Economists talk future of economics

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Steve Chiotakis: Bunch of smart economists are gathered in Cambridge, England at the university there for the Institute for New Economic Thinking Conference, looking at why things went so badly so fast with the economy. Former Marketplace host David Brancaccio is there, and he's with us to talk about it. David, welcome back to our air.

David Brancaccio: Hey, good to talk to you, Steve.

Chiotakis: Tell us a little bit about what's happening in Cambridge.

Brancaccio: Well, it's a gathering for the Institute for New Economic Thinking, that's a new think tank funded with $50 million of financier George Soros' money. And what there is is a lot of the world's top economics crammed into an historic room at King's College. I remember reporting on the 2001 Nobel Prize for Economics. Three guys won it that year: Joseph Stiglitz, George Akerlof and Michael Spencer. Everyone one of those guys, all three, is sitting there, you know, around the coffee this morning. So it's a lot of economic fire power.

Chiotakis: And what are they talking about? What are some of the questions that they're bringing up?

Brancaccio: Well, economics as a discipline, as a theory, has ended up with a black eye in this great economic collapse we've been experiencing. A speaker said we have to have a system that assumes that bad things can happen, not just expecting that things will fix themselves. In fact, they introduced the morning session this morning with a little video, but the song playing was "Dancing in the Dark." That's quite a statement for the discipline of economics.

Chiotakis: Hahaha. Would we be talking about this, David, if the economy weren't so tepid right now?

Brancaccio: Well that's the thing; if things had ticked along fine, it would have suggested to many that the discipline of economics had it right. But many people see cataclysms as an opportunity to rethink and to do a better job of getting a handle of what might lay ahead. It's one of financier George Soros' interests, for instance. And he vehemently believes that markets trend toward going out of whack, the out of whack that we've just seen. So how can economics and economic thinking incorporate that better? It's really I think a watershed moment for economics as the discipline comes together to have this kind of discussion.

Chiotakis: Former Marketplace host David Brancaccio, he's working on a TV special about alternative economics. David, thanks for being with us.

Brancaccio: Oh, it was a lot of fun.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.

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