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James K. Galbraith

Articles by James K. Galbraith

What’s Left of Cambridge Economics?

4 days ago

AUSTIN – Diane Coyle, an economist and professor of public policy at the University of Cambridge, has set a daunting task for herself: to provide a reasoned critique of the economics discipline from an insider’s perspective, while defending mainstream economics from the harsh – and mounting – criticism leveled by outsiders.
­Regime Change in the Global Economy

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The Alchemy of Angst

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COVID Goes to Court

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Whipping Up America’s Inflation Bogeyman

November 19, 2021

Recent price increases in the US, and demands for a forceful response by the Federal Reserve, have brought back memories of the 1970s and all of the economic and political disasters of those years. To avoid repeating past mistakes, policymakers must recognize that today’s inflation is not a macroeconomic issue.

AUSTIN – The headline chosen for Harvard economist Jason Furman’s November 15 commentary in the Wall Street Journal was both apt and sad. It was apt, because it repurposed then-President Gerald Ford’s “Whip Inflation Now” slogan from 1974, and sad because Furman’s advice comes straight from that era – and because his prescriptions could reprise the economic and political disasters of those years.

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A Casablanca for Conservatives

November 12, 2021

Conservative academics are decamping from their positions at top American universities to escape the ravages of wokeness and cancel culture. At the new University of Austin, progressives will no longer call the shots – donors will.

AUSTIN – Pity the academic conservative. Having enjoyed tenure at Harvard University, the London School of Economics, and New York University, and now a steady gig at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, the historian Niall Ferguson now plays the victim. He will soon decamp, he lets us imagine, to “a new kind of university – the University of Austin.”
A Casablanca for Conservatives

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The Choking of the Global Minotaur

November 11, 2021

The supply disruptions plaguing the US economy are not the result of "excessive demand," "central planning," or a lack of efficiency. Rather, it is that a logistics ecosystem that was developed to feed the beast of American consumption was not designed for a pandemic.

AUSTIN – A supply chain is like a Rorschach Test: each economic analyst sees in it a pattern reflecting his or her own preconceptions. This may be inevitable, since everyone is a product of differing educations, backgrounds, and prejudices. But some observed patterns are more plausible than others.
A Casablanca for Conservatives

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The JFK Cover-Up Strikes Again

October 27, 2021

By blocking the release of all documents concerning the Kennedy assassination, US President Joe Biden has continued what is now something of a White House tradition. It is no wonder that most Americans believe that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone.

AUSTIN – Brood with me on the latest delay of the full release of the records pertaining to the murder of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. That was 58 years ago. More time has passed since October 26, 1992, when Congress mandated the full and immediate release of almost all the JFK assassination records, than had elapsed between the killing and the passage of that law.
To Support Climate Efforts, Support Mayors

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Afghanistan Was Always About American Politics

August 20, 2021

Since day one, America’s disastrous and costly two-decade misadventure in Afghanistan was driven by domestic electoral politics. Now that the Taliban has driven out the United States, the calculus has changed for American politicians, who stand to benefit from focusing on the real threats facing the country.

TOWNSHEND, VT – Now that so many sad truths about Afghanistan are being spoken aloud, even in the major media – let me add one more: The war, from start to finish, was about politics, not in Afghanistan but in the United States.
Pax Americana Died in Kabul

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When America Remade the World Economy

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Dismal Economics

July 23, 2021

Although neoclassical economics relies on assumptions that should have been discarded long ago, it remains the mainstream orthodoxy. Three recent books, and one older one, help to show why its staying power should be regarded as a scandal.

Mason Gaffney and Fred Harrison, The Corruption of Economics, Shepheard-Walwyn Publishers Ltd., 2006 (first published 1994).Stephen A. Marglin, Raising Keynes: A Twenty-First-Century General Theory, Harvard University Press, 2021.Alessandro Roncaglia, The Age of Fragmentation: A History of Contemporary Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, 2019.Robert Skidelsky, What’s Wrong with Economics?: A Primer for the Perplexed, Yale University Press, 2020. AUSTIN – Self-regarding

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The G7 Vaccine Charade

June 23, 2021

The US and Europe are offering low- and middle-income countries crumbs, so that they can protect their billionaires, their pharmaceutical lobbies, and their campaign contributions. This has created an opening for China and Russia – and both are rushing into the breach.

AUSTIN – In a recent essay on Samantha Power, President Joe Biden’s new administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times writes – correctly – that Power’s “first big test … lies in what America does to help vaccinate the rest of the world against COVID-19.” And Power herself is quoted as saying that, “It’s about a very, very tangible, results-oriented agenda.”
The End

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The Deeper Anxieties of the Inflation Hawks

June 3, 2021

Following an increase in consumer prices during the first quarter of the year, commentators who were already wringing their hands about inflation have now doubled down on their position. But the economic arguments used to justify such fears simply do not stand up to scrutiny.

