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

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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How Much Is Enough? – a speech at the Bruno Kreisky Forum, October 2013

When we experience a great shock – when our world, the world – goes off an unpleasant, unforeseen tangent – it is natural to try to interrogate our situation. Why did it happen? What were we doing wrong? Perhaps we were on the wrong track?

We also search for new wisdom from half-forgotten fragments of old wisdom. Our own book, the book my son Edward and I wrote called How Much is Enough? started from exactly such an interrogation.

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Leveson Inquiry

Leveson Inquiry Speech, Friday 11th January 2013

My Lords, almost everything that there is to say has already been said, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, so I will just concentrate on two points. First, there is the ingenuity of Leveson, which recognises that voluntary self-regulation via the almost toothless Press Complaints Commission has run its course. Therefore, any successor system of self-regulation needs to give confidence that it will not be toothless – hence the need for legislation to guarantee the teeth. I think that is the main thrust.

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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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Russia in the World

Speech at EBRD Business Forum, May 21st 2007

Russia’s integration into the world economy has been based on energy. Energy is predominant both in its domestic economy and foreign trade. In 2006, oil and gas made up 40% of GDP, and 60% of Russia’s exports. Since 2000 rising oil export revenues have been the main driver of GDP growth, as the price of Urals oil rose from below $10 a barrel to over $60.

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