China’s Economic Growth Is Good, Actually
The Slack Wire
by JW Mason
1w ago
(I write a monthlyish opinion piece for Barron’s. This one was published there in June. My previous pieces are here.) Once upon a time, the promise of globalization seemed clear. In an economically integrated world, poor countries could follow the same path of development that the rich countries had in the past, leading to an equalization of global living standards. For mid-20th century liberals, restoring trade meant bringing the New Deal’s egalitarian model of economic development to a global stage. As Nebraska Senator Kenneth Wherry memorably put it, “With God’s help, we will ..read more
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Did It Matter?
The Slack Wire
by JW Mason
3w ago
Manufacturing #10A & 10B, Cankun Factory, Xiamen City, 2005. Edward Burtynsky Classes finished up last week. One of the things I was teaching this semester was undergraduate economic history, which I hadn’t done in some years. (Perhaps I’ll have more to post on the class later.) Our main books this time were Beckert’s Empire of Cotton, which I’ve used several times in this class; and Jonathan Levy’s Ages of American Capitalism and Joshua Freeman’s Behemoth, neither of which I had read before. Behemoth is a history of the factory; the final chapter is on present-day factories in Vietnam and ..read more
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Did It Matter?
The Slack Wire
by JW Mason
1M ago
Classes finished up last week. One of the things I was teaching this semester was undergraduate economic history, which I hadn’t done in some years. (Perhaps I’ll have more to post on the class later.) Our main books this time were Beckert’s Empire of Cotton, which I’ve used several times in this class; and Jonathan Levy’s Ages of American Capitalism and Joshua Freeman’s Behemoth, neither of which I had read before. Behemoth is a history of the factory; the final chapter is on present-day factories in Vietnam and China, which are probably the largest factories that have ever existed. It’s a fa ..read more
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Keynes and Socialism
The Slack Wire
by JW Mason
1M ago
(Text of a talk I delivered at the Neubauer Institute in Chicago on April 5, 2024.) My goal in this talk is to convince you that there is a Keynesian vision that is much more radical and far-reaching then our familiar idea of Keynesian economics. I say “a” Keynesian vision. Keynes was an outstanding example of his rival Hayek’s dictum that no one can be a great economist who is only an economist. He was a great economist, and he was many other things as well. He was always engaged with the urgent problems of his day; his arguments were intended to address specific problems and persuade specifi ..read more
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At Barron’s: Thank Full Employment, Not AI, for Rising Productivity
The Slack Wire
by JW Mason
3M ago
(I write a monthly opinion piece for Barron’s. This one was published there in September. My previous pieces are here.) New data about productivity are some of the best on record in recent years. That’s good news for economic growth. But just as important, it offers support for the unorthodox idea that demand shapes the economy’s productive potential. Taking this idea seriously would require us to rethink much conventional wisdom on macroeconomic policy.  Real output per hour grew 2.6% in 2023, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, exceeding the highest rates se ..read more
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The Future of Health Care Reform
The Slack Wire
by JW Mason
3M ago
This is a guest post by Michael Kinnucan. The Collapsing Center and Solidifying Periphery of the US Healthcare System Contrary to what most people on the US left might tell you, there’s nothing intrinsically impossible about building a healthcare system that provides universal coverage on the foundation of employer-sponsored insurance. Germany and France and several other countries have done it, and we could do it too. The way you do it is to start with core-economy full-time workers and their families, and then steadily patch and regulate your way to universal coverage (“what about retirees ..read more
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Thoughts on International Finance, with Application to the US and China
The Slack Wire
by JW Mason
4M ago
(I wrote this back in 2020, and never posted it. The context is different now, but the substance still seems valid.) Here is my mental model, for whatever it’s worth: (1) The US-China trade balance is determined in the short to medium run by relative income growth in the two countries. In the medium to long run relative prices do play a role. But at least past the early stages of industrialization, the impact of exchange rates is thru producer entry/exit than thru expenditure switching. The impact of the overvalued dollar of the early 80s came mainly through e.g. the bankruptcy of US steel pro ..read more
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Thirteen Questions about Money
The Slack Wire
by JW Mason
5M ago
I taught a class last semester on alternative theories of money, drawing heavily on Money and Things, the book I am working on with Arjun Jayadev. It was one of the best classes I’ve ever taught in terms of the quality of the discussions. John Jay MA students are always great, but this group was really exceptional. It was a a privilege to have such  thoughtful and wide-ranging conversations, with such an enthusiastic and engaged group of (mostly) young people.  The class syllabus is here. A number of the readings were draft chapters from the book. I am not posting these publicly, bu ..read more
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2023 Books
The Slack Wire
by JW Mason
5M ago
Edward Biberman, Slow Curve, 1945. Books I read in 2023. I’m probably forgetting some. Geoffrey Ingham, The Nature of Money. One of the fundamental divides in thinking about money is whether we start from the commodity or the unit of account. Do we begin, logically and historically, with the idea of exchange and then bring in money, or do we start from an abstract unit of measurement which then, among other things, is used to value commodities? The latter view defines what’s known as chartalism; Ingham offers the most persuasive statement of the chartalist position that I know. The most visibl ..read more
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Eich on Marx on Money
The Slack Wire
by JW Mason
7M ago
I’ve been using some of Stefan Eich’s The Currency of Politics in the graduate class I’m teaching this semester. (I read it last year, after seeing a glowing mention of it by Adam Tooze.) This week, we talked about his chapter on Marx, which reminded me that I wrote some notes on it when I first read it. I thought it might be worthwhile turning them into a blogpost, incorporating some points that came out in the discussion in today’s class. Eich begins with one commonly held idea of Marx’s views of money: that he was “a more or less closeted adherent of metallism who essentially accepted … gol ..read more
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