JQ discusses Zombie Economics

This is an EconTalk interview by Russ Roberts, with links to relevant readings.

You can download to listen or you can read  the dialogue, which is a bit hard because you have to work out who is talking (maybe not hard if you pay attention, but you can’t tell at a glance).

The blurb “Roberts challenges some of Quiggin’s claims and wonders whether proposed alternatives might do even worse than the policies Quiggin is criticizing. Much of the conversation focuses on the role of government in the financial sector and how that might be improved going forward.”

JQ. “Of course, we’ve never had a pure system of market liberalism but equally my remaining Communist friends tell me we’ve never had pure Communism. No doubt both are correct.”

But which would you choose to move towards?

Final comment from JQ: “But after 30 years when we’ve largely tried to explain away, we have to recognize that having a large government is likely to produce a more stable outcome than the kind of minimum state idea.”

Does he  think we  have been moving towards the minimum state over the last 30 years?

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3 Responses to JQ discusses Zombie Economics

  1. Nicholas Gruen says:


    Quiggin points to something that I think you might ponder on more than you do. Economics is full of threshold effects. Hyperinflation is very bad. It essentially destroys one of the most important economic inventions there is – money. Some people deduce from this that the harm from inflation rises monotonically as inflation rises from zero. But it just ain’t so. It seems highly likely that optimal long run inflation is a percentage point or two above zero. And it’s also quite plausible that it doesn’t do a lot of harm even up into the early teens (though this may be wrong so there’s a good reason not to try finding out). Something similar applies to trade. High degrees of interference are clearly harmful, with lower degrees it’s much less clear cut, though again, I operate with a (rebuttable) presumption that you need good reasons for interfering in trade.

    Unfortunately a great deal of the arguments about these matters involves people arguing between extremes. Which isn’t useful.

  2. Peter T says:

    Which would you choose to move towards?

    Well, do I have to make that choice? And, given that attachment to communism was largely driven by the felt experience of market liberalism, maybe most people would not see hope there are other choices.

    And could either be expected to be the answer to new issues? I doubt climate change was on the agenda when they were formulated.

  3. D W Griffiths says:

    This episode of EconTalk is a great discussion even by EconTalk’s high standards. It’s notable for the high degree of understanding between two top-notch economists with quite different views of how government should work. It also brings out Quiggin’s essential decency.

    If you have not listened to a Russ Roberts interview before, this is a fine place to start.

    After the Quiggin interview, there are hundreds of others to choose from; Roberts has interviewed most of the great US economists who are to any degree articulate.

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