Exposing the Myths of Neoliberal Capitalism: an Interview with Ha-Joon Chang

Published on Truthout, by C.J. Polychroniou, Feb 0, 2017.

For the part 40 years or so, neoliberalism has reigned supreme over much of the western capitalist world, producing unparalleled wealth accumulation levels for a handful of individuals and global corporations while the rest of society has been asked to swallow austerity, stagnating incomes and a shrinking welfare state. But just when we all thought that the contradictions of neoliberal capitalism had reached their penultimate point, culminating in mass discontent and opposition to global neoliberalism, the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election brought to power a megalomaniac individual who subscribes to neoliberal capitalist economics while opposing much of its global dimension.

What exactly then is neoliberalism? What does it stand for? And what should we make of Donald Trump’s economic pronouncements? In this exclusive interview, world-renowned Cambridge University Professor of Economics Ha-Joon Chang responds to these urgent questions, emphasizing that despite Donald Trump’s advocacy of “infrastructure spending” and his opposition to “free trade” agreements, we should be deeply concerned about his economic policies, his embrace of neoliberalism and his fervent loyalty to the rich … //

… What do you make of all the talk about the dangers of public debt? How much public debt is too much?

Whether public debt is good or bad depends on when the money was borrowed (better if it were during an economic downturn), how the borrowed money was used (better if it was used for investment in infrastructure, research, education, or health than military expenditure or building useless monuments), and who holds the bonds (better if your own nationals do, as it will reduce the danger of a “run” on your country — for example, one reason why Japan can sustain very high levels of public debt is that the vast majority of its public debts are held by the Japanese nationals).

Of course, excessively high public debt can be a problem, but what is excessively high depends on the country and the circumstances. So, for example, according to the IMF data, as of 2015, Japan has public debt equivalent to 248 percent of GDP but no one talks of the danger of it. People may say Japan is special and point out that in the same year the US had public debt equivalent to 105 percent of GDP, which is much higher than that of, say,South Korea (38 percent), Sweden (43 percent), or even Germany (71 percent), but they may be surprised to hear that Singapore also has public debt equivalent to 105 percent of GDP, even though we hardly hear any worry about public debt of Singapore.

A number of well-respected economists are arguing that the era of economic growth has ended. Do you concur with this view? … //

(full interview text, related stories).

(C.J. Polychroniou is a political economist/political scientist who has taught and worked in universities and research centers in Europe and the United States. His main research interests are in European economic integration, globalization, the political economy of the United States and the deconstruction of neoliberalism’s politico-economic project. He is a regular contributor to Truthout as well as a member of Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project. He has published several books and his articles have appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, newspapers and popular news websites. Many of his publications have been translated into several foreign languages, including Croatian, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish).


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