I couldn’t care less. These questions are all invitations to “big think”. But, for me, economics is not about grandiose ideas, but about detailed, empirical answers to smaller questions.
Take two examples.
1. When Vince Cable said that capitalism “kills competition where it can”, some claimed he was obviously right, and others that he was obviously wrong. But this is an empirical matter: is there a long-run trend towards a greater or lesser degree of monopoly? And the answer seems: neither. The powerful forces towards monopoly are more or less balanced out by powerful forces towards competition.
2. Will big cuts in the deficit jeopardise growth? This is not a question of whether Keynes was “right” or not. Instead, the question is: are the mechanisms through which deficit reductions (pdf) can stimulate economic growth likely to work here and now? My view, FWIW, is: probably not.
Now, my leftist readers might reply that this “small-think”, empiricism has a conservative bias.
Rubbish. The serious challenge to market fundamentalism comes not from airy-fairy theorizing - any fool can do that - but from empirical evidence showing that people are not wholly rational and selfish and that (some) markets do fail. And as I try to show sometimes, apparently low-level empirical studies can sometimes have very radical implications.
So, let’s forget big ideas. Look after the small ideas, and the big ones will take care of themselves.