Quick Questions for Diane Coyle, author of GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History

Coyle_GDP_author photoDiane Coyle is an economist specializing in the economics of new technologies and in competition policy. She has missions to improve both the public understanding of economics and the teaching of economics to new generations. A Visiting Research Fellow at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, her previous books include The Economics of Enough and The Soulful Science: What Economists Really Do and Why It Matters.

We have just published GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History (“[A] little charmer of a book…” according to the Wall Street Journal). 

She writes an awesome blog called The Enlightened Economist that should be on your daily must-read list.

Now, on to the questions!

 

What inspired you to get into your field?

A brilliant tutor. I went to university with the aim of becoming a philosopher, planning for a career sitting in Parisian cafes thinking deep thoughts. But Peter Sinclair, now Professor of Economics at the University of Birmingham, inspired me with his enthusiasm for economics and its power to explain and perhaps even improve the world.


The way people think of ‘the economy’ has changed so much over time.


What is the biggest misunderstanding people have about what economists do?

Most people think that economics is mainly macroeconomic forecasting, and they think most economics is based on the assumption that we are all selfish and ultra-rational, and only care about money. A generation ago, a narrow approach to economics did dominate the subject, and there are still some economists who don’t see anything wrong with the reductionist version, but most of the economics practiced today is far, far more in touch with the ‘real world’. Unfortunately, the update hasn’t yet reached economics textbooks and courses – hence the importance of the INET CORE curriculum project.

What would you have been if not an economist?

A dancer – not that I’d have been good enough!

What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing GDP?

It was that the way people think of ‘the economy’ has changed so much over time. We have Angus Maddison’s figures based on calculations of GDP going back through time, but up until the mid-20th century this was not how people thought about the aggregate economy. GDP and Keynesian macroeconomics co-evolved.

What do you think is the book’s most important contribution?

To demystify GDP, which most people hear as gobbledygook on the news; and to remind or tell them that how we measure economic activity is the result of many conventions and judgments. There is no natural object called GDP out there – it is a human construction, and what it measures is not well-being or social welfare, but simply a specific definition of economic activity.

Describe your writing process. How long did it take you to finish your book? Where do you write?

I fit the research around day to day life but need to find chunks of time for writing. This means my patient family are used to me spending a couple of hours every day tapping away at my laptop when we’re on holiday. I managed one (short) book once on maternity leave, typing one handed with the baby on the other arm.


There is no natural object called GDP out there – it is a human construction.


Do you have advice for other authors?

Just start. Write a lot and read a lot, as writing is a craft skill. Read George Orwell on the English language if that’s the language you’re writing in. And for non-fiction, you have to find a system for organizing the ideas and material – I always find this the hardest part and there’s always a stage when I have pieces of paper with headings laid out over the floor of my study.

What are you reading right now?

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, and The Infatuations by Javier Marias.

What is your next project?

I’m helping out on that project. I’m writing a new public policy economics course to teach to undergraduates at the University of Manchester. In terms of research, I’m interested in two aspects of digital change: the continuing reshaping of supply chains, through both organizational and geographic change; and the implementation of public policy. There’s no point doing a wonderful economic analysis of a policy issue if you don’t also think about the political economy and practicality of implementation.

 


 

bookjacket GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History
Diane CoyleHardcover | $19.95 / £13.95 | ISBN: 9780691156798
168 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 2 halftones. 2 line illus. 2 tables.eBook | ISBN: 9781400849970

Reviews

Table of Contents

Sample the Introduction[PDF]

 
 
 
 
 

Physics Today interviews Princeton physicist William Bialek on his path-breaking new text book BIOPHYSICS: Searching for Principles

Princeton University professor William Bialek, renowned for his research on the interactions of physics and biology, was interviewed for the February 2014 issue of Physics Toady about his groundbreaking new textbook BIOPHYSICS: Searching for Principles.

A sneak peak:
Physics Today: How does your approach to biophysics compare with others, and how is that approach reflected in the layout of your text?

