Robert Skidelsky
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Articles from Prospect Magazine

Inconvenient Truths About Migration
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Wednesday, November 22, 2017

 
Sociology, anthropology, and history have been making large inroads into the debate on immigration. Homo economicus, who lives for bread alone, has, it seems, given way to someone for whom a sense of belonging is at least as important as eating.
 
This makes one doubt that hostility to mass immigration is simply a protest against job losses, depressed wages, and growing inequality. Economics has certainly played a part in the upsurge of identity politics, but the crisis of identity will not be expunged by economic reforms alone. Economic welfare is not the same as social wellbeing.
 
Let’s start, though, with the economics, using the United Kingdom – now heading out of the EU – as a case in point. Between 1991 and 2013 there was a net

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“Never explain, never apologise”: review of David Kynaston’s Till Time’s Last Sand
Robert Skidelsky
Prospect | Monday, September 11, 2017

 
David Kynaston is a wonderful social historian, with three massive volumes on post-war Britain and many others to his name. He has been a leading practitioner of “history from below,” reflecting the experiences of ordinary people. He has now turned to telling the story of one of Britain’s most powerful and mysterious institutions—the Bank of England, from its founding in 1694 up to 2013.
 
He faced a number of challenges. Anyone writing an official history is bound to pull his punches. Though far from uncritical, Kynaston has succumbed somewhat to the Old Lady’s mystique. Then there is the question of audience. Kynaston was commissioned to write the book for “the general reader.” This is almost impossible because banking is highly

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Now austerity is over, let’s commit to investment—and build a national bank to do it
Robert Skidelsky
Prospect | Tuesday, August 08, 2017

 
 Deficit fetishism has finally been defeated. As I recently wrote in these pages, this year’s Queen’s speech finally put “strengthening the economy” ahead of “the public finances.”
 
This is progress. But there is still no agreement on what should replace austerity. If the doctrine that a country can cut its way back to prosperity is dead, the hunt for new answers should start with the most obvious alternative—enriching ourselves by investing in valuable things.
 
The state must reaffirm its own role here. In the Keynesian post-war age, it was accepted that the state had an important—and probably increasing—part to play in capital formation. Yet since the 1970s, things have gone the other way. In the UK, public investment as a share of

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Austerity simply doesn’t work—its death is long overdue
Robert Skidelsky
Prospect | Monday, July 17, 2017

 
Subjects can dominate the agenda one day, and then drop from view. Something of the kind has been happening to austerity. Two years ago nothing seemed so important to George Osborne as eliminating the budget deficit. In 2015, fresh from masterminding the Conservatives’ unexpected win, Osborne pledged himself to achieving a surplus by 2019-20 and announced further cuts of £12bn in welfare. Austerity, having been relaxed before the election, had returned with a flourish. Not only did the Chancellor claim that his austerity policies had produced economic recovery, but committed himself to an annually balanced budget for all time. No more nasty borrowing.
 
By 2015, the economy had started to grow with vigour: at 2.8 per cent in 2014 and then

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Book review: Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty
Robert Skidelsky
Prospect | Thursday, March 27, 2014

 
The early 19th-century founders of the classical school of economics reasoned that the distribution of a society’s income depended crucially on who owned its productive resources. David Ricardo identified three classes of producer, landlords, capitalists and workers. Each of these classes owned a factor of production—land, capital and labour. With land and capital scarce relative to labour, landlords and capitalists could claim a disproportionate share of the produce that they and the workers jointly produced. Workers’ pay would be forced to subsistence. Classical socialism, as Karl Marx conceived it, was a branch of this tree. Abolish private ownership of land and capital (and the power which this gave) and one would abolish the “rents”

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