Robert Skidelsky
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Project Syndicate "Against the Current"

The Irrepressible 1930s
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Monday, November 15, 2010

 
LONDON – The just concluded G-20 meeting in Seoul broke up without agreement on either currencies or trade. China and the United States accused each other of deliberately manipulating their currencies to get a trade advantage. The Doha Round of global trade talks remain stalled. And, amid talk of the “risks” of new currency and trade wars, such wars have already begun.
 
Thus, despite global leaders’ vows to the contrary, it seems that the dreadful protectionist precedent of the 1930’s is about to be revived. That decade’s trade war was started by the US with the Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930. The British retaliated with the Import Duties Act of 1932, followed by Imperial Preference. Soon, the world economy was a thicket of trade barriers.

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The Wars of Austerity
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Monday, October 18, 2010

 
LONDON – I have become increasingly less hopeful about prospects for a rapid recovery from the global recession. Coordinated fiscal expansion ($5 trillion) by the world’s leading governments arrested the downward slide, but failed to produce a healthy rebound. The current frustration is summed up by The Economist’s recent cover headline: “Grow, dammit, grow.”
 
There are two reasons to be pessimistic. The first reason is the premature withdrawal of the “stimulus” measures agreed upon by the G-20 in London in April 2009. All the main countries are now committed to slashing their budget deficits.
 
The second reason is that nothing has been done to address the problem of current-account imbalances. Indeed, the talk nowadays of currency wars

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Russia Debates its Future
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Friday, September 17, 2010

 
YAROSLAVL – Russia is said by many to lack a “civil society.” But it partly makes up for this by having a rather interesting public sphere, in which serious topics do get debated, and where glimpses of the great are not entirely confined to televised snippets.
 
The first fortnight in September saw successive meetings of two major Russian political groups, the Valdai Discussion Club and the Global Political Forum. The first was on a boat and ended with dinner with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at Sochi on the Black Sea. The second, in Yaroslavl, culminated in a symposium with President Dmitri Medvedev. Scholars, think-tankers, and journalists (both Russian and foreign) joined political and business leaders to discuss Russia’s future.
 

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The Hole in the Budget or the Hole in the Economy?
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Friday, August 13, 2010

 
LONDON - All economies recover in the end. The question is how fast and how far. When Keynes talked of persisting ‘under-employment’he did not mean that, following a big shock, economies stay frozen at one unchanging level of under-activity. But he did think that, without an external stimulus, recovery from the lowest point would be slow, uncertain, weak, and liable to relapse. In short, his ‘under-employment equilibrium’ is a gravitational pull rather than a fixed condition. This is a situation which Alan Greenspan has aptly described as a ‘quasi-recession’, a better phrase than ‘double-dip recession’.It is a situation of anaemic recovery, with bursts of excitement punctuated by collapses. It is the situation we are in today.
 
Contrary

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Keynes and Social Democracy Today
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Tuesday, June 22, 2010

 
LONDON – For decades, Keynesianism was associated with social democratic big-government policies. But John Maynard Keynes’s relationship with social democracy is complex. Although he was an architect of core components of social democratic policy – particularly its emphasis on maintaining full employment – he did not subscribe to other key social democratic objectives, such as public ownership or massive expansion of the welfare state.
 
In The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Keynes ends by summarizing the strengths and weaknesses of the capitalist system. On one hand, capitalism offers the best safeguard of individual freedom, choice, and entrepreneurial initiative. On the other hand, unregulated markets fail to achieve

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