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Lawrence Summers

Lawrence Summers

Charles W. Eliot University Professor

Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs




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January 18, 2015

"Focus on growth for the middle class"

Op-Ed, Washington Post

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

The most challenging economic issue ahead of us involves a group that will barely be represented at this week’s annual Davos summit: the middle classes of the world’s industrial countries. As the Center for American Progress’s Inclusive Prosperity Commission, which I co-chaired with Ed Balls, the top economic official in Britain’s Labor Party, concludes in a new report, nothing is more important to the success of industrial democracies than sustained increases in wages and living standards for working families.



AP Photo/Mel Evans

January 4, 2015

"Let This Be the Year When We Put a Proper Price on Carbon"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

The case for carbon taxes has long been compelling, writes Lawrence Summers. "With the recent steep fall in oil prices and associated declines in other energy prices it is overwhelming. There is room for debate about the size of the tax and about how the proceeds should be deployed. But there should be no doubt that starting from the current zero tax rate on carbon, increased taxation would be desirable."



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October 7, 2014

"Why public investment really is a free lunch"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

It has been joked that the letters IMF stand for “it’s mostly fiscal”. The International Monetary Fund has long been a stalwart advocate of austerity as the route out of financial crisis, and every year it chastises dozens of countries for their fiscal indiscipline. Fiscal consolidation – a euphemism for cuts to government spending – is a staple of the fund’s rescue programmes. A year ago the IMF was suggesting that the US had a fiscal gap of as much as 10 per cent of gross domestic product.




August 10, 2014

Second-Term Presidents Cost America 40 Lost Years

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

Disillusionment with Washington has rarely run higher. Congress is unable to act even in areas where there is widespread agreement that new measures are necessary, such as immigration, infrastructure and business tax reform. Barack Obama’s administration is condemned as ineffectual with respect to both domestic and foreign policy.



(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

July 6, 2014

"Put American Foreign Policy Back on the Pitch"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

Sports coaches know that there is nothing more dangerous for a team than retreating into passivity for fear of making a mistake. Whether it is due to a desire to sit on a lead, or because of nerves following a setback, failing to advance aggressively is almost always a strategic error.

What is true in athletic competition is all too true in the life of nations. While imprudence is always unwise, excessive caution in the name of prudence or expediency can have grave consequences. A nation will never have more power or influence than it has ambition to shape the global system. A sense of fatalism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy as adversaries are emboldened and allies move either to appease adversaries or to provide for their own security.



(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

June 8, 2014

"The Rich Have Advantages That Money Cannot Buy"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

With the popularity of Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the 21st Century, inequality has become central to the public debate over economic policy. Piketty, and much of this discussion, focuses on the sharp increases in the share of income and wealth going to the top 1 per cent, 0.1 per cent and 0.01 per cent of the population.



May 16, 2014

"Thomas Piketty Is Right About the Past and Wrong About the Future"

Op-Ed, The Atlantic

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

Once in a great while, a heavy academic tome dominates for a time the policy debate and, despite bristling with footnotes, shows up on the best-seller list. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is such a volume. As with Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, which came out at the end of the Reagan Administration and hit a nerve by arguing the case against imperial overreach through an extensive examination of European history, Piketty’s treatment of inequality is perfectly matched to its moment.



May 4, 2014

"British Austerity is no Model for the Rest of the World"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

The British economy is the standout member of the Group of Seven rich nations. Over the last quarter the UK had economic growth at an annual rate of more than 3 per cent. In the same period the US barely grew, continental Europe remained in the doldrums and Japan struggled to maintain momentum. No surprise then that many have seized on Britain’s strong performance as vindication of the austerity strategy pursued by the UK government since 2010, and as evidence to refute the idea of secular stagnation – that lack of demand is a constraint on growth.



April 11, 2014

"Idle Workers + Low Interest Rates = Time to Rebuild Infrastructure"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

ARE YOU proud of New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport? It’s a question I ask nearly every audience I speak to these days. JFK, after all, is the largest entry point for foreign visitors arriving in what sees itself as the greatest city on earth.



April 7, 2014

"What The World Must Do To Kickstart Growth"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

The post-crisis panic might be subsiding but medium-term prospects are problematic

The world’s finance ministers and central bank governors gather in Washington this week for the biannual International Monetary Fund meetings. While there will not be the sense of alarm that dominated the convocations in the years after the financial crisis, the unfortunate reality is that the medium-term prospects for the global economy have not been so problematic for a long time.



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