Robert Skidelsky
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Recent Articles

The Sino-Russian Marriage
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Friday, June 19, 2015

 
LONDON – The Chinese are the most historically minded of peoples. In his conquest of power, Mao Zedong used military tactics derived from Sun Tzu, who lived around 500 BC; Confucianism, dating from around the same time, remains at the heart of China’s social thinking, despite Mao’s ruthless attempts to suppress it.
 
So when President Xi Jinping launched his “New Silk Road” initiative in 2013, no one should have been surprised by the historical reference. “More than two millennia ago,” explains China’s National Development and Reform Commission, “the diligent and courageous people of Eurasia explored and opened up several routes of trade and cultural exchanges that linked the major civilisations of Asia, Europe, and Africa, collectively

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Niall Ferguson’s Wishful Thinking
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Friday, May 29, 2015

 
LONDON – Niall Ferguson begins his rejoinder to my rejoinder to his interpretation of the results of the United Kingdom’s recent general election by citing an apocryphal Keynes quote: “If the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?” But should the fact that the British economy grew last year by 2.6% have caused Keynesians to change their minds? Would it have caused Keynes to rewrite his General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money?
 
Ferguson seems to think so. I do not.
 
Keynes never thought that an economy, felled by a shock, would remain on the floor. There would always be some rebound, regardless of government policy. What he emphasized was the “time-element” in the cycle. With depressed profit expectations, an

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No Pain, No Gain for Britain?
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Friday, May 15, 2015

 
LONDON – The economic historian Niall Ferguson reminds me of the late Oxford University historian, A.J.P. Taylor. Though Taylor maintained that he tried to tell the truth in his historical writing, he was quite ready to spin the facts for a good cause. Ferguson, too, is a wonderful historian – but like Taylor, his political arguments are heavily spun.
 
Ferguson’s cause is American neo-conservatism, coupled with a relentless aversion to Keynes and Keynesians. His latest defense of fiscal austerity came immediately after the United Kingdom’s recent election, when he wrote in the Financial Times that, “Labour should blame Keynes for their defeat.”
 
Ferguson’s argument amounts to that of a brutal disciplinarian who claims vindication for

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On reasoning uncontaminated by facts
Robert Skidesky
Thursday, May 07, 2015

 
 The following thoughts may be of no interest to anyone but myself, but I venture them in the hope of getting a comment or two. The proposition 1+1=2 presents itself to the mind as a necessary truth. In the older language it used to be called an a priori truth - that is, prior to any experience. It seems absurd to imagine our primitive ancestors reaching it by arranging pebbles on a beach. The idea of counting itself had to be present, as well as the desire for some beautiful or useful way of arranging things.
 
Similarly, we do not learn of the mathematically expected result of tossing a coin (50:50) by repeated experiments. In fact, people have tried this and found that their repeated tossings never led to the mathematically expected

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Spin and Over-Spending
Robert Skidesky
Friday, May 01, 2015

 
 The scorn which greeted Ed Milliband's denial at yesterday's leaders' debate that the last Labour government had 'overspent' shows how much success the Conservative ‘overspending’ narrative has had. Miliband said Labour had built or repaired hundreds of schools and hospitals; that the public accounts had been derailed not by overspending but by the financial crisis.... All quite true, but Labour's reluctance to defend its record until now has left too little time to alter the popular perception before the election.
 
Simon Wren-Lewis, writing in a special 2013 edition of the Oxford Review of Economic Policy (Volume 29, No. 1), strongly refutes the Tory assertion. In the years leading up to the crisis (1997-2007) public net debt remained

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