Pandemic Economics

Two Nobel laureates in economics walk into a bar in the middle of a pandemic and meet one of the country’s most respected and admired businessmen.

“America drank away its children’s future,” one of the laureates, Paul Krugman, laments in kicking off the conversation with the headline of his recent column in The New York Times.

The second laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, and the businessman, Danny Meyer, a restaurateur whose consumer savvy bequeathed him a Midas touch, will respond personally on September 20 when the three titans of American economic thought come together in Conversations On the Green’s sixth virtual forum of the season. 

The first time the dismal science’s three giants have ever debated, they will discuss how to repair the economy amidst the worst economic crisis in almost a century and the once in a generation shift now underway in economic thinking. As part of the symposium, they also will examine how to exploit the ongoing calamity and contain the jaw-dropping risks in an effort to launch an era of prosperity like those that followed the Great Depression and World War II. 

A columnist for The Times, Krugman is arguably the most controversial of the three and was called “belligerently, obsessively political” in a 2010 New Yorker profile. But that’s a recent addendum to his personality. In his earlier academic work, Krugman focused on subjects with little partisan salience and essentially ignored politics, even when while working for a year as a senior staffer on Pres. Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors.

A preternatural wonk obsessed with puns �" he is very proud of a line in one of his textbooks: “Efforts to negotiate a resolution to Europe’s banana split had proved fruitless” �" he has a lifelong penchant for relying on patterns to simplify the befuddlingly complex. That led him, as a Yale undergraduate, to choose economics over history and, ultimately, won him his 2008 Nobel for work in economic geography, theories explaining urbanization, international trade and the location of jobs and businesses.

“I feel now like I was sleepwalking through the twenty years before 2000,” he told The New Yorker. But he was radicalized by the 2000 campaign. Although the mandate for his column, which he started the previous year, was financial affairs, his perch at the paper of record led him to broaden his view. He was shocked when he perceived the Bush campaign lying and, after the election, began attacking the president. As his outrage escalated, his disapproval grew venomous. 

That transformed him into a hero of the left. But the liberal hagiography evaporated when he was as critical of Obama’s campaign, dismissing the Illinois senator’s health plan as too conservative, his emphasis on hope and dialogue as delusional and his supporters as akin to cultists. He soon was receiving lacerating hate mail and death threats. But he won back much of his liberal credibility when it became clear that Obama’s conciliatory style had failed to move Republicans, who had chosen confrontation over cooperation.

The author of 27 books and more than 200 scholarly articles, Krugman also is a professor of Economics at the Graduate Center of the City University. He previously was a professor of economics at MIT and, later, at Princeton, from which he retired in 2015.

Named as one of the world’s 100 most influential people 10 years ago by Time, Joseph Stiglitz is the second Nobel Laureate on the panel. He was the chair of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1995 to 1997 and served as the World Bank’s chief economist until he was fired for criticizing its priorities. He also was the lead author of the 1995 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. 

Although he has spent much of his career at the intersection of economics and public policy, Stiglitz's early recognition came for his research on screening, techniques used by one party to extract otherwise private information from another. He won his Economics Nobel in 2001 for his contribution to the theory of information asymmetry, the seemingly esoteric study of decisions in transactions where one party has more or better information than the other, studies that Krugman relied on to win his Nobel. 

But Stiglitz’s ideas found countless applications and helped create a new branch of economics, "The Economics of Information." It explores the consequences of information asymmetries and pioneers pivotal concepts such as adverse selection and moral hazard, which have now become standard tools not only of theorists, but also of policy analysts. He has made major contributions to theories on macroeconomics and monetary policy, development economics and trade, public and corporate finance, industrial and rural organization, and the economics of welfare and wealth distribution. 

His work has helped explain the circumstances in which markets are not optimized and how selective government intervention can improve them. In recent years he has written a series of highly popular books that have had an enormous influence in shaping global policy debates and has earned more than 40 honorary doctorates. In 2010 he was awarded the prestigious Loeb Prize for his contributions to journalism and his books have won the European Literary Prize, the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Political Books and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. 

Although a senior advisor to several Democratic administrations, Stiglitz, a Columbia University professor, has been an equal opportunity critic, inveighing against both Democratic and Republican administrations. He critiqued the architects of President Obama’s financial rescue package as “either in the pocket of the banks or incompetent” and, four years ago, described President Trump’s proposals to slash taxes while increasing government spending as a gift to Wall Street and akin to “Vodoo economics.”

Considered “dangerously charming,” Danny Meyers, one of the country’s leading restaurateurs, is the panel’s businessman, an entrepreneur with a divining rod for consumer tastes who is touted for putting soul into business decisions. While he began his career as a political junkie and planned on becoming a lawyer, he soon turned to hospitality and is the founder and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, which owned and operated many of New York’s most beloved and successful restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke and Jazz Standard, The Modern, Maialino at the Gramercy Park Hotel and Untitled at the Whitney Museum, North End Grill, Marta, Vini e Fritti, and Porchlight, among others. He won the Julia Child Award three years ago and his restaurants and chefs have earned an unprecedented 28 James Beard Awards.

Meyer opened his first restaurant, The Union Square Café, in 1985, at the age of 27. An upscale bistro, it became renowned for focusing obsessively on customer satisfaction, a dining icon that has been credited with gentrifying the neighborhood. The eatery’s operating philosophy of “enlightened hospitality” posited that there is a virtuous business cycle that revolves around respect, relationships, and revenues. As explained in his 2006 the New York Times bestseller, “Setting the Table,” which is known as The Bible among restauranteurs, the cycle starts with hiring naturally empathetic people and continues by investing in their growth. Employees share their goodwill with customers and that positive dynamic drives the repeat business that is so critical to restaurant profitability. 

A fixture in the city for creating restaurants with an ambience of comfort, he became a national celebrity with the 2004 opening of the Shake Shack. It started as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park--part of a community art project to support the park. An immediate hit, he received a permit to open a permanent kiosk there. He expanded the menu and introduced a “fast food” concept that adhered to his rules of excellence--the hamburger meat was from the same butcher who supplied some of Meyer’s high-end restaurants. Word spread, the lines grew and an international chain was born. 

Named as one of the most influential people in the World by Time in 2015, Meyer in the first days of the pandemic closed 19 restaurants and laid off 2,000 employees. He garnered the wrath of the Twitterverse after the burger chain received a $10 million small-business government loan but was widely heralded when he became one of the first to return the money. A philanthropist, he is a national leader in the fight against hunger, serves on the board of Share Our Strength and has long supported hunger relief initiatives, including City Harvest and God’s Love We Deliver.

Moderated by former NBC correspondent and national talk show host Jane Whitney, this interactive symposium, which begins at 3 PM on September 20th and runs 90 minutes, will be live-streamed, allowing anyone with an internet-connected device to participate and ask questions. All proceeds benefit the American Nurses Foundation Coronavirus Response Fund, New Milford Hospital, Greenwoods Counseling & Referrals, and the Susan B Anthony Project. Tickets can be purchased at www.conversationsonthegreen.com.

Location & Directions

Virtual Webinar
Vimeo Livestream
Washington, CT 06793

20

Sunday


Virtual Webinar
$25

Contact Event Host

Wilson King
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