Bialek: I think most previous textbooks have presented biophysics as a biological science, or perhaps as a cross-disciplinary amalgam. I have taken the view that there is a physics of biological systems and that this is to be understood in the same way that we talk about the physics of solids or the physics of the early universe. So this book tries to present biophysics as a branch of physics.The physics of biological systems is a very broad subject, and I have tried to capture as much of this breadth as I could: from the dynamics of single molecules to the collective behavior of populations of organisms….(continued)

Edmund Fawcett discusses Liberalism: The Life of an Idea [VIDEO]

Love it or hate it, liberalism is here to stay–and it has a long and fascinating history. Edmund Fawcett explains more about his forthcoming book Liberalism: The Life of an Idea in this wonderful video interview with Natalia Nash. How do we define liberalism? Edmund Fawcett explores the underlying ideas that guide the liberal story here:

Learn more about Edmund Fawcett and Liberalism at the Princeton University Press site.

Happy Hour Online with Richard Crossley and Dominic Couzens

Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland: Happy Hour with Richard Crossley and Dominic Couzens

crossley_irelandCalling all birders, young and old, experienced or beginner with an interest in British and Irish birdlife! Join Richard Crossley and Dominic Couzens, co-authors of The Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland (Princeton University Press) for a happy hour chat on their new guide to Britain and Ireland (BYOB). Richard and Dominic will share stories from their own adventures along with tips on finding, identifying and photographing birds. They’ll also discuss the design, layout and purpose of The Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland. No need to head out into the November cold – just settle down at your computer with a cup of tea,coffee or your favourite tipple (that’s alcoholic drink for our American audience) and join in the fun.

The event will take place on November 21st  from 7:00pm – 8:00pm (GMT), or 2:00pm – 3:00pm (EST). Watch your time zone!

To RSVP for this Shindig event, click here.


And to check out the free downloads we’re currently offering, check out the links below:
Crossley ID Guide Raptors : A sampler raptor guide in PDF format
Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide : A ‘quick finder’ designed to help you identify over 50 warblers faster with targeted color photos.


Q&A with Abdelwahab Meddeb and Benjamin Stora, Editors of “A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations”

A History of Jewish-Muslim RelationsIn an exclusive interview, Abdelwahab Meddeb and Benjamin Stora, editors of A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations: From the Origins to the Present Day, spoke about their experiences with Jewish-Muslim relations, their inspiration for the book, and what they believe will happen in the future.

At its release in November of this year, the book will be the first encyclopedic guide to the history of relations between Jews and Muslims around the world from the birth of Islam to today. It features more than 150 authoritative and accessible articles by an international team of leading experts in history, politics, literature, anthropology, and philosophy. Organized thematically and chronologically, this indispensable reference provides critical facts and balanced context for greater historical understanding and a more informed dialogue between Jews and Muslims.

Abdelwahab Meddeb is professor of comparative literature at the University of Paris-X (Nanterre). His books include Islam and Its Discontents.

Benjamin Stora is University Professor at the University of Paris-XIII (Villetaneuse), where he teaches the history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century North Africa and the history of North African immigrants in Europe. His many books include Algeria, 1830-2000: A Short History.

1. Both of you grew up in places where Jewish and Muslim communities lived side by side but, for the most part, kept to themselves. How did your early experiences affect the way you developed this book?

Benjamin Stora: I grew up in Constantine, in the Jewish Quarter. At that time the Jews in Algeria mostly felt French, but their ties to the Muslim communities were real; we shared the same language of everyday life, the Arabic language. Then came the departure of the Jews from Algeria: another exile after the fracture introduced by the Cremieux Decree. I have worked extensively on the history of the Maghreb and on Algeria in particular, and more recently I have become interested in the question of memory among the Jews of Algeria: it is an essential part of my memory and of Algeria’s history. And to inform these memories, the work of the historian is necessary because it puts events in context, it connects them to one another. This project made sense to me because it would bring together European and American historians, but also Muslims and Jews. And it is only in this collective dimension that the history of Jewish-Muslim relations can be written.

Abdelwahab Meddeb: During my childhood in Tunis, in the 1950s, the presence of Jews was part of my story. During my schooling I had many Jewish teachers in nearly all subjects—history, geography, French literature, English, mathematics, physics, the natural sciences. They were our fellow citizens, our elders. They helped us into the modern world as Tunisians. So, with this background, I decided to join this project. Because Jews have virtually disappeared from Arab reality, from the Maghreb, from Tunisia, it was important to revisit the past, to recall the peaceful coexistence with Jews, sharing the same city. It is necessary to remember, to replace imagination with memory, and from that point, history can be written.

2. This project took more than five years to complete–years that coincided with major changes and conflicts in the Middle East. Did current events affect your decisions about the essays and topics the book would include?

