Discussing the Future of the World Economy and Some Levity


inet banner.jpgThe Institute for New Economic Thinking conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire this weekend is a star-studded affair if you follow economic wonkery. The presentations here are fascinating but probably too dense on the whole for me to do a good job intermediating more than a a half dozen or so to the public who read TWN.
Among those I have run into here are British Financial Supervisory Authority chief Lord Adair Turner; Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and his wife media expert Anya Schiffrin; Economic Policy Institute President Lawrence Mishel; financier George Soros; Naked Capitalism blogger Yves Smith; American Prospect editor Robert Kuttner; Economic Strategy Institute President and new Foreign Policy blogger Clyde Prestowitz; former India Central Bank Governor Yaga Reddy; UT Austin economist James K. Galbraith; Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf. . .
Nomura economic analyst Richard Koo, IMF Alternative Executive Director for the US Douglas Rediker; IMF Executive Director for China Zhu Min; Swedish Parliament Member and economics expert Leif Pagrotsky, Thomas Reuters Global Editor-at-large Chrystia Freeland; the Washington Post‘s Neal Irwin and Stephen Pearlstein; Carmen Reinhardt of the Peterson Institute for International Economics; Brookings Institution fellow Paul Bluestein; economist George Akerlof; Institute for New Economic Thinking Director Rob Johnson; former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers; historian and Keynes-chronicler Robert Skidelsky; and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown; among others.
This is a great meeting — but in part it’s the willingness of this group to go into deep dives on serious economic questions while lacing a lot of this with humor that makes this gathering more fun than it might look on the surface.
Right now I am listening to a session on what we can learn from past economic crises. Richard Koo offered a valuable survey of balance sheet recessions and lessons that could be drawn from them. The most important warning that Koo offered was that nations should not engage in budget deficit slashing while the private sector is still deleveraging, which is what continues in the United States. But given the budget deal that seems to have emerged last night, the US is on track to do exactly what Koo has warned Fed Governor Ben Bernanke and Council of Economic Advisers Chair Austan Goolsbee against.
But there is some fun here in the side chatter and late hours. Many of the economists here gather to share gossip and the latest econometric twists in “The Cave” — which is a comfortable, old speakeasy in the basement of the Mt. Washington Hotel.
One of the fun moments of levity last night was Lawrence Summers admitting in a conversation with Martin Wolf that he is one of the few who went to Washington to escape politics.
— Steve Clemons


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