Report from Eastern Econ. Assoc. Meetings

I (D&S co-editor Chris Sturr) am in New York City for the annual meetings of the Eastern Economics Association, the sweet kid sister to the Allied Social Sciences Association (which would make the latter the bullying older brother, if we’re going to go with the metaphor), from which I blogged a couple of times back in early January (here and here, and here’s D&S collective member Arpita Banerjee’s ASSA report).

It’s hard to say what makes the EEA meetings so much nicer than the ASSA. Part of it is that they are much smaller (I don’t have the numbers, but the program is much thinner, as are the crowds, and the book exhibit, where we spend most of our time, is about 1/10th the size), and maybe there is a critical mass of left or left-ish or at least not left-averse economists on the east coast. All in all, there is a more relaxed and less corporate feel to the EEA. Our comrades at the Union for Radical Political Economics (with whom we share an exhibit table) are sponsoring seven panels this year, which is a pretty high number for a relatively small conference.

Back at the ASSA, one of the plenary sessions that drew big crowds was (as I reported in my earlier post) the spectacle of Marty Feldstein rediscovering fiscal policy after years (a career?) of denying that it was necessary. Meanwhile, at the EEA this year, this year’s Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman was a big draw, as was another leftish Nobel Prize winner, Joseph Stiglitz, who gave the presidential address (since he’s the current president of the EEA).

I missed Krugman’s talk, but I made it to see Stiglitz, and I’m really glad I did. (Stiglitz was introduced, by the way, by Steve Pressman, secretary of the EEA, who co-authored an article in our July/August 2007 issue on debt poverty in the United States–more evidence of the EEA’s left-friendliness.)

Stigliz’s topic was the current economic crisis (“What else is there to talk about?” he asked), and he set himself two questions: (1) “What shall we do about our failed banks?” and (2) “What role did the economics profession–or rather *some* members of the profession–play in the crisis?”

His assessment of the inadequacies of the responses to the crisis so far (including the stimulus, efforts to address the foreclosure crisis, and the bank bailout) was great, though his “Plan B” was a bit rushed and hard to follow. His critique of the mainstream economic views that contributed to the crisis was also a bit rushed, but gratifyingly scathing.

One big reservation I had about the talk was that he was nearly as timid on the issue of bank nationalization as he was in the interview he did with Amy Goodman (which we blogged about a couple of days ago).

I have pretty extensive notes from the talk, and there were some great bits (e.g., he quipped, a propos of the way the “experts” denied the crisis for so long, seeing recovery around the corner, until we had turned corner after corner: “The light that was at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a train coming right at us.”). I would like to write up more on his talk, but in my hotel room on a Friday night in NYC with the nightlife beckoning, this post is starting to feel like a grotesque combination of a diary entry and a term paper, so I will aim to say more tomorrow with more EEA updates.

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Chris Sturr

Chris Sturr is co-editor of Dollars & Sense magazine.

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