Greek Crisis: Last night I dreamt I was wandering the stacks . . .

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Signing of Versailles Treaty imposing ruinous economic sanctions on the defeated Germany

Last night I dreamt I was wandering the stacks of the great Butler Library at Columbia, in a search to see if I could identify a certain number of what I would like to call “leading political economists” who have through their work and contributions over the last several centuries helped to shape our understanding of the relationship between economy, efficiency, democracy and governance. In particular I was looking for indications in their work that would allow me to make an educated guess as to what their position might have been in the case of the Sunday Referendum in Greece.

To make a long story short and by way of example, in my view would the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments  and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations have voted Yea or Nay on Sunday?  And from the far reaches of my memory, here is the short list I have come up with identifying (to my own satisfaction if certainly not yours) those who in my view would counsel, No!  And by implication that it is time to take this issue and these choices from the beginning, so that the Greeks be allowed to work all this out by themselves. With of course the support of all those of us who have confidence in them and their ability to make best use of the huge amount of good will and knowledge that are out there to support economy and democracy in Greece.

And would it not be a wonderful thing that with this new beginning the key institutions  of Europe, together with the IMF, could learn the painful lessons of this experience for which they have much to blame themselves, and much to learn, draw on their intellectual and social resources to resolve this in a way that would bring great honor to Europe.

So with no further explanation or excuses, here is my personal short list of the fifty most important political economists of the last two hundred fifty years who would have favored the Nay option on Sunday.

  • Kenneth Arrow
  • Robert Ayres
  • William Baumol
  • Kenneth Boulding
  • Colin Clark
  • Herman Daily
  • Milton Friedman
  • John Kenneth Galbraith
  • Henry George
  • Alexander Gerschenkron
  • Corrado Gini
  • Albert Hart
  • Robert Heilbroner
  • John Hicks
  • Albert O. Hirschman
  • Daniel Kahnema
  • John Maynard Keynes
  • Lawrence Klein
  • Frank Knight
  • Nikolai Kondratiev
  • Paul Krugman
  • Simon Kuznets
  • Vassily Leontief
  • Arthur Lewis
  • Alfred Marshall
  • John Stewart Mill
  • Wesley Clair Mitchell
  • Oscar Morgenstern
  • Gunnar and Jan Myrdal
  • John Nash
  • John von Neumann
  • Elinor Ostrum
  • Vilfredo Pareto
  • Thomas Piketty
  • David Ricardo
  • E. A. G. Robinson
  • Joan Robinson
  • Thomas Schelling
  • Robert Schiller
  • Amartya Sen
  • Adam Smith
  • George Stiglitz
  • Hans Singer
  • Joseph Schumpeter
  • Joseph Stiglitz
  • Paul Samuelson
  • Robert Solow
  • Jan Tinbergen
  • Jean Tirole
  • James Tobin
  • Thorsten Veblen
  • William Vickrey

And on what authority . . . ?

And on what authority do I draw on to come up with this list and in this way suggest that most if not all of these illustrious thinkers, economists and social scientists (to give them their rightful name) would counsel a thoughtful Nay vote in the Sunday Referendum? Basically three things, all of which entirely personal, eclectic and finally speculative.  First because I listed carefull to the words and counsel of the handful of those who were my professors and advisors during my years at Columbia.  Second, yet another handful whom I had the luck to meet and variously work with during my professional career with international agencies and governments in many different parts of the world. And finally, the great majority whom I “met” and learned from through their books during those four years during which I was scotched to my chair in Butler Library, and whom I have also “consulted” in the back of my mind during my decades as a teacher and consultant on economic and policy matters.

Butler Library reading room - Columbia Univeresity

Butler Library reading room – Columbia Univeresity

Hope!

Thomas Piketty in a 30 June interview on Europe 1 (in French at http://www.europe1.fr/economie/piketty-expulser-la-grece-cest-ouvrir-la-boite-de-pandore-1362504) makes the point that if Greece is forcibly expelled from the European Union, this would open up a Pandora’s Box of uncertainty and unknown terrain for Greek and European politics and well being. Certainly so, but do you recall the word that was said to be written once all the woes and spirits had flown out of the box.

One word. Hope!

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For more on the Greek Crisis:

* FromThinking about Economy and Democracyhere.

* From Network Dispatches on the Greek Crisishere.

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About the editor:

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Trained as a development economist, Eric Britton is a public entrepreneur specializing in the field of sustainability and social justice. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest work focuses on the subject of equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions and in the process find practical solutions to urgent climate, mobility, life quality and job creation issues. More at: http://wp.me/PsKUY-2p7

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