Robert Skidelsky
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Project Syndicate "Against the Current"

In Regulation We Trust?
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Monday, December 21, 2009

 
LONDON – From next year, on swearing allegiance to the Queen, all members of Britain’s House of Lords – and I am one of them – will be required to sign a written commitment to honesty and integrity. Unexceptionable principles, one might say. But, until recently, it was assumed that persons appointed to advise the sovereign were already of sufficient honesty and integrity to do so. They were assumed to be recruited from groups with internalized codes of honor.
 
No more. All peers must now publicly promise to be honest. Only one had the guts to stand up and say that he found the new procedure degrading.
 
The trigger for imposing this code of conduct was a scandal over MPs’ expenses, which rocked Britain’s political class for much of

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How Much Is Enough?
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Friday, November 20, 2009

 
The economic downturn has produced an explosion of popular anger against bankers’ “greed” and their “obscene” bonuses. This has accompanied a wider critique of “growthmanship” – the pursuit of economic growth or the accumulation of wealth at all costs, regardless of the damage it may do to the earth’s environment or to shared values.
 
John Maynard Keynes addressed this issue in 1930, in his little essay “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren.” Keynes predicted that in 100 years – that is, by 2030 – growth in the developed world would, in effect, have stopped, because people would “have enough” to lead the “good life.” Hours of paid work would fall to three a day – a 15-hour week. Human beings would be more like the “lilies of the

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Keynes versus the Classics: Round 2
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Tuesday, October 13, 2009

 
LONDON – The economist John Maynard Keynes wrote The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936) to “bring to an issue the deep divergences of opinion between fellow economists which have for the time being almost destroyed the practical influence of economic theory…” Seventy years later, heavyweight economists are still at each other’s throats, in terms almost unchanged from the 1930’s.
  
The latest slugfest features New Keynesian champion Paul Krugman of Princeton University and New Classical champion John Cochrane of the University of Chicago. Krugman recently published a newspaper article entitled “How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?” There was nothing in mainstream economics, Krugman wrote, “suggesting the possibility

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Is Stimulus Still Necessary?
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Sunday, September 13, 2009

 
London – Have stimulus packages brought the world’s traumatized economies back to life? Or have they set the scene for inflation and big future debt burdens? The answer is that they may have done both. The key question now concerns the order in which these outcomes occur.
 
The theory behind the massive economic stimulus efforts that many governments have undertaken rests on the notion of the “output gap.” This is the difference between an economy’s actual output and its potential output. If actual output is below potential output, this means that total spending is insufficient to buy what the economy can produce.
 
A stimulus is a government-engineered boost to total spending. Government can either spend more money itself, or try to

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Fictional Sovereignties
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Wednesday, August 19, 2009

 
London – A year ago, tiny Georgia tried to regain control over its breakaway enclave of South Ossetia. The Russians quickly expelled the Georgian army, to almost universal opprobrium from the West. South Ossetia, together with Abkhazia (combined population 300,000), promptly declared their “independence,” creating two new fictional sovereignties, and acquiring in the process all the official trappings of statehood: national heroes, colorful uniforms, anthems, flags, frontier posts, military forces, presidents, parliaments, and, most important, new opportunities for smuggling and corruption.
 
So far, only Russia and Nicaragua recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian recognition was widely seen as retaliation for

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