The Stiglitz Report Roundtable

by Ed Dodson

Readers who attended the CGO conference this past August were treated (or subjected) to a roundtable discussion I organized and moderated. The participants, Polly Cleveland, Fred Harrison and Nic Tideman, were asked to prepare a written analysis of the United Nations funded report on the global financial and economic crisis produced by a team of specialists headed by economist Joseph Stiglitz and issued in 2010.

I felt strongly that a response to the crisis by some of our best analytical minds was needed. Almost universally, economists and others frequently called upon by the media failed to recognize the dysfunctional nature of our credit-fueled property (i.e., land) markets as a fundamental driver of the boom-to-bust nature of the world’s economies. When I first read The Stiglitz Report I immediately realized this group of international authorities showed the same conventional attitudes. While well-intentioned, many of the institutional and regulatory changes they proposed were misguided and unlikely to have the desired outcomes. A timely response by respected authorities who did understand the effects of land market dynamics on the global economy might just find a way into the public dialogue.

Nic Tideman, Ed Dodson, Polly Cleveland & Fred Harrison

Nic Tideman, Ed Dodson, Polly Cleveland & Fred Harrison

In addition to Polly Cleveland, Fred Harrison and Nic Tideman, I invited Fred Foldvary, Mason Gaffney and Adele Wick to offer their critiques of The Stiglitz Report and to participate in the roundtable. Unfortunately, other commitments prevented them from making the trip to Minnesota, but they agreed to take up the challenge of reviewing The Stiglitz Report. I also prepared an overview of the Report that included my own comments on the strengths and weaknesses of the proposals contained therein.

Early on, the editor of The American Journal of Economics and Sociology expressed an interest in pulling these papers together for a future issue. We also have a video-recording of the entire roundtable session that will (I hope) eventually be made available online by the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation. All of these potential uses of the Roundtable transcript, video recording and papers are in various stages of discussion or preparation. Nadine Stoner did her usual herculean job of making an audio recording and taking notes. She plans to cover the Roundtable in some depth in the next issue of Groundswell. I have also made the papers available in the online library at the School of Cooperative Individualism.

There were several reasons why I proposed such a session and the roundtable structure (as opposed to the delivery of papers followed by questions from the conference attendees). Personally, I have a strong preference for this form of presentation. The moderator must spend a considerable amount of time preparing questions to ask the participants; however, I believe the end result is a more dynamic exchange of information and ideas. This is particularly so, I believe, at conferences where the day if filled with speakers and panels, and where the conference attendees have a limited opportunity to engage with presenters. What long-term impact will our Roundtable have? Under ideal circumstances, the video-recording of a session like this would have the greatest impact if made broadly available for public consumption within just days after the conference. To accomplish this level of turnaround, the member organizations of CGO must establish this as an objective, providing the necessary funding and contract for the technical services required. Other organizations have developed the capacity to live stream their conference sessions over the Internet. Doing so would allow us to reach many multiples of people above those able to physically attend events like the CGO conference.

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