Robert Skidelsky
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Articles from The Guardian

Dear George… Advice to George Osborne
Robert Skidelsky
The Guardian | Friday, August 17, 2012

 
Dear George,
 
Cutting public spending when there is no other source of growth in the economy is a sure-fire strategy for recession. As if the lack of recovery wasn't bad enough, the lack of growth also scuppers your deficit-reduction goals – the very reason for austerity in the first place. Like throwing away the engine to trim a car, you have offset the lack of revenue recovery by slashing capital spending. The results are already being seen in the forecasts: there will be no spurt of growth to regain the losses of the recession. The best we can hope for is a slow crawl along the bottom.
 
Is there a way out? Initiatives such as the National Infrastructure Plan and the Green Investment Bank aim to mobilise private money behind

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Let’s abolish retirement
Robert Skidelsky
Guardian | Monday, July 02, 2012

 
Retirement is not as old as you think. According to the Bible, God expelled Adam from Paradise with the terrible words: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground." And that's more or less how it was until about a hundred years ago. Most people worked till they died. Pensions in the UK date from 1908, and the cost of the first pension schemes was tiny, as the retirement age of 70 was 20 years beyond average life expectancy. Retirement was for heaven – if one had lived a virtuous life.
 
Work has remained central to our existence, despite the lengthening gap between work and death we call retirement. We are expected to work till our sixties and somehow make the best of the dead years to follow. This is

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Nick Clegg’s U-turn for the better
Robert Skidelsky
The Guardian | Friday, May 25, 2012

 
The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has promised a "massive amplification" of state-backed investments in housing and infrastructure. Words only. But if the words mean anything, they amount to a huge U-turn – a belated acknowledgment that austerity has not brought recovery.
 
The realisation that austerity is having a dampening effect on economic activity has spread throughout Europe. Everyone has started to talk about policies for growth. This is a marked shift from the previous story which asserted that public austerity was the growth policy – that workers sacked from the bloated public sector would soon find employment in the more productive private sector. But no one in power has admitted that the previous story was wrong.
 

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Autumn statement: George Osborne’s cutting fantasy is over
Robert Skidelsky
Tuesday, November 29, 2011

 
In his autumn statement today the chancellor claimed it was his deficit reduction plan that enabled the British government to borrow money even more cheaply than the Germans, thus saving the taxpayer £21bn in interest rate charges over five years. Ed Balls rejoined that "he still clings to the illiterate fantasy that low long-term interest rates in Britain are a sign of enhanced credibility and not, as they were in Japan in the 1990s or in America today, a sign of stagnant growth in our economy". The intellectual debate between George Osborne and his critics hinges on this single point: what is it that makes a deficit-reduction programme "credible"?
 
Let's start with the theory of the matter. "Look after unemployment," JM Keynes said,

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The Price of Civilization by Jeffrey Sachs
Robert Skidelsky
The Guardian | Thursday, October 06, 2011

 
This is the latest in a spate of books provoked by the world economic crisis and one of the best. Jeffrey Sachs calls himself a "clinical economist". In The End of Poverty he applied his clinician's skills to the distempers of Africa; in this book he turns them to the hubristic and wasteful habits of America. The details of the Fall – if by that he means the collapse of the American banking system in 2008 – do not concern him; it is what the Fall tells us about contemporary American capitalism.
 
In structure, the book is a bit like a medical treatise: the symptoms are identified, their causes diagnosed, the cures prescribed. However, the science is a bit of a veneer. Sachs is a very political doctor. This does not mean he has written a

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