AUSTIN – In a recent commentary for The Washington Post, former US Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence H. Summers stated that “the consumer price index rose at a 7.5 percent annual rate” in the first quarter of 2021. I could not reproduce this number from the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI-U website, which reports a year-on-year increase (April 2020-April 2021) of 4.2%, driven largely by a sharp 49.6% rebound in gasoline prices from their pandemic crash.

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Will the American Jobs Plan Remake the US Economy?

April 27, 2021

US President Joe Biden’s public-investment proposal is undoubtedly ambitious – and highly controversial. But it may also be the key to putting the US economy on the path toward a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future.

Elmira Bayrasli: Welcome to Opinion Has It. I’m Elmira Bayrasli. Last month, US President Joe Biden signed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill into law.Archive Recording, President Joe Biden: The crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight and there’s no time to waste. We have to act and we have to act now.EB: The so-called American Rescue Plan was one of the biggest stimulus packages in history, and it enjoyed strong popular support.Archive Recording:

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China Is Missing from the Great Inflation Debate

March 31, 2021

Once again, massive fiscal spending in the United States has invited warnings of inflation and triggered dark memories of the 1970s. But these fears are based on a model that has since been obliterated by economic realities – not least the rise of China, which has fundamentally reshaped the US and global economies.

AUSTIN – The scale of US President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) – $1 trillion in spending for this year, another $900 billion after that, plus a $3 trillion infrastructure and energy program that has been promised – has spooked many macroeconomists. Are their fears justified?

The End of the Oil Age

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Texas Froze by Design

February 22, 2021

In 2002, under Governor Rick Perry, Texas deregulated its electricity system and established a free market, managed by a non-profit entity, with roughly 70 providers. But while the new system worked most of the time, people need electricity all the time.

AUSTIN – Harvard Kennedy School’s William Hogan is credited with designing the Texas energy market. As Texans froze and their water pipes burst, he reportedly remarked that the state’s energy market has functioned as designed.

No Time to Waste

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John Keatley 
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Growth Is Not Enough

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Biden’s Grand Opening

January 27, 2021

With an economic rescue plan that is both ambitious and well targeted, US President Joe Biden and his team have demonstrated a clear understanding of the scale and range of action that the current situation requires. A broader reconstruction plan can and must come later; but crisis management remains the order of the day.

AUSTIN – In the space of less than three months, events have conspired to transform the American political scene. First, the COVID-19 pandemic defeated Donald Trump – not because public sentiment in this deeply polarized country changed, but rather because the virus forced open the gates of ballot access. Owing to a vast upsurge of early voting and mail-in ballots, the 2020 election’s turnout

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Who’s Afraid of MMT?

December 23, 2020

It is not surprising that current and retired central bankers feel threatened by Modern Monetary Theory. With deep roots in the Keynesian tradition and a consistent commitment to achieving full employment, MMT shows that good economics and sound policy doesn’t have to be shrouded in obscurantist cant.

AUSTIN – As anyone who has ever been responsible for legislative oversight of central bankers knows, they do not like to have their authority challenged. Most of all, they will defend their mystique – that magical aura that hovers over their words, shrouding a slushy mix of banality and baloney in a mist of power and jargon.

PS Commentators’ Best Reads in 2020

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An Interview with James K. Galbraith

November 17, 2020

This week in Say More, PS talks with James K. Galbraith, Professor of Government and Chair in Government/Business Relations at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Project Syndicate: In March, when the COVID-19 crisis was just beginning in the United States, you noted that, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the country responded quickly and resolutely. You argued that, when it came to the pandemic, “there [was] not a moment to lose” in mounting a similar all-of-society response. By the time Joe Biden takes office, the US will have lost nearly ten months. Will it be too late for an effective response?James K. Galbraith: The success of public-health policies in

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The Roots of American Misery

September 18, 2020

Among recent inquiries into the sources of American discontent, one finds many simplistic diagnoses based on dubious cliches, but also deep insights that look beyond headline economic indicators and conventional wisdom. And yet analyses that address root causes and offer meaningful solutions remain few and far between.

