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Boom and bust

Will Kherbek
art critic
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piqer: Will Kherbek
Tuesday, 12 February 2019

The Trials Of St. Milton: Fact-Checking The Apostle Of Neo-Liberalism

The priorities of the Nobel Prize-winning economist, Milton Friedman, have defined the rhetoric of contemporary capitalism more than those of any single figure of the last forty years. Friedman is regarded as something like the St. Paul of neo-liberalism, preaching the free-market gospel to generations of eager disciples at the University of Chicago, Columbia, Cambridge, Chile and beyond. Hailed as "reviving the economics of liberty" by Margaret Thatcher, in a time when economic inequalities are reaching unheard-of levels, Friedman's gospel is starting to look less like the Good News and more like the actual news; thus, the question arises: What have "the economics of liberty" done for us lately? In this edition of the Debunking Economics podcast, the long-time dissident economist, Steve Keen, and presenter, Phil Dobbie, ask a question that policymakers of the last 40 years have often failed to address when implementing neo-liberal economic regimes: do they work? 

The reviews, as they say, are not good. Keen is known as a "data-first" economist, reversing the amusing adage that an economist is someone who says "That's all well and good in practice, but does it work in theory?". Friedman's theories, he argues, may have a superficial appeal, but when one looks at actual data, almost no major economy has followed the anti-protection, low-regulation and tax programme to create durable institutions. Keen cites the USA, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan, but he could cite any other major economy in the G20 to prove his point. Keen and Dobbie's discussion is fast-paced, wide-ranging and filled with humour at the absurdity of what is treated as holy writ in many economic institutions and think tanks. This brief discussion serves as an excellent introduction to a series of podcasts that works to puncture the received truths of economics with wit and doggedness.    

The Trials Of St. Milton: Fact-Checking The Apostle Of Neo-Liberalism
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