Joseph Eugene Stiglitz (born February 9, 1943) is an American economist and a professor at Columbia University. He is a recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal (1979) and the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (2001). He is also the former Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank. He is known for his critical view of the management of globalization, free-market economists (whom he calls "free market fundamentalists") and some international institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In 2000 Stiglitz founded the Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD), a think tank on international development based at Columbia University. Since 2001 he has been a member of the Columbia faculty, and has held the rank of University Professor since 2003. He also chairs the University of Manchester's Brooks World Poverty Institute and is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Stiglitz is the most cited economist in the world, as of June 2008.
In addition to making numerous influential contributions to microeconomics, Stiglitz has played a number of policy roles. He served in the Clinton Administration as the chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisors (1995 1997). At the World Bank, he served as Senior Vice President and Chief Economist (1997 2000), in the time when unprecedented protest against international economic organizations started, most prominently with the Seattle WTO meeting of 1999. He was fired by the World Bank for expressing dissent with its policies. He was a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Stiglitz has advised American Presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Stiglitz's most famous research was on screening, a technique used by one economic agent to extract otherwise private information from another. It was for this contribution to the theory of information asymmetry that he shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2001 "for laying the foundations for the theory of markets with asymmetric information" with George A. Akerlof and A. Michael Spence.
Traditional neoclassical economics literature assumes that markets are always efficient except for some limited and well defined market failures; Stiglitz et al. more recent studies reverse that presumption: it is only under exceptional circumstances that markets are efficient. Stiglitz (and Greenwald) have shown that "whenever markets are incomplete and /or information is imperfect (which are true in virtually all economies), even competitive market allocation is not constrained Pareto efficient". In other words, there almost always exists schemes of government intervention which can induce Pareto superior outcomes, thus making everyone better off. Empirical evidence on the pervasiveness of these market failures is lacking. Although these conclusions, and the pervasiveness of market failures, do not at all warrant the state intervening broadly in any economy, it makes clear that the "optimal" range of government recommendable interventions is definitely much larger than the traditional "market failure" school recognizes For Stiglitz there is no such thing as an "invisible hand".
In the opening remarks for his prize acceptance "Aula Magna", Stiglitz said:
In an interview, Stiglitz explained further:
Stiglitz also did some research on efficiency wages, and helped create what became know as the "Shapiro-Stiglitz model" to explain why there is unemployment, why wages aren't bid down sufficiently by job seekers (in the absence of minimum wages) so that everyone who wants a job finds one, and to question whether the neoclassical paradigm could explain involuntary employment. The answer to these puzzles was proposed by Shapiro and Stiglitz in 1984: "Unemployment is driven by the information structure of employment". Two basic observations undergird their analysis:
A full description of this model can be found at the links provided Some key implications of this model are:
The outcome is never Pareto efficient.
While the mathematical validity of Stiglitz et al. theorems are not in question, their practical implications in political economy and their application in real life economic policies have been subject to considerable debates and disagreements. Stiglitz himself seems to be continuously adapting his own political-economic discourse, as we can see from the evolution in his positions as initially stated in Whither Socialism? (1994) to his own new positions held on his most recent publications.
The objections to the wide adoption of these positions suggested by Stiglitz's discoveries do not come from economics itself but mostly from political scientists and are in the fields of sociology. As David L. Prychitko discusses in his "critique" to Whither Socialism? (see below), although Stiglitz's main economic insight seems generally correct, it still leaves open to question great constitutional questions such as how the coercive institutions of the state should be constrained and what is the relation between the state and civil society.
Stiglitz moved to Washington in March 1992 to join the Clinton Administration, first as a member, and then as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, in which capacity he also served as a member of the cabinet. He became deeply involved in environmental issues, which included serving on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and helping draft a new law for toxic wastes (which was never passed). Some of the ideas that Stiglitz had helped formulate, like adverse selection and moral hazard, are now part of the every day language of the policy debate in health care.
Stiglitz's most important contribution in this period was helping define a new economic philosophy, a "third way", which recognized the important, but limited, role of government, that unfettered markets often did not work well, but that government was not always able to correct the limitations of markets. The academic research that he had been conducting over the preceding twenty-five years provided the intellectual foundations for this "third way".
When President Bill Clinton was re-elected, he asked Stiglitz to continue to serve as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for another term. But he had already been approached by the World Bank, to be its senior vice president for development policy and its chief economist.
