Joe Stiglitz, big-government guru

Looking at his résumé, you’d almost think he could part the Red Sea. He was a Fulbright Scholar at Cambridge; he’s taught at Yale, Stanford, Oxford, Princeton, and Columbia; he chaired President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors; he was chief economist at the World Bank; and he won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

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Joseph Stiglitz

He’s served as an economic advisor to the UN and other international organizations as well as to heads of government around the world. In 2011, Time Magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

But exactly what kind of influence does Joseph Stiglitz wield? What kind of advice does he dispense?

The first thing that’s important to know is that he’s a dyed-in-the-wool Keynesian. Meaning what? Meaning, for one thing, that he’s a guy who blamed the 2008 world financial crisis on U.S. economic deregulation – never mind that, as Samuel Gregg wrote in 2010, Western Europe’s hyper-regulated economies were at that point “in even worse shape than America’s” and Greece, “one of the most regulated and interventionist economies in the entire EU,” was “on financial life support.”

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Stiglitz in Australia earlier this year

He’s a guy who argued that the solution to the 2008 world financial crisis – the way to create jobs and increase employment – was to increase direct government spending, even though, as Matthew Continetti warned in the Weekly Standard, such spending would inevitably “create even larger deficits and add to an already high national debt.”

He’s a guy who summed up the financial crisis in 2009 by saying that one of its “big losers” was “support for American-style capitalism” and that this loss of support had “consequences we’ll be living with for a long time to come.” Two words: wishful thinking. Stiglitz (as we’ll see) would like nothing better than to see support for “American-style capitalism” disappear entirely.

DAVOS-KLOSTERS/SWITZERLAND, 31JAN09 - Joseph E. Stiglitz, Professor, Columbia University, USA, at the Annual Meeting 2009 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 31, 2009. Copyright by World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch
Stiglitz at Davos, 2009

He’s a guy who’s tirelessly tried to sell the argument that inequality of income and wealth lies at the root of virtually all economic problems even though, as Patrick Brennan noted in National Review in 2012, there’s “almost no evidence that economic inequality causes financial crises.”

He’s a guy who has praised as a “miracle” the modest economic success of the big-government island nation of Mauritius while ignoring, as Reihan Salam pointed out in 2011, the truly spectacular performance of a country like Singapore, whose hands-off approach to the private sector is utterly at odds with Stiglitz’s prescriptions.

Gregg calls him “an old-line modern liberal,” charging that his response to the 2008 crisis was “worthy of FDR or LBJ.” In fact, the word socialist suits Stiglitz far better than liberal. 

Why? We’ll start answering that question tomorrow. 

 

Yale’s road to Singapore

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Yale New Haven

A couple of days ago we began exploring the rampant stoogery at American and British universities that have eagerly compromised their professed values in exchange for piles of cash from various unsavory governments around the world. Yesterday we noted that administrators at Yale University censored a book about the Danish cartoons, apparently to placate their paymasters in the Muslim world.

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Yale Singapore

Jim Sleeper, in an article published earlier this year, wrote about Yale’s branch campus in Singapore, known as Yale-NUS. Noting that Human Rights Watch calls Singapore “a textbook example of a repressive state,” Sleeper pointed out that Yale’s administration and corporation had told the Yale faculty about the joint venture with Singapore “only when that undertaking had already been signed and sealed.” At the time of Sleeper’s piece, “the full terms of the contract [had] never been shared with the faculty.”

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Richard Levin

Shaun Tan, in a 2012 article, wrote that the establishment of Yale-NUS appeared to have resulted in “increasing authoritarianism on the part of the Yale administration,” with professors saying they were didn’t dare express their concerns about Yale-NUS to Yale’s then president, Richard Levin, for fear of retaliation. Levin’s administration, reported Tan, had “displayed an eerie moral relativism on Singapore.”

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Charles Bailyn

Tan also quoted a staggeringly nonchalant remark made by Charles Bailyn, who had been named dean of Yale-NUS, about Singapore’s restrictions on speech and assembly: “They take demonstrations in a kind of different way. What we think of as freedom, they think of as an affront to public order, and I think the two societies differ in that respect.” As Sleeper put it, Bailyn appeared to be “trying to relativize if not justify Singapore’s prohibitions of public assembly.” The American Association of University Professors sent Yale an open letter asking sixteen questions about Yale-NUS, but Yale didn’t deign to reply.

Levin, for his part, refused to answer queries about “the Singapore government’s close surveillance of political blogs.” When some members of the Yale faculty passed a resolution deploring Singapore’s “lack of respect for civil and political rights,” Levin objected, calling the resolution “unseemly” and accusing the signatories of “moral superiority.” Just a few months later, as Jackson Diehl reported in the Washington Post, Yale-NUS’s governing board “adopted a policy of preventing students from creating campus branches of Singaporean political parties, engaging in partisan political campaigning, or ‘promoting religious strife.’ It also said students will be bound by Singapore’s laws, which restrict speech and ban sodomy.”

Diehl quoted from a Yale Daily News article by Seyla Benhabib and Christopher Miller, who summed up the problem succinctly: “an institution bearing Yale’s name – headed by professors and staff taken from Yale-New Haven – is in the business of restricting the rights of students.”