Robert Skidelsky
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Project Syndicate "Against the Current"

The Fall of the House of Samuelson
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Thursday, January 22, 2015

 
To read The Samuelson Sampler in the shadow of the Great Recession is to gain a glimpse into the mindset of a bygone era. The sample is of the late Paul Samuelson’s weekly columns for the magazine Newsweek from 1966-1973.
 
Samuelson, a Nobel laureate, was the doyen of American economists: his famous textbook, Economics went through 14 editions in its author’s lifetime, introducing future economists worldwide to the rudiments of their craft. If not the sole originator, he was the great popularizer of the “neoclassical synthesis” – the mix of neoclassical and Keynesian economics that defined the mainstream of the field for 50 years.
 
Samuelson was a convinced Keynesian, though in a limited sense. He dismissed most of Keynes’s attack on

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Philosopher Kings Versus Philosopher Presidents
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Wednesday, November 19, 2014

 
When I recently met Irish President Michael Higgins – sharing a platform for a speech in which he connected his newly launched “ethics initiative” to a book I co-wrote with my son, How Much is Enough? Money and the Good Life – I was struck by his devotion to thought. Indeed, engaging with ideas is a passion for Ireland’s poet-president – one that more heads of states should take up.
 
Last May, Higgins told economics students at the University of Chicago that they were studying a deformed discipline, torn from its ethical and philosophical roots. “The recent economic and financial upheavals,” he declared, “have thrown a glaring light on the shortcomings of the intellectual tools provided by mainstream economics and its key assumptions

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Vanguard Scotland?
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Tuesday, September 16, 2014

 
Since I believe that the Scots are sensible, I think that they will vote “no” this week to independence. But, whichever way the vote goes, the spectacular rise of nationalism, in Scotland and elsewhere in Europe, is a symptom of a diseased political mainstream.
 
Many are now convinced that the current way of organizing our affairs does not deserve such unquestioning allegiance; that the political system has closed down serious debate on economic and social alternatives; that banks and oligarchs rule; and that democracy is a sham. Nationalism promises an escape from the discipline of “sensible” alternatives that turn out to offer no alternative.
 
Nationalists can be divided into two main groups: those who genuinely believe that

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Endgame for Putin in Ukraine?
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Tuesday, August 26, 2014

 
Vladimir Putin may (or may not) enjoy 80% public support in Russia for his Ukraine policy; but it has become increasingly clear that he has bitten off more than he can chew. The question is: At what point will his position as President become untenable?
 
Leave to one side the moral and geopolitical background of the Ukraine imbroglio. Russians are justified, I believe, in their view that the West took advantage of Russia’s post-communist weakness to encroach on their country’s historic space. The Monroe Doctrine may be incompatible with contemporary international law; but all powers strong enough to enforce a strategic sphere of interest do so.
 
There is merit, I also believe, in Putin’s contention that a multipolar world is better than

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Europe’s Surplus of Stagnation
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Wednesday, July 23, 2014

 
While the rest of the world recovers from the Great Recession of 2008-2009, Europe is stagnating. Eurozone growth is expected to be 1.7% next year. What can be done about it?
 
One solution is a weaker euro. Earlier this month, the chief executive of Airbus called for drastic action to reduce the value of the euro against the dollar by about 10%, from a “crazy” $1.35 to between $1.20 and $1.25. The European Central Bank cut its deposit rates from 0 to -0.1%, effectively charging banks to keep money at the Central Bank. But these measures had little effect on foreign-exchange markets.
 
That is mainly because nothing is being done to boost aggregate demand. The United Kingdom, the United States, and Japan all increased their money supply

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