Benjamin Stora and Abdelwahab Meddeb: The history of relations between Jews and Muslims is complex. But the editorial committee tried to focus on the long term, not on issues tied solely to current events.
At a time when the relationship is in bad shape, very bad, we cannot ignore these religious conflicts nor their manifestations in political and social history.
Even in medieval times, when the two civilizations coexisted more peacefully, the “protected” legal status (dhimmi) of Jews did not prevent anti-Judaism among Muslims that led to forced conversions or destruction by the sword. This enmity mutated with the rise of Western hegemony that eventually subjugated the Islamic territories. Other forms of ambivalence developed under colonialism and imperialism.
We have situated A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations at the heart of this tragic scene. We wanted to make this an objective, balanced history, which at first seemed impossible. The history contains not only conflicts, but also times of fertile intellectual, cultural, and artistic exchange.

3. The book traces the history of a long and complicated relationship from a global perspective. Why is this shared history important for contemporary readers to understand?

Benjamin Stora:  Making a book today on the history of relations between Jews and Muslims is a true challenge. Despite all the differences, all the apprehension, all the fears that exist between these two communities, one must maintain the link between them.  They have experienced common histories, and despite the clashes, they belong to the same shared universe.
It is a fundamental undertaking, not simply to remember but to engage readers at the civic level, at the political level. Because if you have this deep knowledge of the recent past, then you can envision working together. But if you do not have this conception of a shared past, how can you find common ground on which to build?

4. What are some of the cultural assumptions this book hopes to challenge?

Benjamin Stora: The first articles in the book challenge the idea that Muslims were hostile toward Jews from the outset. Specialists such as Mark Cohen have shown that the attitude of the Prophet of Islam toward the Jews was shaped by pragmatism, not ideology.
In contrast, the idea of an Andalusian golden age in which the two communities lived in perfect harmony has prevailed for a long time: but again, the historian must have the courage to reflect critically on its sources. This book, which ignores neither the bad nor the good, has the humble ambition to provide the results of contemporary research and to offer a common memory, a tool that will facilitate dialogue.

5. What do you think the future holds for Jewish-Muslim relations?

Abdelwahab Meddeb: I agreed to edit this project because I believe in the possibility of future reconciliation, but always also in the irreconcilable. For there is no reconciliation that does not preserve an irreconcilable part. It is a long history that contains the irreconcilable, on both sides, and for compromise to happen we must recognize that the two entities will maintain irreconcilable elements.
I believe in a future reconciliation and I agreed to do this work because I believe its effect remains to be seen:  to work toward a better time in which everyone will regain reason. Without ignoring the negativities and the abominations, this book tells a complex story. The relationship between Jews and Muslims is complex: it has seen the best, it has seen the worst. But I think it is important at least to remember this ambiguity and to show that it does not move in only one direction.  And to hope that, despite the hatred that currently exists between the two communities, a different vision is possible.

[THURSDAY, July 4th] Life and environment: An evaluation of the Gaia Hypothesis by Professor Toby Tyrrell

Life and environment: An evaluation of the Gaia Hypothesis

by Professor Toby Tyrrell

Toby will be signing copies of his book at 6:30pm.

Categories: Lectures & Discussions, Book Signing
Co-sponsor: Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Date: Thursday, July 4th, 2013
Time: 6:30pm – 8:30pm. Toby will be signing copies of his book at 6:30pm. The Marine Life Talks are held at 7:30pm. Please arrive no later than 7:15pm.
Venue: The National Oceanography Centre
Address: National Oceanography Centre
University of Southampton Waterfront Campus
European Way
Southampton SO14 3ZH
United Kingdom
Location: Reached via Dock Gate 4 (between Southampton’s Town Quay and Ocean Village).
Cost: Free admission – these talks are open to the public

View this event on the National Oceanography Center website: http://noc.ac.uk/news/4-july-2013-%E2%80%93-marine-life-talk-book-signing

In 1972 James Lovelock made an interesting proposal. Life is not solely a pas­senger on a fortuitously habitable Earth, he suggested. Instead, life has been at the controls of the planetary environment, helping to ensure continued habitability over ~3 bil­lion years. In the thirty years or so since he first proposed it, the Gaia hypothesis has intrigued a whole generation of those interested in natural history and planet Earth. Today it is widely but by no means universally credited by scientists. It remains controversial.

