"We're not learning anything."
Look on the Blyth Side
Mark Blyth is stumped. He’s the people’s economist who speaks the people’s language through his thick working-class Scottish accent. He hasn’t gone silent in the pandemic ruins of our prosperity. He’s as noisy as ever, but he’s dumbfounded by his adopted people, us American people who can’t see the trouble we’re in. The hardship of the pandemic is real and unfair, he’s saying, and the problem is obvious and deep: that forty million Americans don’t have enough to eat, at the same time our billionaire class, having poisoned our politics, has grown billions richer week by week through the COVID disaster.
We speak of Mark Blyth at Brown University as the noisiest professor in the pub, the expert that everybody “gets.” His specialty is political economy, the mix of money and power. More often than not he’s confirming your intuition that the game is not played quite straight, in any common interest. But 2020 is off the charts—the mix of pandemic disease, steep downturn in available dollars, and clamorous politics that doesn’t ease the pain. Mark Blyth wonders if anybody sees just what is unfolding. He’s got his own fresh questions on the table, like the wisdom of coming to America to find fame, fortune, and happiness 20 years ago. He and I have been meeting off and on for a decade now in his virtual hometown Glasgow pub, and we’re there again this week, no social distancing around strong talk about stuff we don’t understand.
Professor of International Economics at Brown University.
Lisa Lerer and Dave Umhoefer