Speech to the Boston Meeting of the Economists for Peace and Security (EPS)

Historians and economists see the world in a different way. Economists tend to see progress in terms of the linear ascent of reason. Historians tend to see progress as an ascent through disaster.

This year’s theme of EPS is the avoidance of a second cold war. It’s a very urgent and necessary topic, for on its achievement rest our hopes for peace and security in the post-communist era.

And by peace – to bring in an economic consideration – I mean a peace dividend – the end of the insane expenditure on armaments, which is the only exception our rulers allow to fiscal austerity.

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Panel Discussion at the Boston Meeting of Economists for Peace and Security (EPS), 4 January 2015

A couple of months ago, at Sochi on the Black Sea, I put the following question to Vladimir Putin:

Would you not accept that your biggest failure since you became President in 2000 has been your failure to diversify the Russian economy? Russia has dismantled the old Soviet industrial system without finding a hard currency replacement. Its economy is dependent on oil exports and is dangerously vulnerable to any fall in the oil price. What do you propose to do to make Russia an attractive place for Russians to invest in and not buy up real estate in London, sending house prices to insane levels?

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Comment on the Wincott Lecture

On 13th November Martin Wolf gave the 2013 Wincott Lecture. Robert Skidelsky provided the comment. You can read Martin Wolf’s lecture, and access charts for this comment, at http://www.wincott.co.uk/lectures/2013

I propose to comment on Martin’s excellent lecture under three heads which all point to the central issue of how sustainable is the welcome recovery now taking place.

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Keynes, Hobson, Marx


President Lyndon Johnson asked John Kenneth Galbraith to write him a speech on economic policy. After glancing at it LBJ said ‘You know Ken, the trouble with economics is it’s like peeing in your pants. It feels hot to you, but leaves everyone else cold’.

I felt a lot of sympathy with LBJ this afternoon when I listened to a couple of clever mathematicians having a lot of fun with their equations. I thought they were having too much fun – as economists! Good economists should not enjoy maths too much. Whenever they are tempted to show off, they should ask themselves: ‘Is this really necessary? Does it help tell the story I want to tell?’

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Keynes for the 21st century, Renner Institute

Vienna, 18th March 2011

I am deeply honoured by the invitation of the Renner Institute to address you this evening at the conclusion of the conference on Austro-Keynesianism.


‘When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?’ Keynes is supposed to have said, but almost certainly didn’t. This is a good text for my own sermon.

What changed my mind was the great recession of 2007-9, which stopped a few months short of becoming another Great Depression.

As Keynes’s biographer I never completely abandoned my faith in Keynes. But there was a clear hedging of bets in the last sentence of that biography, written in 2002: ’Keynes’s ideas will live so long as the world has need for them’. Well yes, but does it?

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Austerity v Stimulus

The Northern Ireland Economic Conference, Belfast


How much do people mind the deficit? Do they lie awake at night worrying about it? Do they have nightmares about it?

I tended to dismiss such thoughts as fanciful. Households and businesses, I thought, naturally worried about their own budgets, but not about the government’s budget.

I therefore tended to assume that the government had enough freedom over its own budget to do what it thought best for the country, without coming under undue popular pressure to ‘balance its books’.

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Europe’s Debt Crisis and Implications for Policy

Keynote Speech at FT Conference in Amsterdam 

In its latest briefing note the IMF warned that world growth would slow in the second half of 2010 and the first half of 2011. Meanwhile the cost of Greek government debt has shot up again, despite the ECB rescue-package, and the IMF will soon inject another 2.5bn euros into the Greek economy. Finally, European trade unions are planning a winter of protest against cuts. These are just the latest glimpses of what is happening in the world economy.

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