Monthly Archives: December 2009

I have recently been thinking a great deal about my long-dead father. I have been writing a memoir of his life for an exhibition being organised by Vienna’s Exilbibliothek (“Exile Library”) in honour of what would have been his hundredth birthday. But I have also been thinking about him because he would have fully understood what is at stake today.

Born in what was then Austrian Poland on April 23 1910, my father’s life began just after the end of the “noughties” of the 20th century, of which I wrote last week. Moved by his parents to Vienna in 1914, he lived through the first world war, the hyperinflation of the early 1920s and the Great Depression, before leaving for London, just ahead of Hitler’s arrival, in 1937. There he survived internment as an enemy alien and the second world war. Nearly all his relatives, apart from his immediate family, were killed in the Holocaust. The same was true of my mother’s family. While she and her immediate relatives escaped by trawler from the Netherlands in May 1940, her wider family was destroyed. Read more

In this post for the Financial Times’ Economists’ Forum, Martin Wolf answers a reader’s question on the prospects for sterling in 2010.  Read more

In this post for the Financial Times’ Economists’ Forum, Martin Wolf answers a reader’s question on growth in emerging markets. Read more

The only truly global power was in rapid relative decline. Not long before, it had won a pyrrhic victory in a costly colonial war. New great powers were on the rise. An arms race was under way, as was competition for markets and resources in undeveloped areas of the world. Yet people still believed in the durability of the free trade and free capital flows that had nurtured prosperity and, many believed, had also underpinned peace.

That was how the world looked to many at the end of the “noughties” of the 20th century. Yet catastrophe lay ahead: a world war; a communist revolution; a Great Depression; fascism; and then another world war. The world order – built on competing great powers, imperialism and liberal markets – proved incapable of providing the public goods of peace and prosperity. It took calamity, the cold war and the replacement of the UK by the US as hegemonic power to re-establish stability. That then facilitated decolonisation, unprecedented economic expansion, the collapse of communism and yet another epoch of market-led global integration. Read more

In this post for the Financial Times’ Economists’ Forum, Martin Wolf answers a reader’s question on deflation in western Europe and the US.  Read more

In this post for the Financial Times’ Economists’ Forum, Martin Wolf answers a reader’s question on deflation in asset prices. Read more

In this post for the Financial Times’ Economists’ Forum, Martin Wolf answers a reader’s question on the US Federal Reserve and quantitative easing. Read more

In this post for the Financial Times’ Economists’ Forum, Martin Wolf answers a question on banks refusing to lend to businesses.  Read more

Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator for the Financial Times, writes on reform of credit rating agencies and the financial crisis. Read more

We invited readers to send questions this week to Martin Wolf, the FT’s chief economics commentator. Here is the first question, from Dirk Brouwer of the Netherlands. Martin’s response is below.

Dirk Brouwer, Amstelveen, The Netherlands: How could a more equitable distribution of income be instrumental in solving the impact of this crisis? Especially in the UK and the USA the top 20% has close to 50% of the net incomes which is one of the reasons for the bubbles on Wall Street and on the housing market.

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From the FT:

Dismal outcome at Copenhagen fiasco – Editorial comment Read more

This post for the Financial Times looks at proposed reforms to financial regulation in the EU and in the US. Read more

Wondering about the global economic outlook for 2010? Keen to ask about fiscal deterioration in the UK? Or interested to know just how worried we should be about China’s exchange rate regime? Martin Wolf, the FT’s chief economics commentator, is answering readers’ questions. Email your questions to with “Question for Martin Wolf” in the subject line and Martin will answer a selection, starting from the week of December 21, here on the Economists’ Forum.

From the FT:

Planning for death without disruption – Editorial comment Read more

“As the last of the official Q3 data came in, the UK found itself in the unenviable position of being the only economy in the [Group of 20 leading economies] to remain in recession”. Thus did Consensus Forecasts summarise the UK’s plight. With the third-largest economic decline, after Japan and Italy, the most indebted households, the biggest fiscal deterioration and the greatest dependency on the financial sector among the Group of Seven leading high-income countries, the UK has suffered a huge economic shock.

Fortunately, the UK also possesses assets. Among these are: a government with the capacity to act; the ability to borrow in its own currency; a flexible exchange rate; a credible monetary regime; a modest initial level of public indebtedness; privileged access to the European market, the world’s biggest; a greater number of top-class universities than any country, apart from the US; and an economy that has shed its most vulnerable manufacturing activities. Read more

From the FT:

Heraclean labour – Editorial comment Read more

From the FT:

How to hold the rich to their word – Jeffrey Sachs Read more

George Papaconstantinou, Greek finance minister, speaks on the credibility of his strategy to take his country out of the economic crisis.

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The UK is poorer than it thought it was. This is the most important fact about the crisis. The struggle over the distribution of the losses is going to be brutal. It will be made more so by the second most important fact about the crisis: it has had a huge effect on the public finances. The deficits are unmatched in peacetime.

Happily, the general election would appear to offer a golden opportunity for a debate. Is that not the discussion the country ought to have? Yes. Is it the discussion it is going to have? No. What the government would do if re-elected remains, even after the pre-Budget report, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”, as Churchill said of Stalin’s Russia. Read more

This post by Richard Werner for Martin Wolf’s Economists’ Forum looks at the Bank of Japan and its use of quantitative easing. Read more