Robert Skidelsky
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Financial Times

Once Again We Must Ask: “Who Governs?”
Robert Skidelsky
Financial Times | Tuesday, June 15, 2010

 
 In 1974, Edward Heath asked: “Who governs – government or trade unions?” Five years later British voters delivered a final verdict by electing Margaret Thatcher. The equivalent today would be: “Who governs – government or financial markets?” No clear answer has yet been given, but the question may well define the political battleground for the next five years.
 
In one sense, next week’s emergency Budget is simply the logical working out of an intellectual theorem. The implicit premise of the coming retrenchment is that market economies are always at, or rapidly return to, full employment. It follows that a stimulus, whether fiscal or monetary, cannot improve on the existing situation. All that increased government spending does is to

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Do not rush to switch off the life support
Robert Skidelsky and Marcus Miller
Financial Times | Thursday, March 04, 2010

 
 
The fragility of the British economy in face of the Great Recession demands a rethinking not just of macroeconomic policy, but of the balance between consumption and investment, between finance and industry. In response to this challenge, George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, set out a “new economic model” in the annual Mais lecture last week. But there is little evidence of new thinking. There is no reference, for example, to what one might learn from the experience of Japan, which faced a similar “balance sheet recession” in the 1990s. Mr Osborne harks back to the old view that government is the problem not the solution – a philosophy that led to widespread financial deregulation and the current crisis.
 
Leaving aside the

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Letter to the Financial Times: First priority must be to restore robust growth
Robert Skidelsky and others
Financial Times | Thursday, February 18, 2010

 
Sir, In their letter to The Sunday Times of February 14, Professor Tim Besley and 19 co-signatories called for an accelerated programme of fiscal consolidation. We believe they are wrong.
 
There is no disagreement that fiscal consolidation will be necessary to put UK public finances back on a sustainable basis. But the timing of the measures should depend on the strength of the recovery. The Treasury has committed itself to more than halving the budget deficit by 2013-14, with most of the consolidation taking place when recovery is firmly established. In urging a faster pace of deficit reduction to reassure the financial markets, the signatories of the Sunday Times letter implicitly accept as binding the views of the same financial

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How to rebuild a shamed subject
Robert Skidelsky
Financial Times | Thursday, August 06, 2009

 
It was to be expected that our present economic traumas would call into question the state of economics. “Why did no one see the crisis coming?”, Queen Elizabeth reportedly asked one practitioner. A seminar at the British Academy tried to answer and the FT has taken up the discussion.
 
The Queen’s question is understandable, given the subject’s claims on its own behalf. Ever since modern economics started in the 18th century it has presented itself as a predictive discipline, akin to a natural science. Since the future a year ago included the present slump, it is natural that the failure of the economics profession – with a few exceptions – to foresee the coming collapse should have discredited its scientific pretensions. Economics is

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Economists clash on shifting sands
Robert Skidelsky
Financial Times | Wednesday, June 10, 2009

 
History is replete with famous intellectual battles. In the natural sciences, these have usually led to decisive victories, with good science ousting bad. There are few Ptolemaic astronomers left, or believers in the phlogiston theory of combustion. In the social sciences, the situation is different. There have been famous battles galore, but no decisive victories. Indeed, it is characteristic of the social sciences that their battles are interminable, temporary defeats being followed by the regrouping of the defeated forces for a renewed assault.
 
That economics is not a natural science is clear from the inconclusive engagements that have punctuated its own history. A hundred years ago the classical theory reigned supreme. This

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