Gaia is a fascinating idea, but is it correct? In this talk Toby Tyrrell will attempt to an answer this overall large question by first exploring some smaller questions that relate to the larger one. First Toby will look at cooperative regulation of a shared living space: under what circumstances is this observed to occur in nature? Second he will consider whether the biota has altered the environment on a global scale. Finally Toby will discuss whether the changes to environmental conditions following evolutionary innovations have or have not been broadly favorable for life. He will combine the answers to each of these questions into a wider evaluation of whether the Gaia hypothesis is plausible and consistent with modern evidence and will conclude that it is not. Instead a competing hypothesis, co-evolution of life and environment, will be suggested to be compatible with our modern understanding in a way that Gaia is not.

Toby Tyrrell has long been interested in the dynamics and interactions of life and environment on Earth. Encompassed within that rather large topic, his narrower research interests have included enthusiasms on coccolithophores, the ocean carbon and nutrient cycles and ocean acidification. After an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Southampton he gained an MSc in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Edinburgh and then a PhD from the same institution. He spent two years working on ecological modelling at Plymouth Marine Laboratory. Since then he has been a researcher then lecturer and now professor of Earth system science in the University of Southampton, NOCS.

This talk is linked with publication of a book on the same topic:

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9959.html

Recordings of previous Marine Life Talks can be found on: http://www.youtube.com/user/NOCSnews

The Marine Life Talks are held on the first Thursday of the month at 7.30pm. Please arrive no later than 7:15pm.

Arrangements for wheelchairs must be made in advance. Unless it is possible to descend via the stairs in an emergency, access to upper floors cannot be permitted as lifts are automatically immobilized when the fire alarm is activated.

The National Oceanography Centre is reached via Dock Gate 4 (between Southampton’s Town Quay and Ocean Village).

About Toby Tyrell:

Toby Tyrrell, author of On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship between Life and EarthResearch Interests

Specialism: Ocean acidification

How organisms interact with their environments. Ecology of phytoplankton, coccolithophores in particular. Ocean acidification. Ocean biogeochemistry, including during extreme events in Earth’s ancient past such as the E/O and K/T boundaries. Ocean carbon cycle and its effect on future atmospheric CO2 levels. Marine cycles of N, P, C, Si. The control of biogenic element concentrations in the sea as a function of ecological competition between different functional groups of phytoplankton.

PhD Supervision

Zongpei Jiang, Dave Mackay, Claudia Fry, Tingting Shi, Christopher Daniels, Matthew Humphreys.

Primary research group: Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems

Affiliate research group: Palaeoceanography and Palaeoclimate

Research projects

Responsibilities
  • Leader of NOCS Beacon Theme on Ocean Acidification
  • Coordinator of the sea-surface consortium, a major component (>£3m, 10 partner institutions) of the United Kingdom Ocean Acidification Research Programme.

Teaching

Source Credit For About Toby Tyrrell: University of Southampton

On Gaia:
A Critical Investigation of the Relationship between Life and Earth
Toby Tyrrell

On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship between Life and Earth by Toby Tyrrell“A handful of scientists have become crusaders for the Gaia hypothesis, while the rest have dismissed it without a second thought. Toby Tyrrell, on the other hand, is one of the very few scientists to have considered the evidence at length and in detail. In summarizing nearly forty years of arguments for and against the Gaia hypothesis, he has done a great service for anyone who is curious about Gaia, or about this fascinating planet that we all call home.”–James Kirchner, University of California, Berkeley

“Toby Tyrrell unravels the various formulations of Gaia and explains how recent scientific developments bring the hypothesis into question. His criticisms are insightful, profound, and convincing, but fair. On Gaia is wonderfully informative and a pleasure to read.”–Francisco J. Ayala, author of Am I a Monkey?: Six Big Questions about Evolution

“At last, a beautifully written and clear-eyed analysis of the interplay of life and the Earth system. On Gaia provides the understanding for moving forward in the quest for sustainability, and is essential reading if our planet is to remain habitable for humanity.”–Thomas E. Lovejoy, George Mason University

On Gaia makes a wonderful addition to the literature. It is scholarly, well-written, and well-reasoned.”–Simon A. Levin, Princeton University

Joseph Nye discussion at Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

Event Info

Buy TicketsAdd to CalendarAdd to Google

Joseph Nye, author of Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era, will speaking in the Merrill House at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. Discussion will revolved around the efficacy of different leadership styles that presidents have adopted. Which presidents ruled by a stronger ethical code? Were radical leaders more effectual in the end? Nye offers answers to these questions and more. The event will take place on THURSDAY, JUNE 6, 2013. The event is about an hour long. It begins at 8:00 AM and is scheduled to conclude at 9:15 AM.

