Larry Summers: The Pundit Without Policies

We should decrease inequality without harming economic growth.

Eight words. Now, you have no need to read Larry Summers’s

900-word FT

column this month.

Somehow, Summers contrives to end his column just as it’s about to get interesting:

if he’d gone on any longer, he might have been forced to sketch out an actual

policy or two which might actually achieve reduced inequality.

But the really annoying thing about this column is not that Summers won’t make

recommendations about future policy: it’s that he won’t even tell us what he

thinks about past policy. Take this kind of thing:

Given what has not happened to the pay cheques of average workers over the

period of the information technology-induced acceleration in productivity

and cyclical expansion, it is not plausible to suppose that policies that

focus only on aggregate economic growth are sufficient to meet current challenges.

It’s certainly hard to read, but it’s also fundamentally meaningless in the

absence of any indication as to what policies he’s talking about. Indeed, there’s

no such thing as an economic policy which focuses only on aggregate

economic growth: any given policy will affect some parts of the economy more

than others. So come on, Larry, tell us: which policies, exactly, did you have

in mind here?

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