Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Great Risk Shift

The usually-reliable Roger Lowenstein upsets Henry Farrell with his review of Jacob Hacker's The Great Risk Shift:

Henry Farrell: Hacker-a-la-Lowenstein is an economic Rip-van-Winkle, who would like to roll back the economy to the era after the Great Depression, but is forced to acknowledge at the end of his book that this isn't really possible, and to make a few vaguely interesting suggestions for tinkering around the edges.

Hacker-a-la-Hacker (cue the italics) is repeatedly at pains to argue that rolling back these secular economic changes isn't possible. The book isn't about the root causes of these economic changes in global markets, it's about the choices made by leaders regarding how to respond to these changes. Different choices were, and are possible -- other countries have chosen to shelter their citizens to a greater or lesser degree from increasing risks and changes in the employment relationship. Instead, leaders in business and politics in the US have chosen not to respond to these increasing risks, and sometimes to impose new risks on top of those imposed by global markets.

This is banally obvious to anyone who reads the book with even the minimal degree of care and scrupulosity.

Either Lowenstein has failed to grasp the simple, basic core of Hacker's argument or, for whatever reason, he has decided to give a misleading impression of what the book actually says. This isn't the first highly peculiar review of the book -- see Kevin Drum on Brink Lindsay's review which similarly fails more or less completely to address Hacker's actual argument.

Something funny is happening here.

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