The Wise Man of Economics ★★★★

There is a point in the second LSE Economics podcast where interviewer Matthew Bradbury lets out an almost indiscernible chuckle. The subject of the interview, Professor Charlie Bean, ex-Director General at the Bank of England, had just reflected on a moment during the 1980 fallout of Black Monday. Bean’s career has spanned working as a special adviser to the Treasury, the House of Lords, and the European Central Bank. Listening to a figure such as himself is fascinating and reveals both contemporary economic history and his expansive knowledge.

Professor Bean’s coverage of the 2008 crash highlighted both his first-hand experience as well as an assessment of history alongside it. Bean’s reflections particularly shone through when considering Ben Bernanke’s speech regarding the Fed messing up during the Great Depression. The discussion regarding the conflict between history and models in economics has been running for more than a century. Hearing someone of Bean’s stature distil this highlighted the failures at the heart of 2008, placing emphasis on this continuous battle. Forecasting ahead to a possible coronavirus-spurred recession, such information seems particularly pertinent.

Another fascinating discussion concerned what was left in the macroeconomic toolkit to handle the threat of a new recession. Predating the Bank of England’s recent rate cut to 0.1%, their evaluation of the economic means of escape was both fascinating and foreboding. As opposed to the Alistair Darling podcast (episode one of the Economics podcast), this was a far more technical interview. Yet the Economics discussed was not too trying to access: restatement to the podcast’s universality for LSE.

Finally, Bean’s identification of the threat to international cohesion when placed alongside the increasing forces of internationalism and isolationist movements was convincing. He compared the response to 2008 in this vein, highlighting the smooth running of international institutions alongside the EU. This showed both the reality our world faces in front of the Coronavirus, as well as the best means we can use to assuage its impact.

Overall, this was another fantastic podcast episode, not only in its ability to make light of the fantastic character of Professor Bean but also in its clear dissemination of important economics concepts, with a clear link to contemporary issues. I recommend everyone listen to it.

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