Robert D. Putnam (with Shaylyn Romney Garrett), The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How we Can Do It Again, Simon & Schuster, 2020.Michael J. Sandel, The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020.Anne Case and Angus Deaton, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, Princeton University Press, 2020.TOWNSHEND, VERMONT – ’Tis a season

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The Illusion of a Rapid US Recovery

June 9, 2020

America’s economy – based on global demand for advanced goods,
consumer demand for frills, and ever-growing household and business
debts – was in many ways prosperous. But it was a house of cards, and COVID-19 has blown it

AUSTIN – As protests roil the United States, the country’s center-left economists gaze brightly into their crystal balls. Harvard’s Jason Furman, formerly chair of US President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, has warned Democrats – eager to defeat President Donald Trump in the November election – that “the best economic data … in the history of this country” will emerge just before voters head to the polls. Paul Krugman is likewise predicting a “fast recovery.” The

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How America Can Beat COVID-19

March 4, 2020

Compared to a world war, the COVID-19 epidemic is a fairly manageable problem, provided that the US government can rise to the challenge. But without a mass mobilization to secure critical supplies and prevent a panic, the crisis could easily spin out of control.

AUSTIN – When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States was surprised and unprepared, but it was quickly freed of its illusions. The same does not hold true for the COVID-19 epidemic. The attack is underway and our defenses are down – but so far our illusions remain intact.
Solidarity Now

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When China

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What if Bernie Wins?

January 31, 2020

After creating a massive movement of younger Americans in the 2016 Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders can no longer be ignored. The democratic socialist US senator from Vermont has offered a comprehensive economic-policy program that has already expanded the public’s notion of the possible.

AUSTIN – US Senator Bernie Sanders has emerged as a plausible Democratic nominee for president in 2020. This has been clear for some time to those paying attention to his organization and fundraising, and to the sequence of the early primaries, where small states (New Hampshire) favor him by geography and large ones (California) favor him by name recognition. The New York Times, Politico, and quotable Democratic Party insiders all now admit

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The Next Great Transformation

November 8, 2019

The world’s ability to manage global crises such as climate change depends on our ability to achieve broad-based economic prosperity and stability. Unfortunately, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that policymakers and the economists on whom they rely have completely misread current macroeconomic trends.

AUSTIN – Two great specters loom over humankind. One is rapid extinction following a full-scale nuclear war, or a poisoned planet following a more limited one – a point made by the great physicist Andrei Sakharov in his day. The other specter is the slower extinction that would follow from runaway global warming. Getting ahead of that threat requires the largest effort of planning, investment, public

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The Unsustainability of Inequality

August 23, 2019

Rising inequality is symptomatic of a wide range of economic and political problems that are standing in the way of achieving a just and sustainable society. But for all the concern about the income and wealth gap within countries in recent years, there has been surprisingly little acknowledgement of the forces actually driving the trend.

AUSTIN – “Sustainability” is a relatively new organizing principle in global policy. It is new partly because economists have long been largely hostile to the very idea. Postwar neoclassical growth theories deliberately ignored resource and environmental limits, disparaged and disdained ecologists, and promised what was effectively impossible: perpetual growth fueled by

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Capitalism’s Great Reckoning

April 19, 2019

As the maladies of modern capitalism have multiplied, fundamental questions about the future of the world’s dominant economic model have become impossible to ignore. But in the absence of viable alternatives, the question is how to reform a system that is increasingly at odds with democracy.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent, W.W. Norton, New York; Allen Lane, London, 2019.Paul Collier, The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties, Harper, New York; Allen Lane, London, 2018.Branko Milanovic, Capitalism, Alone: The Future of the System That Rules the World, Belknap Press, Cambridge, 2019 (forthcoming).AUSTIN, TEXAS – What fate awaits capitalism, and

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Modern Monetary Realism

March 15, 2019

Kenneth Rogoff’s criticism of Modern Monetary Theory assumes that MMT advocates don’t care about budget deficits or the independence of the US Federal Reserve. But these assumptions are wide of the mark, and Rogoff himself sometimes undermines his own arguments.

AUSTIN – Is Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) a potential boon to economic policymakers, or, as Harvard’s Kenneth Rogoff recently argued, a threat to “the entire global financial system” and the front line of the “next battle for central-bank independence”? For Rogoff, the threat seems to stem partly from the fear that MMT adherents may come to power in the United States in the 2020 elections. But he also makes several substantive arguments, common to many critics of the MMT

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What Trump’s Tax Cut Really Means for the US Economy

January 19, 2018

Republicans and the Trump administration have promised that the tax legislation enacted in December will boost investment and the rate of GDP growth over the long term. But the new law is likely to do neither, because it is based on flawed assumptions and contains a raft of self-defeating provisions.
AUSTIN – The Trump administration’s stated economic-policy objective is to increase growth in the United States from the post-financial-crisis rate of around 2% to at least 3%. In historical terms, achieving such growth is not out of the question. Real (inflation-adjusted) GDP growth exceeded 3% in 2005-2006 and 4% in the period from 1997 to 2000; and in each of the past two quarters, the economy has grown at an annualized rate above 3%. The question is whether that pace can

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