As the World Bank began its ten year review of the transition of the former Communist countries to the market economy it unveiled failures of the countries that had followed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) shock therapy policies - both in terms of the declines in GDP and increases in poverty - that were even worse than the worst that most of its critics had envisioned at the onset of the transition. Clear links existed between the dismal performances and the policies that the IMF had advocated, such as the voucher privatization schemes and excessive monetary stringency. Meanwhile, the success of a few countries that had followed quite different strategies suggested that there were alternatives that could have been followed. The U.S. Treasury had put enormous pressure on the World Bank to silence his criticisms of the policies which they and the IMF had pushed.
Stiglitz always had a poor relationship with Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. In 2000 Summers successfully petitioned for Stiglitz's removal, supposedly in exchange for World Bank President James Wolfensohn's re-appointment – an exchange that Wolfensohn denies took place. Whether Summers ever made such a blunt demand is questionable – Wolfensohn claims he would "have told him to fuck himself".
Stiglitz resigned a month before his term expired at the World Bank, and left the Bank in January 2000. The Bank's president, James Wolfensohn, announced Stiglitz's resignation in November 1999 and also announced that Stiglitz would stay on as "special advisor to the president", and would chair the search committee for a successor.
In this role, he continued criticism of the IMF, and, by implication, the US Treasury Department. In April 2000, in an article for The New Republic, he wrote:
The article was published a week before the annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF and provoked a strong response. It proved too strong for Summers and, yet more lethally, Stiglitz's protector-of-sorts at the World Bank, Wolfensohn. Wolfensohn had privately empathised with Stiglitz's views, yet this time Wolfensohn was worried for his second term, which Summers had threatened to veto. Stanley Fisher, deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, called a special staff meeting and informed at that gathering that Wolfensohn had agreed to fire Stiglitz. Meanwhile, the Bank's External Affairs department told the press that Stiglitz had not been fired, his post had merely been abolished.
In a September 19, 2008 radio interview with Aimee Allison and Philip Maldari on Pacifica Radio's KPFA 94.1 FM in Berkeley, California, Stiglitz implied that President Clinton and his economic advisors would not have backed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had they been aware of stealth provisions, inserted by lobbyists, that they overlooked. In consideration of its compelling intellectual value, KPFA has elected to offer a recorded transcript of the interview with Stiglitz as a premium for a listener fundraising pledge campaign.
In July 2000 Stiglitz founded the Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD), with support of the Ford, Rockefeller, McArthur, and Mott Foundations and the Canadian and Swedish government, to enhance democratic processes for decision-making in developing countries, to ensure that a broader range of alternatives are on the table and more stakeholders are at the table.
Along with his technical economic publications (he has published over 300 technical articles), Stiglitz is the author of books on issues from patent law to abuses in international trade.
In Stability with Growth: Macroeconomics, Liberalization and Development (2006), Stiglitz, José Antoni Ocampo (United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs) Shari Spiegel (Managing Director, Initiative for Policy Dialogue - IPD ) Ricardo Ffrench-Davis (Main Adviser, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean - ECLAC ) and Deepak Nayyar (Vice Chancellor, University of Delhi) discuss the current debates on macroeconomics, capital market liberalization, and development, and develop a new framework within which one can assess alternative policies. They explain their belief that the Washington Consensus has advocated narrow goals for development (with a focus on price stability) and prescribed too few policy instruments (emphasizing monetary and fiscal policies), and places unwarranted faith in the role of markets. The new framework focuses on real stability and long-term sustainable and equitable growth, offers a variety of non-standard ways to stabilize the economy and promote growth, and accepts that market imperfections necessitate government interventions. Policy-makers have pursued stabilization goals with little concern for growth consequences, while trying to increase growth through structural reforms focused on improving economic efficiency. Moreover, structural policies, such as capital market liberalization, have had major consequences for economic stability. This book challenge these policies by arguing that stabilization policy has important consequences for long-term growth and has often been implemented with adverse consequences. The first part of the book introduces the key questions and looks at the objectives of economic policy from different perspectives. The second part examines the central issues of macroeconomics, presenting an analysis of economic models and policy perspectives on stabilization from Neoclassical, Keynesian, and heterodox perspectives. The third part presents a similar analysis for capital market liberalization.