Continental breakfast served at 8:00 AM. Presentations begin at 8:15 AM, followed by a question-and-answer session from 8:45 to 9:15 AM.

EVENT INFO:

(http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/calendar/data/0429.html)

During the 20th century, some American presidents tried to forge a new international order, while others sought to manage the country’s status. How did transformational presidents, like Wilson and Reagan, change how the U.S. sees the world? Were transactional presidents, like Eisenhower and the elder Bush, more effective and ethical?

Joseph S. Nye, Jr. is University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He is also the former dean of the Kennedy School.

Speaker: Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

Location

Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
Merrill House
170 East 64th Street
New York, NY 10065-7478

(212) 838-4120
(212) 752-2432 – Fax

Map: Click Here (opens a new window)

Fees for all Public Affairs Programs:

Non-members: $25 per event
Free admission for subscribers. Seating is limited and advance reservations are required. To purchase a subscription, go to Membership.

Morning Public Affairs Programs
Continental breakfast served at 8:00 AM. Presentations begin at 8:15 AM, followed by a question-and-answer session from 8:45 to 9:15 AM.

Joseph Nye is endorsed by active scholars in the political field for his analysis of presidential leadership tactics:

http://press.princeton.edu/images/j9933.gif“A penetrating combination of scholarly analysis and brilliant historical appraisals. Daring in scope and incisive in judgments, this wise and very timely book redefines our understanding of recent presidential leadership.”–Zbigniew Brzezinski, author of Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power

“In looking at presidential leadership and the sources of individual power, Nye fuses together his influential prior work on smart power and leadership. His book is written in an engaging and accessible style, and provides an excellent primer on what presidents can do in foreign policy.”–Daniel W. Drezner, author of Theories of International Politics and Zombies

Joseph Nye speaking at The Chicago Club

Event Info
Buy TicketsAdd to CalendarAdd to Google

http://www.thechicagocouncil.org/images/FY13_Event_Images/06_June/Nye_WEB.jpgJoseph Nye, author of Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era, will speak and sign books at The Chicago Club on TUESDAY, JUNE 4, 2013. The host of the event will be The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. It begins at 5:30 PM with registration and cash bar reception. The event is set to conclude at 7:15 PM with book signings.

Business attire is required.

EVENT INFO:

(http://www.thechicagocouncil.org/Files/Event/FY13/06_June_13/Joseph_Nye_on_Creating_the_American_Era.aspx)

JOSEPH NYE ON CREATING THE AMERICAN ERA
Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Distinguished Service Professor, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

As the late twentieth century’s unipolar moment fades, Joseph Nye argues that American power in this new era will be defined by both the forces of international politics and presidential leadership. Nye claims the problem of America’s role in the twenty-first century is not one of a poorly specified “decline,” but rather learning how to cooperate with others for mutual benefits. How will the United States face rising power resources of others—both state and nonstate actors? What is the importance of presidential leadership for the future of American primacy?

Joseph S. Nye Jr. is a distinguished service professor and former dean of the Kennedy School at Harvard University. He has served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, chair of the National Intelligence Council, and deputy under secretary of state for security assistance, science, and technology. He is the author of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, Understanding International Conflict, The Power Game: A Washington Novel, The Powers to Lead, and The Future of Power. He received his AB from Princeton University, did postgraduate work at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, and earned a PhD from Harvard.

His latest book, Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era, will be available for purchase and signing following the program.

Joseph Nye has received accolades for his analysis on presidential foreign policy decisions in Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era:

http://press.princeton.edu/images/j9933.gif“In this concise and readable study, [...] Nye examines eight administrations, defined as ‘transformational’ or ‘transactional,’ and the diverse ways presidents communicate with and inspire the public. He also entices the historically minded with a ‘What if?’ section that speculates on historical alternatives and provides worthwhile reflections on the uneasy relationship between ethical leadership and effective leadership. Besides risking controversy, his ethical scorecards of presidents–including Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson–illustrate the complexity of such judgments. Nye’s overall assessment that the most dramatic and inspiring presidents are not always the most effective or ethical may, as he notes, overturn conventional wisdom, but the judgment bolsters his admonition to President Obama. His concluding reflections on the changing nature of exercising power in the 21st century effectively contextualize the continuing tensions inherent in managing domestic and international authority.”–Publishers Weekly

“Sometimes the best presidential decisions are decisions not to act. This point is made in an excellent new book by Joseph Nye of Harvard University entitled Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era.”–Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

Q&A with author of ‘Odd Couples’

Daphne Fairbairn, author of Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences Between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom, completed a Q&A for National Geographic in which she covers some of the broader themes of the book. Check it out below!

