist of opinion, a patron of the arts, a gentleman farmer, a wealthy investor, a prominent business executive, a fixture of Cambridge University's intellectual life, and a homosexual who, in his early forties, married a Russian ballerina and lived thereafter (by all accounts) a deeply fulfilling life with her. In vividly portraying that very complexity, biographer Robert Skidelsky has given us a great gift and has enriched our knowledge of the varieties and subtleties of Keynes's genius. In three definitive volumes crafted over two decades, Skidelsky has become the master of Keynes's life, a life made all the more extraordinary because it spanned seven...

Progressive Politics and, uh, ...God

When I tell politically progressive friends that I've started teaching a course at Harvard about religion's impact on American politics and public policy, I usually face one of two responses. The first is an awkward silence--and a quick change of subject. The second is also awkward but comes with an anxiously knowing, usually sotto voce, "So you're doing abortion and the Christian right--that sort of thing, yes?" When I explain that, no, in fact I'm devoting only a week of the course to the religious right and that I barely mention abortion, it's usually back to awkward silence again--and the search for a new subject. In the right mood, I'm sympathetic to my friends' reactions. After all, what comes to mind when someone mentions religion and politics nowadays? Aren't Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Gary Bauer, anti-abortion picketers, and antigay marchers probably the first images? Or is it perhaps Bill Clinton, lachrymose at a Washington prayer...

Screening a La Carte

Instead of a single TV rating system, why not let the PTA and the Christian Coalition -- and anyone else -- create their own?

I n a culture that is seen to be spinning out of control, the V-chip has generated an extraordinary alliance across conventional class and political lines, from the Christian right to progressive media reformers, and in Congress, from conservative Senator John McCain to liberal Congressman Ed Markey. According to a New York Times poll from last February, more than 80 percent of parents say they consider the V-chip (or something like it) an indispensable part of their families' information age future. To its most ardent proponents, the V-chip is a technological Statue of Liberty, the shining light that will help lead parents back to control over the morass that commercial television has become. To its opponents, it's rather less than that: one more example of the quick-fix gizmo worship to which Americans have long been prone. Worse, it's potentially a fundamental threat to civil liberties, part of a new and unwelcome Big Brotherism sweeping the country. But like it or not, the V-chip...

Can Economists Save Economics?

Economics is what economists do. --Jacob Viner T he trouble with Professor Viner's delicate evasion is that economists no longer agree about what they do, or even whether it is all worth doing. Critics outside the profession long faulted economists for a host of sins: their deductive method, their formalism, their over-reliance on arcane algebra, their imperviousness to complex evidence, the bald inconsistency of different facets of the economic paradigm. What's new--after decades of steadfast resistance--is that these same concerns have begun to bother the profession too. As mainstream economics over the past two decades has splintered into openly warring camps, the profession has found it ever harder to sustain its long-held claim to be "queen of the social sciences." That claim is based on economists' insistence on speaking, especially since World War II, in the seemingly precise idiom of mathematics. George Stigler, a leader of the Chicago School, once rather nastily claimed that...

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