Making Globalization Work (2006) surveys the iniquities of the global economy, and the mechanisms by which developed countries exert an excessive influence over developing nations. Dr. Stiglitz argues that through tariffs, subsidies, an overly-complex patent system and pollution, the world is being both economically and politically destabilised. Stiglitz argues that strong, transparent institutions are needed to address these problems. He shows how an examination of incomplete markets can make corrective government policies desirable.
Stiglitz argues that economic opportunities are not widely enough available, that financial crises are too costly and too frequent, and that the rich countries have done too little to address these problems. Making Globalization Work had sold more than two million copies.
In Globalization and Its Discontents (2002), Stiglitz argues that what are often called "developing economies" are, in fact, not developing at all, and puts much of the blame on the IMF.
Stiglitz bases his argument on the themes that his decades of theoretical work have emphasized: namely, what happens when people lack the key information that bears on the decisions they have to make, or when markets for important kinds of transactions are inadequate or don't exist, or when other institutions that standard economic thinking takes for granted are absent or flawed. Stiglitz stresses the point: "Recent advances in economic theory" (in part referring to his own work) "have shown that whenever information is imperfect and markets incomplete, which is to say always, and especially in developing countries, then the invisible hand works most imperfectly." As a result, Stiglitz continues, governments can improve the outcome by well-chosen interventions. Stiglitz argues that when families and firms seek to buy too little compared to what the economy can produce, governments can fight recessions and depressions by using expansionary monetary and fiscal policies to spur the demand for goods and services. At the microeconomic level, governments can regulate banks and other financial institutions to keep them sound. They can also use tax policy to steer investment into more productive industries and trade policies to allow new industries to mature to the point at which they can survive foreign competition. And governments can use a variety of devices, ranging from job creation to manpower training to welfare assistance, to put unemployed labor back to work and cushion human hardship.
Stiglitz complains bitterly that the IMF has done great damage through the economic policies it has prescribed that countries must follow in order to qualify for IMF loans, or for loans from banks and other private-sector lenders that look to the IMF to indicate whether a borrower is creditworthy. The organization and its officials, he argues, have ignored the implications of incomplete information, inadequate markets, and unworkable institutions—all of which are especially characteristic of newly developing countries. As a result, Stiglitz argues, the IMF has often called for policies that conform to textbook economics but do not make sense for the countries to which the IMF is recommending them. Stiglitz seeks to show that these policies have been disastrous for the countries that have followed them.
Whither Socialism? is based on Stiglitz's Wicksell Lectures, presented at the Stockholm School of Economics in 1990 and presents a summary of information economics and the theory of markets with imperfect information and imperfect competition, as well as being a critique of both free market and market socialist approaches (see Roemer critique, op. cit.). Stiglitz explains how the neoclassical, or Walrasian model ("Walrasian economics" refers to the result of the process which has given birth to a formal representation of Adam Smith's notion of the "invisible hand", along the lines put forward by Leon Walras and encapsulated in the general equilibrium model of Arrow-Debreu), may have wrongly encouraged the belief that market socialism could work. Stiglitz proposes an alternative model, based on the information economics established by the Greenwald-Stiglitz theorems.
One of the reasons Stiglitz sees for the critical failing in the standard neoclassical model, on which market socialism was built, is its failure to consider the problems that arise from lack of perfect information and from the costs of acquiring information. He also identifies problems arising from its assumptions concerning completeness.Critique
Whither Socialism? has been subject to various critiques such as those of the Yale professor John E. Roemer, Peter Boettke, the Deputy Director of the James M. Buchanan Center for Political Economy (1996), as well as David L. Prychitko, a professor of economics at Northern Michigan University. According to Prychitko:
"Stiglitz's main insight is generally correct that the state cannot be ruled out or that it should be ruled in --, but leaves open the grand constitutional questions: How will the coercive institutions of the state be constrained? What is the relation between the state and civil society? His book fails on these political aspects because it has not addressed the broader constitutional concerns that James McGill Buchanan Jr. (1975) and other economists have raised."
Dr. Stiglitz wrote a series of papers and held a series of conferences explaining how such information uncertainties may have influence on everything from unemployment to lending shortages. As the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton Administration and former chief economist at the World Bank, Dr. Stiglitz was able to put some of his views into action. For example, he was an outspoken critic of quickly opening up financial markets in developing countries. These markets rely on access to good financial data and sound bankruptcy laws, but he argued that many of these countries didn't have the regulatory institutions needed to ensure that the markets would operate soundly.
Stiglitz married for the third time on October 28, 2004, to Anya Schiffrin, who works at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Before that, he married and divorced twice.