Ever been to a concert or play where the rest of the audience were in raptures, but you weren't? That's been my experience every time I've gone to hear Joseph Stiglitz speak on globalisation in London. Each time I've come away wondering how such a first rate economist can offer up such populist tropes, sloppy reasoning and pessimistic interpretation of the facts.
So why do his speeches (and books) make me so queasy? It's not that I disagree with most of his policy prescriptions. Like Stiglitz, I was shocked by the incompetence with which the IMF dealt with the Asian currency crisis a decade ago. And like Stiglitz, I would like to see western governments pay greater attention to those among their constituents who most stand to lose from globalisation.
Robert Skidelsky's review of Stiglitz' latest book, Making Globalization Work, makes the case more eloquently than I ever could. Writing in the New York Review of Books, he concludes:
My final criticism is that Stiglitz's book is carelessly written. Stiglitz was—and perhaps still is—an outstanding economic theorist. But he has been producing big, loosely argued books. The laudable aim behind them is to inform a broader audience about economic policies that could make the world a better place, certainly with better lives for the poor, and such advocacy has its place in moving people to action. But he lacks the eloquence, urgency, and passion of the preacher, while he has too often abandoned the rigor of the scientist. In my view, he has not yet found a style suitable to the popular exposition of his economic ideas.
Based on my readings, that's a fair cop. More rigour please Joe.