Aftermath: A New Global Economic Order?

By Craig Calhoun; Georgi Derluguian | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
The Great Crisis and the Financial Sector:
What We Might Have Learned

James K. Galbraith

In subtitling this essay “What We Might Have Learned” I do not mean to imply that learning is impossible. Anyway I hope not. But if learning now comes at all, it will come late, too late probably for practical effect on public policy. And therefore it will have an academic character, suitable mainly for social scientists—for readers of a volume such as this one— rather than for political leaders.

I would like therefore to frame four questions, in Graham-Allison fashion,1 each from a different disciplinary standpoint: policy analysis, economics and law, political science, and, finally, sociology. In each case, I will pose just one question. I have ideas—even convictions—about each question, of course, but they all remain at least partly unanswered so far.

The policy analyst is a naive and trusting person whose point of departure is the belief that economic and financial policies are made by public-spirited officials seeking the larger social welfare or perhaps— and I mention this because I help to write them—the statutory goals of “full employment, balanced growth and reasonable price stability” of the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978. It is a conceit, of course, for which I ask your indulgence only briefly.

For the policy analyst, the central question posed by the Great Crisis is how to distinguish extreme from normal conditions in real time and how to actualize that distinction in the modern bureaucratic

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