Ed Balls did not have much time for Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s new book Deaths of Despair (“American Carnage”, Life and Arts, FT Weekend, March 14). But he’s attacking their liberal (in the American sense) critique of the detrimental impact of late capitalism on the white working class from the left. What’s this? Just as UK chancellor Rishi Sunak goes all JM Keynes, Ed Luce tells us that “Even when [Bernie] Sanders is losing, he is winning” (“The Future of Socialism in America”, FT Magazine March 14) and Comrade Balls pops up all lefty! He also finishes with an intriguing admission of doubt: “I ended the book worried that economics still doesn’t seem to have answers to the economic and cultural dislocation faced by so many working people in the US and across Europe.”
Something really significant is going on. The neoclassical conceptual model that still holds sway in the economics departments of our universities is intellectually bankrupt, in denial about the financial crisis that it said couldn’t happen. The neoliberal policy prescription to which there has been No Alternative for the last 40 years has been tested to destruction . . . and failed. Jeremy Corbyn and Mr Sanders are not going to be our leaders — but they are harbingers of change. They have opened a space for discussion and possible renaissance on the left, forcing their disgust at what’s wrong with the current economic orthodoxy on to the mainstream agenda. What we are waiting for is a new Keynes, someone who will change the terms of the debate altogether and offer a new economic model as he, and then Friedrich Hayek, both did in the 20th century. But where is she?
There have been some interesting candidates (many of them female — Stephanie Kelton, Anne Pettifor, Mariana Mazzucato, Kate Raworth) but no one has succeeded in changing the game. And even the bumptious Mr Balls, for all that he seems to be riding the wave to the left, says we don’t have the answers. But he’d be fun to talk to. Virus restrictions permitting, why doesn’t the FT invite him to lunch one Weekend and put him on the spot on the Green New Deal, the Sanders/Corbyn phenomenon, modern monetary theory, doughnut economics and other stuff? Who does he think might be the new Keynes? And could AOC be the new FDR?
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