This follows an argument that the blame for the depth, if not the occurrence, of the Great Depression can be laid at the door of the Federal Reserve System. On the international side, he wants a floating exchange rate and free trade. Where many people part company with Professor Friedman is in his notion that all people who are neither children nor insane are responsible. A little experience of social problems would teach him that the dividing line is blurred.
Hence the idea of helping the unfortunate only by a negative income tax is too simple, even if it could be done on a weekly basis a problem he ignores.
Even those liberals who agree with him that one cannot be both a liberal and an egalitarian will feel that prisons, asylums and cash are insufficient to look after the poor and weak. Professor Friedman does not really face this issue. But although this omission mars the book, it does not invalidate what is there; the rest must be judged on its very considerable merits. Over the three years of what was known as the Transglobe Expedition, they would struggle against high seas in the Roaring Forties, evade hungry polar bears, negotiate mountainous sand dunes and forbidding jungles.
A Passion for Economics: An Interview with Richard K. Vedder
There was another danger, more insidious and less photogenic than any of these, but which nonetheless posed a threat to their endeavour—boredom. This was to be particularly acute in Antarctica, where, after traversing Africa, the group was obliged to spend months huddled in icy darkness. Sir Ranulph Fiennes and the team he had assembled undertook their journey in a much less technological age. Nor were there any Kindles. Fortified by this reserve, the team undertook two adventures at once—one of the body and one on the page, both involving extreme conditions, endless vistas and unsettling claustrophobia.
Both laid bare the personalities of the participants, and both left their marks. The plan for Antarctica was to spend the first brief summer getting the main group—Sir Ranulph, Ginny and two former members of the SAS, Charlie Burton and Oliver Shepard—up onto the lofty Antarctic Plateau, where they would wait out the eight-month polar winter before embarking on their crossing of the continent in the spring.
They succeeded in establishing themselves on the 3,metre-high ice shelf. But there was time for reading, and we read a lot. For his part, Burton requested a boxful of Westerns. Before the expedition he had worked in the wine trade; he now lives in France. His preference was for an epic tale of adventure, played out against a hostile and perilous landscape.
Ginny Fiennes died in , Burton in At least the main expedition crew was partly occupied by anticipation of the polar crossing. The team had also established another camp, just inland from the ice-packed Southern Ocean. There two young men, Anto Birkbeck and Simon Grimes, were to guard the fuel and food supplies that would be airlifted to Sir Ranulph and his colleagues when winter was over.
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At the time Mr Birkbeck, who is now a fund manager, was just 22 and straight out of university; he leapt at the chance of spending an exotic winter in the polar darkness. He and Mr Grimes, who had never met before they set out, were crammed into an even smaller hut than their counterparts on the plateau. There were two desks, two bunks and over books. These were abnormal—and, it turned out, risky—circumstances. Mr Birkbeck started off with a clear plan for his days: an hour of physical exercise in the morning, followed by an hour of physics, an hour of Spanish study and then an hour reading poetry.
The rest of the day would be spent with a novel.
I started getting up at midday and just reading a novel until bedtime. As well as the poetry Chaucer, Milton, T. And, almost fatefully, he read Dostoyevsky. In his memory, the events of that day are now murky. At the same time he was pondering the question of whether good and evil truly exist. Over the years the two feats involved, one mental and one physical, each formative in its own way, have come to chime and blur. On pavements where Soviet workers once tramped to shifts at the Uralmash heavy-machinery plant, babushkas now lay out their wares: apples, mushrooms, smoked fish.
Although the area has recovered from the organised crime that plagued it in the s—earning the city the sobriquet, the Chicago of the Urals—most of the buildings on First Five-Year Plan Square in the centre of the district stand empty or underused. The square is an unlikely place for a clash between contemporary artists and Orthodox believers. But this summer it staged a drama involving accusations of blasphemy, threats of bloodshed and an intervention by the security services. The conflict was ignited by a piece of street art inspired by the Russian avant-garde of a century ago.
Unusually for a divided country and bellicose times, the combatants eventually resolved their dispute.
