What to Read on July 19, 2009

  • What Is the U.S. Role in Iraqi Arab-Kurd Peacemaking? — Wonk Room (Think Progress) – Indeed this is the main problem, and yes, Friedman’s call for a third-party arbitrator is coming later than it should. However, if our military were truly disengaged and the international community supported a negotiation, the Iraqi people would probably be much less averse to a negotiator than Juul predicts. Don’t forget that they desperately want to live in peace and end the sectarian divide; what they object to is American unilateralism (which they interpret as imperialism). That said, those of us who have been calling for such a solution for several years are just as disappointed as Juul that it has come to this.
  • In Washington, One Bank Chief Still Holds Sway — New York Times – Say whatever you want about ethical behavior and regulatory capture — and I could say plenty — but Jamie Dimon looks vaguely reminiscent of the man after whom his company is named. (Think of Morgan bailing out the economy in 1895 and 1907 as Dimon’s company bought up Bear Stearns last year; Morgan was also a big political donor with tremendous power in Washington.) His may be the one prominent name relatively untarnished in the industry when this mess is over, and he will certainly reign over Wall Street for the near future. Did you ever wish you could have seen Morgan or Rockefeller or Carnegie in action? Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to live through treacherous times and live to tell the story? Here we are, so pay attention; your grandchildren are going to want to hear about this someday.
  • The Most Misunderstood Man in America — Newsweek – Stiglitz is my favorite economist, so I am glad to see this article and disappointed that he is so frequently ignored by all but other economists. One economist (who is a first-rate researcher in his own right) once told me that, between 1968 and 1988, Stiglitz did 10 lifetimes worth of groundbreaking economic research, probably worth about 5 Nobel Prizes. No argument here. A lot of people think of Paul Krugman as a modern-day Keynes — and no disrespect to Krugman, who is one of the greatest living economists — but I think Hirsch has a better analogy in Stiglitz. I will cover Stiglitz’s global reserve currency proposal in my forthcoming book.
  • Advise and Shut Up Already — Howard Fineman – It ain’t gonna happen, but for what it’s worth, Fineman is right. The hearings have gone way beyond the Senate’s constitutional obligation and in fact are a waste of time and a mockery of the system. And yes, that was also my opinion when President Bush nominated John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
  • Walter Cronkite — Charles J. Brown – Great op-ed. Many pundits will hail his journalism and ignore his activism, much as most people celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dedication to civil rights but conveniently forget his vigorous opposition to the Vietnam War. This op-ed is so good that every bit of it remains valuable reading five years later.
  • Employing Krugman’s Cross: Farewell, Mr. Hicks? — Robert Parenteau – Quote of the day (which will probably only be appreciated by economists): “…the headlong rush over the past three decades of mainstream macroeconomics to become a special branch of microeconomics, which itself appears to have become a special branch of applied calculus in some sort of rather twisted physics envy.” So true. In the comments, Richard H. Serlin adds to this point nicely. And I think the book one of the commenters is referring to is “The Origin of Wealth” by Eric D. Beinhocker, who does a good job of explaining (without the econ-jargon) the flaws in this approach.
  • Beware the Bounce — Paul Krugman – It’s going to be a long, slow recovery.
  • Questions for the President — Greg Mankiw – Good questions. I don’t know if a veto is the smartest move; I pointed out, for example, that the cap-and-trade might be better than nothing, and “nothing” might be the result of a veto. However, too few journalists ask questions like these, and too few politicians answer them. And that is part of the reason that our political system is so unresponsive to the needs of the nation.