“From wherever you stood, the opposing side offered respectable, credible views. In today's fractured culture the evening struck a blow for civility.”
- The Huffington Post
May 14, 2014
The Cato Institute’s James Dorn and the Hoover Institution’s Russell Roberts made this point at length during an Intelligence Squared debate last year in which they advocated doing away with minimum wages. “Right now there are people within a few blocks of where we are sitting who cannot find work simply because their skills are not worth $7.25 an hour,” Russell told the audience. “Why would you condemn those men and women to a wage of zero?”
June 03, 2014
The Seattle experiment in wage rate regulation should provide yet another opportunity to test the effects of this type of labor market policy. In the meantime, I leave you with this informative Intelligence Squared debate on the motion “Abolish the Minimum Wage."
October 21, 2013
"Break up the big banks!"
As a rallying cry, this remains a pretty powerful one for Wall Street’s harshest critics. Even among some of those who understand the banking system very well – like former FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair – it’s an idea that is difficult to dismiss. Does anyone really like the idea that 70 percent of the banking system’s assets are controlled by 0.2 percent of the banks in that system? Or the fact that the balance sheet of JPMorgan Chase – the same bank that has reportedly reached a tentative $13 billion settlement with the Justice Department over bad mortgage loans sold to investors – is about a quarter the size of the GDP of the United States?
Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Fed, and economist Simon Johnson brought up those figures about the size of big banks last Wednesday evening as the two men argued in favor of a motion to make the country’s banks less of a systemic risk by breaking them into smaller pieces. The forum for this debate was Intelligence Squared U.S., which hosts an annual series of Oxford-style debates (roughly, one every three or four weeks) over some contentious question, such as “Abolish the Minimum Wage,” “The U.S. Drone Program is Fatally Flawed” or “For a Better Future, Live in a Red State.”
For my money, these debates are some of the best and most thought-provoking entertainment you can have. (And you don’t need money to participate: They’re available via live streaming online.) The debaters – two on each side of the evening’s question – are usually smart, well informed, civil, on point and occasionally even acknowledge the merits of their opponents’ argument. (Would that we could say the same of our elected leaders….)
October 18, 2013
There continues to be a forceful economic debate about the cost of financial companies that are regarded -- by officials and by credit markets -- as “too big to fail.”
There is no doubt that, during the severe crisis of fall 2008, the executives running these companies felt intense pressure and that responsible officials felt these institutions required huge amounts of government support.
The question is: What has really changed since September 2008, when Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley became bank holding companies, giving them better access to funding from the Federal Reserve? Or since October 2008, when the first injections of new capital were provided to banks that faced big potential losses? Or since November 2008, when Citigroup Inc. received a big additional dollop of support (mostly in the form of downside guarantees)?
There are three responses from the big banks that were ably represented this week at an Intelligence Squared debate in New York. (The topic was “Break Up the Big Banks.” I was in favor of the motion, supporting the ideas of Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; our side received 49 percent of the final audience vote. Opponents got 39 percent, with the rest of the public undecided.)
April 11, 2013
Free market advocates tried to convince an audience at Washington, D.C.‘s Burke Theater last week that the minimum wage should be abolished.
James Dorn of the Cato Institute and popular economist Russ Roberts faced Jared Bernstein from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Karen Kornbluh, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, in an Oxford-style debate facilitated by the organization Intelligence Squared.
April 04, 2013
Had a rousing and often substantive debate last night sponsored by the group Intelligence Squared. My partner was the great and eloquent Karen Kornbluh (listen to the podcast -- I really thought Karen did a great job merging morality, compassion, and the facts of the case); the opposing team was Russ Roberts and Jim Dorn. The proposition was "the minimum wage should be abolished." I'll let you guess which side Karen and I took, but the good news: the audience votes at the beginning and end of the debate and team that gets more people to switch to their side wins. We won.
March 14, 2013
Does the U.S. need a strong dollar policy?
The Kaufman Center played host to a debate on monetary policy Wednesday night. Officially the resolution under consideration was "America Doesn't Need a Strong Dollar Policy"—although what it really ended up being about was the wisdom of the gold standard.
The sponsor of the Wednesday night's debate was an outfit called Intelligence Squared U.S., which turns these things into podcasts, and public radio and television broadcasts.