Your spouse may baffle you at times, but does he latch on to your rear as a miniscule parasite 500,000 times smaller than you?

That’s what a male seadevil does. Is your honey 50 times your size and liable to eat you after a snuggle? Let’s hope not, else she’d be a garden spider.

e animal kingdom is full of amatory pairs whose extreme physical differences would give a matchmaker pause. But many of these dimorphic differences make good evolutionary sense, Daphne J. Fairbairn explains in her book Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom.

National Geographic Senior Writer Rachel Hartigan Shea spoke with Fairbairn, a biologist at the University of California, Riverside, about why in nature, love isn’t always one size fits all.

Why are the differences between the sexes in some animals so extreme?

If you are coming into the world as a male, the way you get your genes into the next generation is getting your sperm to meet up with the eggs of females. So whatever it takes to do that is how the males are going to turn out. (Related Q&A: “Unlikely Animal Friendships.”)

Read the full article at National Geographic

Q&A with Benn Steil, author of ‘The Battle of Bretton Woods’

The Globe and Mail interviewed Benn Steil, author of The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order, to find out what the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement to recognize the U.S dollar as the central means of exchange and to back the U.S dollar with gold can teach to policy makers today amidst the global financial turmoil.

Is the “currency war” metaphor useful in today’s context? You wrote of a time when countries were making a point of devaluing their currencies. That’s not technically happening now.

The situation in the 1930s was far more serious than what we are witnessing today. Remember, in the early 1930s the world was still on the fraying remnants of the gold-exchange standard. Fixed exchange rates were still considered to be the norm. So as one country after another dropped out of that system, it was never clear to anyone where the bottom was.

Since everyone was unmooring from gold and the dollar at the same time, nobody was ultimately able to use competitive devaluation as a tool for increasing net exports. So what did they do? They turned to the next step, which was systematic protectionism. And that’s what led to the collapse of global trade.

We’re not seeing anything of the sort, yet, going on around the world. We are just seeing concern, rightful concern, expressed about where these unusual forms of monetary accommodation will lead down the road. There are reasons to be concerned. If countries are determined to devalue their currencies and can’t because others are pursuing the same policies, then they may turn to trade measures as the next logical step. But we are quite a ways away from that.

How would describe what we’re witnessing in currency markets?

I would say we are in an age of improvisation. Before the crisis, we were in a period that Ben Bernanke coined as the `Great Moderation.’ It seemed that for all intents and purposes central bankers had discovered the Holy Grail. You just target a low and stable rate of inflation and if you stick with that course you will have accomplished all that a good central bank can do, at least in normal circumstances. Unfortunately, now that we are not in normal circumstances, the rule books have been ditched and nobody knows what the rule book is.

Can a broad commitment to flexible exchange rates work as an international monetary system?

In the 1930s, nobody really considered that to be a system. Flexible exchange rates were considered to be a failure of alternative systems, like the gold standard, like the gold-exchange standard, or like the dollar-based gold exchange standard that was agreed at Bretton Woods. In the early 1970s, when we moved to that system (of flexible exchange rates), although it did have some prominent supporters like Milton Freidman, this was not a policy decision as it were, that the world took to move from a system of fixed, but adjustable, exchange rates to a new system of flexible exchange rates. It was something that was forced on the world by the failure of the Bretton Woods monetary system…I really don’t believe the (Group of 20) as an institution has in any sense coalesced around what might be an appropriate mix of policies for the world’s major countries from the perspective of global stability and global growth. There really is no consensus.

Do you see a day when there might be a return to a stricter global monetary system?

I don’t.

