Monthly Archives: July 2009

Ingram Pinn illustration

By Shankar Acharya

In recent years, the rise of China and India has become a salient feature of the global economic landscape. Conferences and books have proliferated with titles such as “China and India Rising” and “Dancing with Giants”. Although individual contributions have often delineated carefully the differing paths taken by these two populous Asian nations, there has been a general tendency to lump the two countries together in discussions of global economic issues ranging from international trade to climate change. Read more

“Why did no one see the crisis coming?” Queen Elizabeth asked last year. “A failure of the collective imagination of many bright people” who were all “doing their job properly on its own merit”, was the answer many of those bright people gave in a letter to the Queen last week.

If the economics profession could not warn the public about the credit crunch and the recession, what is the profession’s raison d’etre? Did this reflect, as some claim, that economics has gone astray with models that no longer help understand economic reality but rather distort it? Did such models even contribute to the crisis? FT writers and outside experts will set out their views in the posts below. What is the point of economists? What do you think? Click the “comment” button to take part. Read more

By Glenn Hubbard

This week the United Nations reported that the recession has created a $4.8bn (£3bn, €3.4bn) shortfall in its 2009 aid programmes – more than half the $9.5bn it seeks. On the one hand, that is bad, because the UN does much valuable humanitarian work. On the other hand, financial constraints may force the UN to rethink the portion of its aid aimed at economic development. The UN continues to fund government and non-governmental organisations to run economic development projects. But that is not how to end poverty: only the local business sector does that. Read more

by Paul De Grauwe

There can be little doubt. The science of macroeconomics is in deep trouble. The best and the brightest in the field fight over the most basic problems. Take government budget deficits, which now exceed 10 per cent of gross domestic product in countries such as the US and the UK. One camp of macroeconomists claims that, if not quickly reversed, such deficits will lead to rising interest rates and a crowding out of private investment. Instead of stimulating the economy, the deficits will lead to a new recession coupled with a surge in inflation. Wrong, says the other camp. There is no danger of inflation. These large deficits are necessary to avoid deflation. A clampdown on deficits would intensify the deflationary forces in the economy and would lead to a new and more intense recession. Read more

Martin is away. Leading economists are writing guest pieces for the FT during his absence. This week, read Paul De Grauwe of Leuven University.

If the government of the UK wishes to find a suitable motto, it should adopt the advice of a great Scot. “Great Britain should,” wrote Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations, “…endeavour to accommodate her future views and designs to the real mediocrity of her circumstances.” Smith offers wise counsel. The country’s circumstances are more mediocre than imagined two years ago. The question is how to respond. Read more

Pinn

Is the world economy on its way out of the crisis? Has the world been learning the right lessons? The answer to both questions is: up to a point. We have done some of the right things and learnt some of the right lessons. But we have neither done enough nor learnt enough. Recovery will be slow and painful, with substantial danger of relapses. Read more

By Michael Pomerleano

Martin’s article “The cautious approach to fixing banks will not work” stimulated me to raise a fundamental issue that is preoccupying me as the crisis unfolds and to which I don’t have an answer. Read more

By Richard Robb

In their classic routine, Carl Reiner asks Mel Brooks, the 2000 Year Old Man, to explain how he has managed to live for so long. Brooks replies that he avoids fruits, vegetables, meats, grains – each of which causes some comic side effect. All that’s left for him is “cool mountain water.” “Just that,” the old man says, “and a stuffed cabbage.” Reiner asks whether stuffed cabbage is allowed on his diet. The answer, of course, is “What, you think for a little mountain water I’m gonna keep myself alive?”

Financial risk-taking has come to a similar juncture. Politicians and regulators agree that risk doesn’t belong in banks because it might require another taxpayer bailout. It doesn’t belong in hedge funds either – they are murky and generally wicked. Be sure not to imperil insurance companies or government agencies. And keep risk far away from retail investors, who need protection most of all. Oh yeah, we want risk-taking somewhere so we can have a dynamic economy. It’s our financial stuffed cabbage. Read more