The Rise Of The Free-Market Economists Who Reshaped Our World | On Point

With Meghna Chakrabarti September 10, 2019Updated Sep 10, 2019 5:07 PM

How ideas about free markets and a doodle of an economic curve on a cocktail napkin reshaped the U.S. economy, for better and worse. New York Times economic journalist Binyamin Appelbaum tells the story.

This is Part I of our “pop-up” series on capitalism. Listen to Part II here.

Interview Highlights

On why we should make inequality a focus of public policy

“The problem we are confronting is inequality. And, so, the solution is to make inequality — reducing inequality — a focus of public policy. It sounds simple, but it’s something we simply haven’t done for the last 40 years. And I think that the solution begins by doing that. I’ll give you one simple example of a policy that we know works and helps, and that’s universal pre-kindergarten. Getting kids into the classroom at an early age begins to level the playing field, and allows children from different economic backgrounds the opportunity to thrive. And that’s ultimately not just good for them — but for society as a whole.”

On what midcentury economists missed about inequality

“What we’ve learned [from four decades of data and accumulated
experience] is that inequality is really harmful. That countries with high levels of inequality actually grow slower over time than countries with lower levels of inequality. That that basic sort of foundational premise that economists preached in the midcentury was quite simply wrong. And, so, again, I think the big idea going forward needs to be that inequality needs to be treated seriously as a policy problem. And by doing that, we may be able to find a firmer basis for a free market society that is constructed on sustainable principles.”

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