Impact and engagement

Theory and practice should always inform each other.

My engagement with the public has always been problem-driven. I have taken the insights from my research and found ways of using them to make sense of contemporary challenges, ranging from the 2008 global financial crisis to the recent crisis of democracy around the world, and the ongoing political and economic crisis produced by the coronavirus pandemic.

The political economy of the COVID-19 pandemic

The massive policy crisis posed by COVID-19 has made visible a whole host of problems in our current political economic system—and in our capacity to respond effectively and creatively in times of great uncertainty.

How do we act effectively in a crisis when there is so much that we do not know? This is the challenge that policymakers face today on two very different fronts: public health and the economy. As the economic crisis that the coronavirus has sparked deepens, economic policymakers must also take steps while facing huge uncertainty about what the likely consequences will be.

In spite of the popularity of the idea that such moments of profound crisis and uncertainty are critical junctures in which new ideas and institutions are formed, what has been notable about the major economic crises since the 1990s is how policymakers have failed to significantly rethink economic ideas and redesign political economic institutions. The costs of this failure is now becoming apparent as the present crisis reveals the huge vulnerabilities and inequities in our political economic system.

Recent media interviews include:

Interview with Jacqueline Best and Randall Germain: Political Economy in Times of COVID-19 Pandemic. CIPS Podcast, April 19, 2020.

Don Pittis, CBC News, “As COVID-19 hits the economy, bailouts are a fresh reminder why governments matter.” March 20, 2020.

Don Pitis, CBC News, “Does the economy need a helicopter rescue to escape COVID-19 disaster?” March 24, 2020.

Recent publications on this topic include:

“We are entering another state of exception—but this time it is economic too,” SPERI Blog, April 17, 2020.

“Why it’s important to acknowledge what we don’t know in a crisis” CIPS blog, March 25, 2020.

“Can the Bank of Canada come to the rescue again?” Ottawa Citizen, March 11, 2020.

The ongoing democratic crisis

Trump

How did we get here? Like many other political economy scholars, I had hoped that the 2008 global financial crisis would translate into meaningful economic changes. That we would finally begin to reign in some of the excesses of global finance. And more importantly, that we would finally begin to tackle inequality and make the economy work for the many people who had been left behind since the 1980s and 1990s.

Instead, we have witnessed the election of right-wing populist leaders like Donald Trump, growing disaffection with democratic politics among the young, and very little movement on inequality around the world. Without being reductionist, we do need to begin to identify and understand the links between decades of poor economic policy and the threats to democracy that we face today, which have only become more visible in the context of the coronavirus crisis.

Recent media interviews include:

Paul Haavardsrud, CBC News“Why Trump’s trade war makes sense — if you’re Trump” July 7, 2018.

Don Pittis, CBC News, “Why wages aren’t rising while workers remain in short supply,” June 22, 2017.

Some of my recent publications on this subject include:

“How Austerity Measures Helped Fuel Today’s Populism,” The Conversation, October 1, 2018.

“Why nationalizing the Trans Mountain pipeline is undemocratic,” The Globe and Mail, 7 June, 2018.

“Economic Wishful Thinking and the Democratic Crisis,” Current History. Vol. 117, No. 802, 2018, pp. 291-297.

“Fat Cats in Paradise: Why Private Wealth is a Political Issue,” SPERI Blog, January 15, 2018.

“Bring Politics Back to Monetary Policy: How Technocratic Exceptionalism Fuels Populism,” Foreign Affairs. December, 2017.

 “Why we need better central bank accountability,” Ethics & International Affairs Blog, June 16, 2016.

The 2008 financial crisis – and the next one?

Lehman

During and after the 2008 global financial crisis, I was one of many scholars trying to both make sense of what was going on, and suggest what kinds of lessons we should be drawing from the astonishing mess that global political and business leaders had made of our economies. During that crisis, I spent a lot of time writing about what was going on, and also restructured all of my political economy classes to reflect on the crisis. In my role as Distinguished Research Associate at the North-South Institute, I also spent a lot time talking to policymakers, NGOs, labour leaders and think tanks about what was going on.

A decade on, although the financial fall-out from COVID-19 hasn’t been as terrifying as it could have been, it’s not clear that we have learned many of the right lessons from the last one..

Recent media interviews on this topic include:

Don Pitis, CBC News, “Does the economy need a helicopter rescue to escape COVID-19 disaster?” March 24, 2020.

David Parkinson and Barrie McKenna, The Globe and Mail, “The 10-year hangover: How the long shadow of the global financial crisis endures,” Sept 14, 2018.

Paul Haavardsrud, “Beyond NAFTA tweaks: How Trump’s anti-trade talk could be bad for Canada.” CBC News, Feb 16, 2017.

Recent publications that speak to these themes include:

“Can the Bank of Canada come to the rescue again?” Ottawa Citizen, March 11, 2020.

“Why we aren’t ready for the next financial crisis,” Ottawa CitizenSeptember 20, 2018.

“Economic Wishful Thinking and the Democratic Crisis,” Current History. Vol. 117, No. 802, 2018, pp. 291-297.

“Don’t Panic! (at least not about inflation),” CIPS Blog, February 1, 2018.

“The coming crisis: the monetary policy credibility trap,” SPERI BlogApril 19, 2016.

 “Why we need better central bank accountability,” Ethics & International Affairs Blog, June 16, 2016.

“Canada needs to do a better job of managing financial uncertainty”, The Hill Times, May 25, 2015.