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Economics

Mankiw as in ‘Thank You’

Left: portrait of Karl Marx (1818–1883); right: portrait of Milton Friedman (1912–2006) (John Jabez Edwin Mayall / The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice / Wikimedia)

Yesterday, I recorded a Q&A podcast with Greg Mankiw — N. Gregory Mankiw — the famed economist. The name is of Ukrainian origin. It rhymes with “Thank you.”

Mankiw is a professor at Harvard, granted tenure while still in his twenties. (In fact, the announcement came on his 29th birthday.) He is the author of two popular textbooks, one of which, Principles of Economics, has sold more than 2 million copies and been translated into 20 languages.

For two years, Mankiw was the chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush.

In our podcast, I ask him about his growing up, his education, and his attraction to economics. Why is it called “the dismal science”? Many economists I have known are anything but dismal. Mankiw points out that economists tend to remind people of trade-offs they have to make — which a lot of us don’t want to hear about.

One of my least favorite words is “capitalism.” It has a Marxist smell about it, according to my nose. Mankiw, a free-marketeer, a classical liberal, almost never uses the word, preferring such terms as “market economy.” “Capitalism” seems to set capital against labor.

Bill Buckley had a question he asked over and over: How to explain the continuing popularity of socialism, given socialism’s dismal (!) record? I put the same question to Mankiw: who says, in part, that socialism is popular among the young because it is “aspirational.”

What does Mankiw think of “UBI,” a universal basic income? He is sympathetic to it, as are many free-economy types, I am finding.

What does he say about Karl Marx? (Hardly influential at all in economics, but disastrously influential in politics.) What economists are particularly close to Mankiw’s heart? (He pays tribute to Milton Friedman.)

I ask Mankiw to talk about property rights, taxation, trade, immigration, wealth inequality, deficits, the GOP — a host of issues. He is an excellent teacher, and thinker, and talker. Furthermore, a free economy needs all the support it can get, besieged as it is on all sides.

Again, you and I can listen to Professor Mankiw here, with no tuition required.

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