Dr. Paul Samuelson, winner of the Nobel Prize and authority on modern Keynesian economics, died yesterday at 94. The Atlantic has an interesting and recent interview of him here. Samuelson was Larry Summers uncle. (Summers is of course, the President’s chief economic advisor.) Samuelson said they weren’t in touch, but some of their views overlapped.
What has pleasantly surprised me is that because of the Obama political sweep we’ve got some very rapid interventions beyond anything that the Eccles Federal Reserve even dreamed of in Franklin Roosevelt times, and that’s why I think we’re a little bit ahead o the European Union in the state of our recovery.
On the other hand, I think the popular view — if I count noses — is that by the end of this year even, or by 2010, recovery will have set in. That’s a very ambiguous thing. Things could get better — things could even get better such that the National Bureau committee that officially dates these recessions will say that the recession officially ended in something like December 2010. That could be misleading, because it could be completely consistent with continuing decreases in employability, an adverse balance of payments, and a move of both the consumer section and the investing section towards non-spending — towards saving and hoarding. I don’t think we would enjoy a lost decade, like the two lost decades the Japanese had.
And this nugget (for conservatives it’s a nugget anyway) on Milton Friedman:
By the way, he’s about as smart a guy as you’ll meet. He’s as persuasive as you hope not to meet. And to be candid, I should tell you that I stayed on good terms with Milton for more than 60 years. But I didn’t do it by telling him exactly everything I thought about him. He was a libertarian to the point of nuttiness. People thought he was joking, but he was against licensing surgeons and so forth. And when I went quarterly to the Federal Reserve meetings, and he was there, we agreed only twice in the course of the business cycle.
Samuelson and Summers may not have been close, and they vary especially on the application of Keynesian economics, but given Obama’s current economic solutions, repeated stimulus packages (stimuli?) and so forth, the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree.
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