Richard Parker

Richard Parker is the author of John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics. He teaches macroeconomic policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and served as an advisor to the Papandreou government. 

Recent Articles

Greece on the Razor's Edge

Bailing out Greece is politically impossible—it's also increasingly necessary. 

AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
The morning after Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza coalition won the Greek elections in late January, an old friend called from Athens. He’d been a senior figure in the Papandreou government that had struggled for nearly two years to stave off the collapse of the Greek economy, so he knew firsthand just how deadly the chalice now about to be passed to Tsipras was. He also knew Tsipras personally—Greece is a small country—as well as Yanis Varoufakis and other key figures who would be appointed to the new government. And he clearly understood what Tsipras aimed to do to quickly and decisively break “the golden shackles” that had bound Greeks in a crushing web of debt: face down the creditors. But my friend also knew firsthand the stubbornly conservative and judgmental consensus that had steadily solidified, not just among European elites but among a broader European public, that Greece needed to pay what it had borrowed—and needed to keep its agreements...

Election 2014: Surge or Theft?

How dark money and voter disenfranchisement combined in a toxic brew that resulted in the lowest voter turnout in more than 70 years, hampering whatever chance Democrats had to win.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Last Tuesday’s election was, by any measure, a sweeping victory for the Republicans—their second consecutive midterm sweep since Barack Obama took office, by which they’ve now picked up a total 77 seats combined in the United States House of Representatives and the Senate. In the House they’ve not had a majority this size since Herbert Hoover occupied the White House—and they control more statehouses now than at any time in the nation’s history. But what does that mean—or more importantly, what does it portend, for Gridlock Nation? Predictably, Republicans are claiming a mandate, while not a small number of commentators are noisily calling the results a “stunning rebuke” to the president and the Democrats. Yet given the size of their losses, Democrats from the Oval Office on down have remained surprisingly calm—even alarmingly detached, some might say. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, at the moment, look set to retain their...

How They Wrecked the Economy

During a break at a recent conference on the future of economics, I was carrying the galleys of Jeff Madrick's new book, Age of Greed , when I got into a conversation with Paul Volcker. At 83, the former Fed chairman is a bit hunched but still sharp as an old hawk. Glancing at the book's title, he asked what it was about. "The recent meltdown on Wall Street," I answered, "and how it evolved from deep origins over the past 40 years." "Ah, that's a good topic," he replied, "though frankly, I've never thought greed defined just one age in American history." The twinkle in his eye made me realize he'd formulated his answer before asking his question--a valuable talent for a central banker. Volcker is right, of course, that far too much of American history is a history of greed--for land, furs, minerals, slaves, factories, art, power, recognition, and money without limits. Yet many of us want to believe that America is about something more and that our common effort can lead to a common...

Why They Win

Two new books say Republicans owe their victories to market-mania. Both books oversimplify.

The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics by Jonathan Chait (Houghton Mifflin Company, 294 pages, $25.00) The Right Talk: How Conservatives Transformed the Great Society into the Economic Society by Mark A. Smith (Princeton University Press, 267 pages, $29.95) For the past 30 years, two questions have haunted liberals: Why do Republicans keep winning? And when will it end? With the GOP's crusade for a permanent majority undoubtedly faltering, it's not hard to see why liberals are optimistic these days. Yet I don't share that optimism. The Republican Leviathan has been pronounced dead half a dozen times, and it's risen each time. But why? Jonathan Chait's The Big Con and Mark Smith's The Right Talk offer two of the latest clever answers to that question. Chait is a well-known journalist who began his career at the Prospect before moving to The New Republic , where he now writes the TRB column. In his new book he insists on being...


“Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking.” --John Maynard Keynes * * * John Kenneth Galbraith loved words. Above all, he loved words he and others wrote about him. On this, “Galbraith's First Law” left no confusion: “Modesty is a vastly overrated virtue.” So it's probably best that Ken Galbraith, who died April 29 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at age 97, missed his obituaries. Far too many got him wrong. The facts of his life were there, but on what he stood for -- and what finally his life should model for us -- the reviews were all too Galbraith-as-synecdoche, the man who bespoke another era, an earlier time that he and we had long outlived. In committing this error, all sides, even with their differences, seemed guilty: the liberals wanly elegiac at the loss, the conservatives smugly self-satisfied that the things Galbraith stood for had gone to their reward long before he did, the undecided and...