John B. Judis

One of the most important lessons of Karl Marx’s Capital is that capitalism is not a self-regulating mechanism (with which the government interferes at its own peril), but a set of government-enforced social relations that structure the production and distribution of wealth. These relationships--depicted in Economics 101 textbooks as “natural” rather than “man-made”--are largely invisible except in times of economic crisis, when they can become key factors in shaping the government’s response.

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There is no question that the Obama administration has abandoned any vestige of laissez-faire capitalism. It may not be socialism, and it’s certainly not fascism, as some idiots--sorry, conservative thinkers--have declared, but it is at the least capitalism with a very strong dose of state planning. The real question is on behalf of whom, or under whose dictates is the planning being conducted.

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Being Treasury secretary is usually not a job that calls for great political skills. But with a banking crisis crippling the economy and threatening to turn a recession into a depression, Tim Geithner has been plunged into the center of politics--as both the person responsible for what the administration should do, and as the main exponent of that policy. But he has faltered in crafting an effective policy and failed miserably in putting it forward.

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End The Honeymoon

Obama can't govern without an angry, energized left.

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A Man for All Seasons

When the economy goes south, one name invariably surfaces on the lips of pundits and economists: John Maynard Keynes. That is because the twentieth century's greatest economist is generally associated with the idea that markets require government intervention in order to function properly. During boom times, when the market seems to be working, no one has any use for Keynes's skepticism toward unrestrained capitalism. But, during recessions--when the economy grinds to a halt and Washington suddenly looks like the only thing that can save it--Keynes invariably enjoys a revival.

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Not Doing Enough

Why I worry that Obama doesn’t realize just how bad things are.

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Every few years, someone urges me to do a Christmas book list, and while protesting my ignorance and incompetence, I gladly comply. This year’s subject is the current global recession, which threatens to become a global depression. This is a layman’s list, because I am strictly a layman on the subject of economics. You don’t have to know anything about string theory to read any of the books I recommend. I learned most (or what little I know) of economics from reading on my own or from study groups we used to hold in the fading days of the new left.

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Debt Man Walking

For those Americans who are not daily readers of the Financial Times, the past few months have been a crash course in the abstract and obscure instruments and arrangements that have derailed the nation's economy. From mortgage-backed securities to credit default swaps, the financial health of the country has undergone a gory public dissection.

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Debt Man Walking

For those Americans who are not daily readers of the Financial Times, the past few months have been a crash course in the abstract and obscure instruments and arrangements that have derailed the nation's economy. From mortgage-backed securities to credit default swaps, the financial health of the country has undergone a gory public dissection.

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Mistreating Depression

Barack Obama announced today that the chair of his Council of Economic Advisors will be Christina Romer, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an expert on government fiscal and monetary policy. As Romer stood beside him at the press conference, Obama uncharacteristically stumbled over his words in introducing her. He seemed to be learning who she was as he spoke--and that may say more about the appointment than the actual words of praise he uttered. Obama has been criticized for excluding progressive Democrats from his administration. I think that’s nonsense.

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