October 25, 2012
“The rich are taxed enough,” argued Columbia Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard.
The man who The New York Times called Mitt Romney’s “go-to economist” and who is considered a leading candidate to be treasury secretary in a Republican administration made his case at a debate in New York.
“Raising tax rates on the rich is both counter-productive and unnecessary to fund the government we want,” said Hubbard.
While steering clear of specifics, Hubbard told the audience at the Intelligence Squared Debate that “higher tax rates won’t necessarily produce enhancements in revenue.”
“We can and should achieve fairness and growth without taxing the rich more than they are today,” he said.
Hubbard’s somewhat dry tone was balanced by the passion of one of his debate opponents, former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Speaking against the motion “the rich are taxed enough,” Reich argued called the idea “absurd.”
“The rich have done extraordinarily well but the rest haven’t,” said Reich to audience applause. “The percentage of total U.S. income of the top 1 percent has doubled in the past 30 years. Given where we are now, we shouldn’t even have this debate.”
Hubbard opposed raising tax rates for the rich but added, “We need a progressive tax system.”
“The wealthy should pay a disproportionate share of taxes,” he said.
Hubbard and his debate team colleague, Arthur Laffer, spoke out for tax reform that would lower rates but also broaden the tax base.
“We need to think about growth and fairness. Tax rates should not rise,” said Hubbard.
The United States already has one of the most progressive tax systems in the world, he argued. Comparing the U.S. economy to a tall building, Hubbard said the “lower floors are flooded” while the people in the penthouse are doing well -but “the elevator is broken.”
If the tax base were broadened with lower rates and tax reform, opportunity would be expanded and “we would get more revenues” to pay for the government,” he said.
November 16, 2008
A sequel to the ballyhooed debate in 2007 over the motion that "Global Warming is Not a Crisis" has been scheduled in New York City in January, this time exploring a new premise: "Major Reductions in Carbon Emissions are Not Worth the Money." Those in favor of the motion (some additions may come, organizers say) will be the "skeptical environmentalist" Bjorn Lomborg; Philip Stott, the British biogeographer who has become a prominent critic of global warming worriers; and Peter W. Huber, the Manhattan Institute scholar, lawyer and mechanical engineer who has written that energy waste is unavoidable and beneficial.
May 30, 2007
Last week saw two events in Washington that illustrate the complexity of the Sino-US relationship. The first involved 15 ministers from China, led by Vice-Premier Wu Yi , who took part in a high-level economic dialogue. Some progress was made, including an agreement to double daily passenger flights from the US to China by 2012, worth an estimated US$5 billion to American airlines.
March 17, 2009
An Oxford-style debate held last night at New York's Rockefeller University featured an argument over whether Washington or Wall Street "was more to blame for the financial crisis."
March 29, 2009
It won't help anyone recoup the money lost in the housing bubble or the market crash or the recession, but there's a certain satisfaction in knowing where to put the blame.
October 18, 2009
Published Sep 25, 2009
From the magazine issue dated Oct 5, 2009
Call it the Rubber-Chicken War—the looming trade dispute between the United States (which has announced punitive tariffs on imports of Chinese tires) and China (which is threatening retaliation against American poultry exports).
November 17, 2009
Just hours after a government audit lambasted the New York Fed as meek in its role in AIG’s rescue last fall, two big names in the financial world sparred over similar questions of government heft–or lack thereof–in downtown Manhattan on Monday night.
November 18, 2009
“Obama’s economic policies are working effectively.” That was the motion that Intelligence Squared US put to its New York audience Monday night for a vote. One three-man team defended the president’s policies; another denounced them. Though the “anti” team ultimately lost the vote, it made the more compelling argument...
November 18, 2009
Are Obama's economic policies actually working? Intelligence Squared posed this question to six policy experts at a debate in New York this week.
November 17, 2009
Neither his trademark Cheshire-cat smile, nor his plucky self-confidence was enough to rescue former Gov. Eliot Spitzer from losing the vote Monday night.
November 30, 2009
Whatever else they may do in office, presidents are largely judged—by the voters, if not historians—on their handling of the economy. So with unemployment edging into double digits, last week's Intelligence Squared US debate topic—"Obama's Economic Policies Are Working Effectively"—attracted the largest audience in the history of the series...
