We’ve talked a bit about the costs of unemployment recently and that discussion lead me to re-read Ken Rogoff’s letter to Joe Stiglitz from 2002. It’s clear in the letter than Rogoff is enraged with Stiglitz criticism of the IMF, but also with his arrogance and the potential consequences for vulnerable people. He’s right to be: the conduct of public policy has huge consequences for millions of people and we take on a heavy burden upon ourselves when we make policy recommendations. It should never be done lightly.
This confidence brims over in your new 282 page book. Indeed, I failed to detect a single instance where you, Joe Stiglitz, admit to having been even slightly wrong about a major real world problem.
You seem to believe that when investors are no longer willing to hold a government’s debt, all that needs to be done is to increase the supply and it will sell like hot cakes. We at the IMF—no, make that we on the Planet Earth—have considerable experience suggesting otherwise. We earthlings have found that when a country in fiscal distress tries to escape by printing more money, inflation rises, often uncontrollably. Uncontrolled inflation strangles growth, hurting the entire populace but, especially the indigent. The laws of economics may be different in your part of the gamma quadrant, but around here we find that when an almost bankrupt government fails to credibly constrain the time profile of its fiscal deficits, things generally get worse instead of better.
Joe, throughout your book, you condemn the IMF because everywhere it seems to be, countries are in trouble. Isn’t this a little like observing that where there are epidemics, one tends to find more doctors?