Sunday, June 03, 2012

Having just finished Robert Caro's magnificent The Passage to Power, I have two questions:

(1) Absent LBJ, would we have civil rights laws even now?

(2) Absent LBJ's awful personality traits, would we have civil rights laws even now?


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End This Depression Now!, Paul Krugman, 2012, 238 pages (New York: W. W. Norton & Company) JREL forthcoming
Reviewed by: Charles C. Carter, University of Baltimore, Merrick School of Business
This is a terrific book that everyone must read. I mean it, politics aside. The author knows more about macroeconomics than anyone and the book is specially written to be read by the populace at large. The fact that Krugman has seemingly made it his life’s work to persuade everyone of the merits of Keynesian (or new-Keynesian) theory is beside the point. Enthusiasm is a good thing, ceteris paribus. The author is surely enthusiastic about his book. End This Depression Now! is dedicated “to the unemployed, who deserve better,” and he posts on his blog how many books he’s sold (a lot).
Other enthusiastic authors making the same line of argument include Joseph Stiglitz, James Shiller, Tony Downs, Dean Baker, and Gary Gorton, who have also written very good books on the financial crisis. Despite others’ enthusiasm it’s always Krugman who gets singled out for lambasting by conservative pundits. That’s probably because he is the most vocal and widely known academic on the subject, keeping a blistering schedule of television and radio appearances. Unbiased onlookers have noted that Krugman seems to behave in the manner of someone with a chip on his shoulder.
Throughout his book Krugman is constantly conducting a Socratic dialogue about issues posed by the financial crisis. He’s making an airtight case for his recommendations, countering all the conservative pundits can come up with. In the end he believes the Obama administration can end the “Great Rescission” if only he and the Democrats muster up the will.
The Book (14 Chapters)
Chapter 1 is on the economics of unemployment. First define what we’re talking about as involuntary unemployment, not those disabled, retired, or full-time housewives or househusbands. This is what the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS) captures with its surveys. Also not covered are what the USBLS calls U6: those wanting full-time work but able to only find part-time jobs. This is about 15 percent of the workforce now, about double the number before the crisis. Other statistics are analyzed, like those from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on “potential” real gross domestic profit (GDP). Roughly speaking, it’s what GDP would be if it continued its long-run average pace since 2007, before the crisis. The picture Krugman paints in this chapter has to do with the corrosive effect of long-term unemployment.

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