IFENG: You published Poor Economics ten years ago and listed many causes of poverty. In my understanding, many people were born to be poor. Currently, due to the global outbreak of Coronavirus, some people fall into poverty. Do you have any solution for this new kind of poverty?
Banerjee: In terms of what this Coronavirus pandemic might do to long-term poverty, I think it’s too soon to close the book. I think we have seen episodes where there is a large shock. But the economies recover fast. Most of the people who are poor who are basically less poor now because they are earning money now. We’ll also start earning money and again recover the economic status. I think most poor people will have lost some of their saving. But they don’t have so much saving. That’s not the source of long-term poverty for them.
IFENG: In your book Good Economics, you mentioned that the society is divided and antagonized, with a shrinking space for the dialogue and an increasing level of polarization. Amid pandemic, we notice that this phenomenon has become more visible and serious. What is the root of this social disruption and polarization?
Banerjee: I think the polarization is always an option. For politicians who are to stay out of a place for themselves, they will use this opportunity to blame somebody. To claim that you know either nationalistic gestures, or you know claims of superiority and inferiority and who’s responsible. We absolutely see it right now. But it’s one of the things that, I think, when people are frightened, it’s always something that people will sort of in the corner of mind comes up. Say you know “is this someone who’s responsible?” Is this someone who should be blamed? I think that’s easy to have that. I think what we need is confidence building in not losing our confidence that we can do it and we shouldn’t shrink down into a group of who worrying about consequences. We should hold our peace when people see provocative things, ignore them. I think that’s a big confidence in the role of the state and in the role of the international community, in what we can do together. That’s the best recipe.
IFENG: In your book Good Economics, you would like to make economics great again. My personal feeling is that people like to accept some economists’ viewpoints, but fail to understand economics from a historical perspective. If we put economists’ opinions in the long run of history, can we understand them better?
Banerjee: I’m not sure I particularly understand the view that you know this is somehow we have to understand the economics in a historical perspective. I do think is that what economics has fair to do is just convey the knowns nature of economic evidence. The evidence is often not, you cannot read naively. That you need to kind of think about why that evidence may or may not reliable. And interpret it with some care. I think that if we do that, I’m confident that we can make progress. The whole point of our book was of good economics for hard times, was to give us a sense of how modern economics reasons. And modern economics is not an ideological domain where they are just domain of the pronouncements. It’s a domain of discuss logic where we kind of go into piece of evidence and think of how they could be interpreted and misinterpreted. If they do that carefully, and what we try to do in the book in particular to get everybody else, the reader in particular, to understand how to participate in that process, to themselves inquiry of evidence and not take it for granted. Be open to different interpretations. Try to see how to put together a bunch piece of evidence, chain them together to make a stronger case. That’s sort of the project of our book and hopefully that will make people appreciate why they should dig economics more seriously, not as a source of ideological talks, but as a source of scientific attitudes and scientific facts.
IFENG: In Good Economics, you list some principles and try to convey them to your reader. If you can pick only one rule for your reader, which one would you choose?
Banerjee: Among the principles we listed in Good Economics, I think perhaps the most important principle is the principle of skepticism. I think of being, not being convinced by evidence that looks plausible. Or the principle of being open to alternative interpretation. So try to inquire the data that they look or may look this way but it doesn’t have to be. Often times the reason why we end up in the wrong place is because we don’t interpret the evidence. Now if we don’t think what alternative reason enough, we kind of act naively. So I think perhaps the principle of skepticism of being open to different interpretations being inherently willing to mistrust easy formula. You know the world is a complex place. We need to think of each situation on its own. I think that’s the best recipe we have.
IFENG: In the context of the pandemic outbreak and economic recession, what’s your solution for today’s economy? Can we turn the economy better in this disastrous situation?
Banerjee: In term of the pandemic, I think that what we can, I think, presumably and frankly say is that this is going to be an immediate demand shock, that lots of people would have lost their earning capacity and therefore in the short trend is the spending capacity. If we don’t restore the spending capacity, then the economy will shrink. And so I think the most important simple economic lesson we have is that government should be in a position to bump the economy, so that the supply forces must be in demand.
And the natural economic forces which stick supply into demand, and demand into further incomes, and then into further demand again. I think that chain will reopen. That’s critical that we do that.
IFENG: The Economist recently published a cover story—The Globalization is over. Do you share the same view? What’s your perspective on globalization?
Banerjee: Actually, I’m not particularly pessimistic yet about globalization. I think the degree of globalization might vary a little. But I think that the degree its supply depends on China for example is just so enormous that whatever I don’t believe that it’s going to be an end. I just think that’s going to be, you know maybe their exchange will move a little bit. But I don’t, finally I don’t believe that the globalization is going to be over. I think maybe a particular level of enthusiasm for globalization will be questioned, and maybe it should be questioned a little bit, because I think there is maybe a naïve commitment to it in some circles. But I think overall I don’t believe it’s going to be the end of globalization.
IFENG: A Chinese philosopher asked a question at the end of his life—will this world be a better place? What’s your answer to this question?
Banerjee: At the end of my life, I actually believe the world will be a better place. I still think that just in my lifetime, I have seen enormous improvements, enormous problems as well. I think the climate problem is potentially catastrophe. We need to do something about it. But I have hope that we will and especially this pandemic might persuade us that you know trifle with nature powers is dangerous. And I think that on the other hand, we have achieved a lot. A lot of people who used to be desperately poor are less desperately poor now. Enormous reduction in world poverty, and not just in China, in lots of places in Bangladesh, in Vietnam, in Pakistan, in India, in Cambodia. So I think in all of those things will contribute to, have contributed to a better world. And I feel that the same forces will do more good things for the world.
编者注：阿比吉特·班纳吉（Abhijit Banerjee）是美国著名经济学家、美国麻省理工学院福特基金会国际经济学教授，同时也是Abdul Latif Jameel贫困行动实验室的联合创始人，该实验室是贫困行动创新研究的附属机构，也是金融系统和贫困联合会的成员。2019年10月14日，2019年诺贝尔经济学奖在瑞典揭晓，由阿比吉特·班纳吉等三人摘得奖项，以表彰他们“在减轻全球贫困方面的实验性做法”。