Seth Godin: Make things worth talking about
The cross was among its principal motifs. That path was blocked two weeks later, when workmen arrived and poured a rectangle of asphalt across the centre of the piece. Either way, the botch made national news, and brought the work to the attention of a small but vocal group of Orthodox believers, who considered the design blasphemous. Ms Ivanova says she understands it perfectly; but she objected to the cross. In a reversal of their habitual bias in favour of traditionalists, security-service agents offered the festival team their support to deal with the threats.
Local officials stepped in to mediate. Conflict between Russian conservatives and liberals is common. In Yekaterinburg thousands of people took to the streets this spring to protest against plans to build a church over a popular park, eventually leading authorities to find a new location for the building. Artists who confront the devout have typically fared badly. In the years since, the head of a regional opera house was sacked after the church took against one of his productions of Wagner, exhibitions have been attacked and theatres picketed.
Such stand-offs rarely end in compromise. But the festival organiser takes a sober view of whether the case could serve as a model for dialogue in an increasingly polarised society. They pick candidates because they like them, and feel they care.
Skilful politicians know how to deploy policy to signal affinity between themselves and their audience. As well as liking and aligning with candidates, ideally voters should feel they know them well, too. Political-campaign books are a sign of seriousness to activists and donors. In the best ones, candidates tell voters what they think, who they are, where they come from and what they want to do in office.
Rallies, debates and adverts reach more people, but books give politicians space. They can introduce themselves and their ideas without interruption and at length. These works all follow certain conventions: parents and teachers are praised, every remembered interaction offers a lasting lesson, obstacles are overcome and doubters vanquished. But each is also an artefact of the candidacy it promotes. Most candidates edit and present their earliest memories. Not Mr Sanders. In passing readers learn that he has children, grandchildren and a brother, and that he first ran for the Senate as a third-party candidate in In his world there are no individuals, just victims of malign historical forces that must be defeated through revolution.
Readers will learn nothing about him that they did not already know. That itself tells them something valuable: like President Trump, Mr Sanders is a factional candidate uninterested in expanding his base. He will happily accept more votes, but from people whose eyes have become unscaled. The grubby business of persuasion and compromise is beneath him. It is not an endorsement of her policies to note that she is conspicuously better than any other candidate at explaining why she favours them, and why they matter to ordinary people. She has a rationale for running: she wants to rebuild the American middle class by reviving New Deal regulations and adding more.
She turns her upbringing into a discourse on wage stagnation. Gina, a woman Ms Warren met soon after she began writing her book, exemplifies the struggles of middle-class Americans. But if Democratic primary voters decide they want a fighter rather than a conciliator or sloganeer, she might be the choice. The other front-runner, Joe Biden, leads with his heart.
Mr Biden has suffered terrible loss: when he was 30, just weeks after he was first elected as a senator, his wife and infant daughter died in a car crash. Ms Harris is for all the good things and against all the bad ones. Her fellow ex-prosecutor, Amy Klobuchar, has produced a much stranger book. And indeed, Ms Klobuchar did have a modest upbringing.
Yet her prose seems most alive when she is listing the impressive jobs held by her friends or rehashing old grievances. Readers will learn the names of the school principal who sent her home in fourth grade for wearing trousers, of the neighbours who failed to chain their scary dog and of a teacher who predicted an average future because young Amy coloured in a bunch of grapes poorly.
He seems to lack ruthlessness, which speaks well of him as a man but less so as a contender. By Binyamin Appelbaum. They were best kept down with the surplus furniture and the rats. Despite the clout of a few individuals such as John Maynard Keynes, economists as a class were once held in almost universally low esteem by serious policymakers, who saw them as trumped-up statisticians with strange views about human behaviour. But in the decades after the second world war, the profession clawed its way out of the basement and up to extraordinary influence.
The rise was made possible by charismatic intellectuals such as Milton Friedman, who in that era spotted the chance to nudge history in their preferred direction. For nearly half a century rumpled theorists held the ear of politicians around the world. Their period of triumph ended in a fog of financial crisis, economic conflict and resurgent nationalism. His is a respected voice in American journalism. Now an editorial writer at the New York Times , he spent nearly a decade covering economics and economic policy in Washington. It is a well reported and researched history of the ways in which plucky economists helped rewrite policy in America and Europe and across emerging markets.
