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Is Plutocracy Really the Problem?

After the 2008 financial crisis, economic policymakers in the United States did enough to avert another Great Depression, but fell far short of what was needed to ensure a strong recovery. Attributing that failure to the malign influence of the plutocracy is tempting, but it misses the root of the problem.

BERKELEY – Why did the policy response to the Great Recession only partly reflect the lessons learned from the Great Depression? Until recently, the smart money was on the answers given by the Financial Times commentator Martin Wolf and my Berkeley colleague Barry Eichengreen. Each has argued that while enough was remembered to prevent the 1929-size shock of 2008 from producing another Great Depression, many lessons were plowed under by a rightward ideological shift in the years following the crisis. Since then, the fact that the worst was avoided has served as an alibi for a suboptimal status quo.