It’s unfortunate, in this highly politicized climate, that we can’t have a serious discussion about what’s best for the middle class and the working poor: innovation, prudent risk taking and the payoffs that motivate it or higher taxes on lucky risk-taking and less equity to underwrite it. Nevertheless, an author can’t turn down the cover of The NY Times Sunday Magazine, no matter the perils of distortion… and there were!
My book isn’t about defending the one percent or the virtues of inequality as the NYT would breathlessly lead its readers to believe. It’s about how Americans would be better off if we oriented the economy and our financial system around risk-taking and innovation. Why shouldn’t we have a country with twice as many young Steve Jobs creating the next Apple? Why shouldn’t we have a financial system that puts capital to work investing in innovation rather than sitting on the sidelines?
Do I feel misrepresented? You bet. Is 20:1 (the value of investment to non-investing Americans) “crucial” to my argument? Hardly; I used 5.7:1, no different than liberal economist Dean Baker’s 5:1. The benefit of investment to the middle class at 5:1? Not even a close call—there’s no question investment helps the middle class. Am I mad at Buffett for his efforts to help others? Hardly; I expressed frustration that the sacrifice the middle class makes on behalf of Buffett’s donation goes unrecognized. Do I defend “dodgy” financial products? Absolutely not; I don’t even defend financial speculation. Even if the writer doesn’t understand the difference between investment and financial speculation, I do. Is “the world Conard describes” one without “art, romance and the nonrenumerative satisfactions of a simpler life?” No. I describe a world in which talented people feel a moral obligation to help those less fortunate by taking responsibility and prudent risks that make the world better.
I have tried to outline a different economic approach and to offer a different analysis of the Financial Crisis. Leading economists have taken note. What did liberal Roubini really say to the writer? “I have great intellectual respect for [Ed’s] sharp mind. I enjoyed a read with as intelligent, provocative, and well-argued views as this [book has], even if [Ed’s] views don’t match my own economic policies. He makes you think whether you agree with him or not. Very few these days come with original and contrarian views about the economy.” What did Scheifer really say (taken from the back of the book)? “Ed Conard’s book presents the most cogent and persuasive analysis of the Financial Crisis to date.”
Sadly, The NY Times takes a very serious argument about what is beneficial for the middle class and the working poor—investment and risk taking—and sensationalizes it for the benefit of promoting their Sunday Magazine. I guess you can’t blame them for that.