Sunday, November 25, 2007

One hour conversation with Richard Freeman (on YouTube)

Shortly after having posted a link to an IZA clip about Richard Freeman among a recent 'econlinks' post, I discovered, via Greg Mankiw, this other link to a very recent (October 31st) whole one hour interview with Freeman on YouTube, within the "Conversations with History" series, having Harry Kreisler as host. Richard Freeman talks, inter alia, about his own career path and decision to become a labour economist, about globalization and its implications, about the 'feminization' of the labour market, about the relationship institutions-market and the role for governmental policies etc. Very clear talk, aimed to a general audience, hence if you want to learn more about all these topics (although the discussion is mostly within a US context, it is generally applicable everywhere), the easiest thing you can do is take some time and watch this video (tip: watch it in more sessions, as I did, that way you don't have to allocate a full hour in one shot...).

Now, inasmuch as my opinion is concerned, I agree 95% with the views of Prof. Freeman expressed in this interview and I think he is one of the current best labour economists able to explain them clearly also to a non-specialist audience. The disagreement arises in some of the details (precisely where a general audience- including his otherwise witty and sympathetic host- would in all likelihood feel lost): namely, a. with respect to Freeman's (seemingly uncritical) support for a raise in the federal minimum wage (see here a sequence of posts I had on that debate), though he stated previously that he strongly favours the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)- well, so do I, and I see that that as the best alternative to the raise-the-national-minimum-wage policy- and b. regarding the possible implication of his saying that there is a lot of scope for governmental intervention in 'leaning against the wind' inasmuch (potentially 'heavy') corporate regulation is concerned (suffice to say that US has one of the highest corporate taxes in the world: I am not sure whether Freeman hinted to anything in this regard, but I can hardly see how you can eventually make that even higher or enact similar measures...). With respect to this latter point, maybe we should all remember- and once again give the last word to the one and only Milton Friedman- that "corporation conscience" is not possible (and neither desired...). Come on, join the Milton Friedman choir: "Freedom to choose, says Friedman, or you will lose, says Friedman, freedom is freedom, says Friedman..." :-).

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