Robert Skidelsky
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Project Syndicate "Against the Current"

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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The Price of Clarity
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Wednesday, May 19, 2010

 
LONDON -- “Through the contrivance and cunning of stock jobbers there hath been brought in such a complication of knavery and cozenage, such a mystery of iniquity, and such an unintelligible jargon of terms to involve it in, as were never known in any other age or country.” Jonathan Swift’s eighteenth-century barb resonates in today’s world of financial “intermediation”: now, as then, finance shrouds its “complication of knavery and cozenage” in “unintelligible jargon.” As US President Barack Obama explained in a speech in April: “Many practices were so opaque and complex that few within these companies – let alone those charged with oversight – were fully aware of the massive wagers being made.”
 
But was Swift right to see knavery as

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Britain’s No-Win Election?
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Tuesday, April 13, 2010

 
LONDON – With Labour trailing the Conservatives slightly in opinion polls, the British election on May 6 could well produce a “hung” parliament, in which neither major party obtains a majority and the Liberal Democrats hold the balance of power. Depending on which party wins more seats, either Labour’s Gordon Brown or the Conservatives’ David Cameron will become prime minister with the Liberal Democrats’ support.
 
The surprise is that the Conservatives are not polling far ahead of Labour. After 13 years in power, Labour started the election with a huge disadvantage: the legacy of Tony Blair. From being Labour’s most potent asset in 1997, Blair turned into the party’s greatest liability after the Iraq war, and had to be practically forced

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The Naked Euro
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Saturday, March 13, 2010

 
LONDON – Dramatic challenges, and mediocre responses: that is the history of the European Union. All too rarely does the EU rise to the level of events, which is why Europe is fading economically and geopolitically.
 
The 1958 Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community, was Europe’s great leap forward. But the decision to create a common market without a common government was simply storing up trouble for the future. Everything since – enlargement to 27 member states and the creation of the 16-member euro-zone – has widened the gap between rhetoric and reality. Euroland has gone on promising far more than its history enables it to deliver.
 
The Greek financial crisis is the latest example of the gap between reality

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The Big Bank Fix
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Monday, February 22, 2010

 
Two alternative approaches dominate current discussions about banking reform: break-up and regulation. The debate goes back to the early days of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” which pitted “trust-busters” against regulators.
 
In banking, the trust-busters won the day with the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which divorced commercial banking from investment banking and guaranteed bank deposits. With the gradual dismantling of Glass-Steagall, and its final repeal in 1999, bankers triumphed over both the busters and the regulators, while maintaining deposit insurance for the commercial banks. It was this largely unregulated system that came crashing down in 2008, with global repercussions.
 
At the core of preventing another

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