March 08, 2011
In the latest round in America’s premier debate series, Intelligence Squared Debates (IQ2US), Bill Ritter, the former governor of Colorado, who established the state as a leader in renewable energy joins Kassia Yanosek, co-founder of the U.S. Partnership for Renewable Energy Finance support the motion while Robert Bryce, author of “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future” and Steven Hayward, author of “Almanac of Environmental Trends” oppose it.
March 08, 2011
Can cleaner sources of energy not only power our economy but also drive a recovery from the Great Recession? That's the question confronted by policymakers across the U.S.—and by debaters in the Intelligence Squared series hosted March 8 by New York University.
January 20, 2010
The evening’s winning team argued for the motion and included Santa Monica City Council member Bobby Shriver, the Economist’s Andreas Kluth, and journalist and founder of TheWrap.com Sharon Waxman.
April 01, 2011
With a $300,000 salary, Bill Ritter is paid way more than the average academic at Colorado State University. So the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at CSU surely ought to know his stuff.
January 20, 2010
You could say it wasn’t a fair fight. With a proposal like, “California is the First Failed State,” the debate on Tuesday seemed a foregone conclusion. Those of us who live in the state and watch the news trot out a litany of funeral announcements for successive state services – education, medical care for the poor, arts programs, government paychecks – kind of thought it was obvious.
January 26, 2010
In the latest Intelligence Squared US debate, the audience agreed that the Golden State has lost its luster.
March 02, 2010
Is California America's first "failed state?"... It's a hot topic. You see it suggested in the press. It's spinning into the very high-stakes California governor's race. There was even a formal debate about it in late January in New York City. Schwarzenegger in particular was very struck by that debate, sponsored by Intelligence Squared, as he told me when we talked about it the other day. The event dripped with irony, as it featured Schwarzenegger's brother-in-law, Bobby Shriver, as the most prominent member of the team of three arguing that California is America's first "failed state."
October 27, 2010
Is big government stifling the American spirit? That was the question posed to panelists at last night's Intelligence Squared debate in the Skirball Center. Among the guests was Stern professor Nouriel Roubini, who was nicknamed "Dr. Doom" by the New York Times after he successfully predicted the financial crisis as early as September 2006.
October 25, 2011
Last night NYU’s Skirball Center saw an overwhelming victory for the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, “Congress Should Pass Obama’s Jobs Plan – Piece By Piece.” According to the final votes, Cecilia Rouse and Mark Zandi won the debate by convincing 24% of the audience to change their minds to support the motion, thus winning the Oxford style debate. They argued Obama’s jobs plan is a necessary step toward avoiding another recession and stimulus legislation will stem an economic downturn.
October 25, 2011
Earlier this week, President Obama, ardent lover of three-word mantras, introduced a new slogan for his American Jobs Act: "We can't wait!" The president exhorted Congress to act on the jobs creation plan he introduced in September. The audience at last night's Slate/Intelligence Squared U.S. live debate at NYU's Skirball Center vehemently agreed with the president: After the conclusion of the debate, 69 percent voted for the motion "Congress should pass Obama's jobs bill—piece by piece"; 22 percent voted against the motion; and 9 percent were undecided.
October 27, 2011
There was really no point to any further debate, but I went to the debate, anyway. It was part of the Intelligence Squared U.S. Debate Series at New York University's Skirball Center on Tuesday night. The topic: "Congress Should Pass Obama's Jobs Plan--Piece By Piece." It was fun watching four wonkish brainiacs flagellate each other over a $447 billion stimulus plan that was pretty much dead on arrival weeks ago.
November 03, 2011
[T]wo teams squared off last month to debate the question of whether Congress should pass President Obama’s jobs plan – piecemeal, if necessary. The debate, held under the auspices of Intelligence Squared US, pitted Moody’s Analytics economist Mark Zandi and Princeton University policy wonk Cecilia Rouse against Richard Epstein, an NYU law professor, and Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute, with the latter duo arguing that what’s needed for the economy to rebound and ultimately create new jobs is structural reform, not what Mitchell called “faux stimulus.”