Some of the stories Mr Appelbaum tells will be unfamiliar. He describes how economists inspired by Friedman persuaded Richard Nixon to abandon military conscription in favour of all-volunteer armed forces. The draft misused resources, they argued, by pressing into service young people whose skills might be better applied elsewhere.
The Pentagon might actually save money by relying solely on volunteers, thanks to reduced turnover and thus lower training costs. Nixon had his own reasons for ending conscription. But the economists helped make up his mind. And they managed to undercut an age-old American scepticism of big business. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, America had reined in the behemoths built by robber barons.
In the s economists were second-class citizens in the antitrust division of the Department of Justice. He became a mentor to Richard Posner, a legal scholar and later a judge, who promoted the notion that justice in the law meant no more and no less than economic efficiency. They and their disciples worked to turn legal attitudes to antitrust on their head, allowing decades of corporate concentration and increasing market power.
That is not the half of it. Economists helped engineer a wave of deregulation from the s to the s, and provided the intellectual case for tax cuts from the s to the s much of which this newspaper applauded. All this yielded many benefits: deregulating airlines, to take just one example, made flights cheaper and more accessible. But overall growth never rose as some promised. Inequality widened.
THE PASSIONATE ECONOMIST: Finding the Power and Humanity Behind the Numbers
Workers and communities increasingly lost out to firms. Economists are proud of their role in the defeat of double-digit inflation in the early s. Yet the recessions stoked by monetarism did immense harm. Unemployment soared, and many manufacturing towns hurt by appreciating currencies never recovered. Economists are often quick to dismiss the possibility that inflation might eventually have fallen on its own, as the effects of high oil prices and elevated defence spending abated.
Could a band of social scientists really wreak so much havoc? Free-market economists received financial support from business leaders who were more passionate about reducing tax and regulation than about high-minded research. Joseph Coors, a beer magnate, created the Heritage Foundation as a sort of public-relations firm for capitalism. It was soon publishing economists with friendly messages. Still, the part played by others does not get the economists off the hook.
Many of assorted political persuasions laboured quietly to produce valuable research. Too many were too impressed with their own intelligence to consider the unintended consequences of their policies. Too few reflected on the implications of the politics that allowed them to enact their ideas. Often, their theories operated on the assumption that the self-interested actions of the rich would benefit everyone, even as those self-interested rich used the same economists to pursue their own agenda.
But, in an age of nativism and protectionism, other ways of seeing the world now predominate. It may be some time before the dismal science gets a chance to set things right. Joe Country. By Mick Herron. Their jaundiced characters are the anti-heroes Brexit-era Britain deserves. Yet few contemporary British writers possess keener antennae for the background hum of public affairs. From their origins a century ago, in the era of John Buchan and Somerset Maugham, British spy novels have held up a cracked and smudged mirror to their times. He leavens this sardonic disenchantment with a dark seam of comedy, in meticulously sculpted prose.
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For his part, Mr Herron thinks of himself as an outsider in the world of espionage. Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, he studied in Oxford and stayed there, working as an editor for a London legal publisher.
Talk on the Wild Side – The Economist Store & Economist Diaries
Quotes from The Economists' Hour. What's Inside. Reader Reviews. Much of the territory it covers was familiar to me, but I was constantly learning new twists and nuances. The Economists' Hour is a reminder of the power of ideas to shape the course of history. It's totally, totally fascinating.
As he shows, economists were treated as little more than backroom statisticians until the late s Appelbaum argues that their heyday ended on October 13 , when the chief executives of America's largest banks were marched into the US Treasury for a crisis meeting. He is surely correct. The mother of all Wall Street bailouts shattered the reputation economics had gained over the previous 40 years. Yet economists' hubris lingers. Perhaps it is a lagging indicator. Economists might call it "sticky".
It's not that we don't need economists and economic theory, but The Economist's Hour patiently reveals the many times and multiple ways they've had an outsized influence at key times and have steered us wrong. It's a fascinating analysis.
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