Ending Poverty: Jobs, Not Welfare Paperback – 27 Mar 2013
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About the Author
Hyman P. Minsky was an American economist who studied under Joseph Schumpeter and Wassily Leontief. He taught economics at Washington University, the University of California–Berkeley, Brown University, and Harvard University. Minsky joined the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College as a distinguished scholar in 1990, where he continued his research and writing until a few months before his death in October 1996. His two seminal books were Stabilizing an Unstable Economy and John Maynard Keynes.
Minsky held a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Chicago (1941) and an M.P.A. (1947) and a Ph.D. in economics (1954) from Harvard. He was a recipient in 1996 of the Veblen-Commons Award, given by the Association for Evolutionary Economics in recognition of his exemplary standards of scholarship, teaching, public service, and research in the field of evolutionary institutional economics.
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Minsky develops his theories of financial instability from a particular interpretation of John Maynard Keynes's The General Theory The General Theory Of Employment, Interest, And Money and then Minsky elaborations. Readers of Minsky's "John Maynard Keynes"John Maynard Keynes know that Minsky also developed particular policy (e.g. employer of the last resort) and theories of how to better institute greater financial and economic stability. Indeed Minsky wrote about these issues throughout his entire economic career.
This new book is a collection of excellent examples of these efforts, what could be dubbed `Minsky's theoretical policy.' There are seven articles some of which have been published before, dating from 1965 and 1994.
The financial collapse gave to Minsky's work on financial instability a renewed relevance and urgency. Likewise this current "Endless Crisis," (see The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China) failed "stimulus" and lack of financial regulation, while in the meantime too-big-fail financial institutions are getting bigger and stronger, are making Minsky's work on `theoretical policy' relevant and urgent. These essays are very insightful for their historical context and read remarkably contemporary given the current historical context of failed fiscal policy and political stalemate.
The working poor, unemployed, and underemployed have been left to fend for themselves. This was Minsky's complaint in the 1970s. Minsky was also radically critical of the "war on poverty" in the midst of Natural Rate of Unemployment target (roughly 8 percent when he was critiquing it as a target).
The reader of these essays will note that there has been no renewed urgency in poverty since Minsky critiqued the poverty program for lacking seriousness nearly 50 years ago. Moreover, inequality has exploded causes structural instability (see chapter 6 of this book for an outline of Minsky's ideas concerning employment, welfare, and stability, (also see Inequality and Instability: A Study of the World Economy Just Before the Great Crisis).
What screams out of these essays is that free-market capitalism cannot solve poverty, unemployment, and what today we call underemployment on its own. We need public employment policy and real anti-poverty legislation. This is the aspect that makes these essays the most relevant, persuasive, and urgent.
Randall Wray provides an excellent historical context and introduction to Minksy's `theoretical policy' ideas. Dimitri B. Papadimitriou offers a nice summary of each chapter in the Preface.
This work is indispensable for anyone wishing to expand their understanding of macroeconomics.
Also a great insight on Keynes subtleness compared to many "keynesian" caricatures.
The bad thing is that Minsky's thinking on these issues were quite muddled.
Minksy constantly criticizes Keynesian stimulus policies, yet the fact is that the New Deal / Great Society era that he refers to had an economy that seems pretty good by modern standards.
Minsky claims the War on Poverty failed, yet by the end of LBJ's term unemployment was 3.5% and the Gini coefficient reached its all time low.
Minsky claims that construction workers were to blame for inequality, never mind the 1%.
Minsky advocates repealing child labor laws and forcing children to work. He advocates getting rid of Social Security and forcing old people to work until the drop.
Minsky advocates taking unemployed people as they are and creating jobs that fit their skills, but he never satisfactorily explains how he would create skilled jobs out of thin air.
One is left with the impression that Minsky was motivated by a puritan work ethic and perhaps by some racism. There is very little sound economic reason behind his policy proposals.
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