Keynesianism, the Global Economy, and Responsibility

Economist Joseph Stiglitz has an op-ed out in Project Syndicate lamenting bad policies for the current economic stagnation of the West. This response comes from economist Peter Boettke, and I think it is an important and woefully neglected one:

Since 2008, and before, [Stiglitz] has been constantly complaining about neo-liberal policy and how its lack of attention to the appropriate regulatory framework and disregard for fundamental policy priorities has produced the mess we are in.  In fact, he made the argument very simply even while he was in positions of tremendous political power in the Clinton administration and at the World Bank — if only the world would listen to me, and engage in the appropriate interventions then the mess would be avoided.  But who were the so-called neo-liberals that weren’t listening to him?  What neo-liberal thinker had the same powerful positions that he held?  Did F. A. Hayek or Milton Friedman actually come back from the grave to serve as head of the CEA or as Chief Economist at the World Bank?  Or did all this disruptive inequality and global imbalance happen on the watch of other thinkers.

I think Boettke is right, but I also think both economists are wrong in a sense, too. First of all, global poverty over the past twenty years or so has been halved thanks to the very neoliberal policies that both economists are disagreeing about, and that both economists have more or less endorsed. With this important, praiseworthy accomplishment in mind, why would these guys want to spend so much time pointing fingers at each other?

I know why they are pointing fingers (because of the terrible shape that Western economies are in), but I am a little baffled at the audacity of Stiglitz and other Keynesians who have held the levers of power for sixty years to point the finger at something other than themselves.

Really quickly: Some of might ask why Boettke and Stiglitz agree on neoliberalism abroad and disagree on policy at home. My short answer would be because the West already has the institutions (property rights, other individual rights, etc.) that economists have identified as necessary for a market order, so their debates about policy occur within the same theoretical framework. Post-colonial states (“developing states”) have virtually none of the institutions that the West, and so it easy for economists with different theoretical paradigms to agree on generalities concerning these developing countries (“they need to open up to world trade and focus on property rights before they do much else”). Does this make sense?

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