In the 1940s, there was a deal to be struck between the U.S. and the world. The U.S. really was the world’s only credible international creditor. The only way you could trade internationally other than barter was with gold and dollars. Both were in very short supply in the 1940s, so the U.S. offered the world a deal: We will provide you with short-term balance of payments assistance through our new International Monetary Fund, in return for which you pledge not to devalue your currency without the acquiescence of this new fund, which of course would be American dominated. The world wasn’t wild about the deal, but it was the best on offer…

Compare that to the situation between China and the United States today. The U.S. now is the world’s largest international debtor; China is the world’s largest international creditor. Chinese holdings of dollar-denominated securities amounts to $1,000 (U.S.) per Chinese resident. If China were to provoke a dollar crisis by trying to nudge the world to an alternative monetary system in which the dollar was not central, China would risk a collapse of the purchasing power of its vast hoard of dollar-denominated assets. The U.S. for its part sees little motivation to change this system. It still raises debt in a currency that it mints…There isn’t the political basis for a deal to be struck between China and the United States right now. I don’t any new Bretton Woods emerging out this situation. I can see circumstances under which this system collapses.

Read the full interview here.

In Honor of University Press Week (#UPWeek) Princeton University Press Authors Share the Importance of University Presses

 

“University presses have been essential not only for advancing the critical study of American literature but, perhaps more important, for making (and keeping) available reliable texts of American writers whose works don’t have the immediate commercial potential that would attract the interest of most trade publishers. The Library of America, on whose board I sit, depends on the scrupulous editorial work of university presses (other examples would be the Ohio State edition of the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne) for bringing the best texts to a broader public. My own experience with university presses–Harvard, University of Missouri (for which I co-edited one volume of Emerson’s sermons), and, most recently, Princeton–is that editorial support is first-rate, and attention to the manuscript meticulous,  And, of course, it is a gift to any author to know that his or her work is likely to remain in print long after the first phase of public attention has passed. In short, university presses are invaluable–among many other reasons– for their role in preserving our national literary culture.”

~ Andrew Delbanco, Author of  College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be

 

“For me, the value of university presses is immense. Among their many important contributions is their support of the so-called ‘long tail’ of the publishing industry — books that do not necessarily attract a wide audience, but nevertheless have importance for our culture or society. But university presses are also able to meld popularity with intellectual rigor. One example is Princeton’s recent  reprinting of Andrew Hodges’ extraordinary biography of Alan Turing.  It’s great that this book, described in a New Yorker review as ‘one of the finest scientific biographies ever written is available to the public in a special new edition for Turing’s centenary year.”

~ John MacCormick, Author of 9 Algorithms That Changed the Future

 

 

University presses allow us to disseminate ideas in long form and in a way that enables more people both within my field and in the social sciences more generally to learn about new research through an interdisciplinary channel.  Articles are often published in journals that are very narrow and specific, and thus can be overlooked by scholars in other fields or areas of concentration. University press books are much more accessible to a wider academic audience while maintaining academic rigor and excellence. In my world, if one is to publish books at all, a university press is essential to tenure.  Additionally, university presses are very focused on upholding the integrity of the research and reference to the scholarly context in which my work emerged from. Many editors at university presses are very up to date on the research in the field and are actively engaged in the ideas and research all along the way from inception of the idea to the page proofs.  My experience with Princeton University Press was wonderful and fun from beginning to end. I could not recommend a publishing house more.”

~ Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, Author of The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art, andMusic DriveNew York City(New Edition)

 

“University presses have special importance in the field of economics, and I suspect others, for two primary reasons. First, unlike journals, which are typically more stringently constrained by space, academic presses give scholars  the ‘leg room’ they require to elaborate their ideas, allowing them the opportunity to develop and share the bigger picture surrounding their scholarship. Second, unlike journals, which typically reserve space for narrower contributions the details of which have been fully worked out, university presses permit scholars to explore potentially important and ‘expansive,’ albeit at the time of writing, still largely speculative ideas–the kind of ideas that provide fertile soil for future contributions to knowledge.”

~ Pete T. Leeson, Author of The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates

 

“The university press serves as a signal to everyone in my field that the work has been peer reviewed to a rigorous standard and deemed valuable by experts in the field. It’s the highest endorsement for a book in Political Science. The university presses are willing to go the extra mile to publish the necessary graphics and tables that enrich my arguments and provide the real value in my books. The high quality of everything they do, from the feel of the paper down to the simplicity of the graphic design signals readers that what is inside is important.

The university presses are serving the scientific and artistic communities in a way that a commercial press could not do–it’s sort of the difference between the big-budget studio film and the quirky independent film, we love them both but for different reasons.  And books, like films, would be less complete without the smaller niche market offerings.”

~ Lynn Vavreck, author of The Message Matters: The Economy and Presidential Campaigns

 

 

Brink Lindsey discusses his new eBook HUMAN CAPITALISM with Glenn Loury on Bloggingheads