What should I ask Adam Tooze?

I will be doing a Conversation with him, no associated public event.  He has been tweeting about the risks of a financial crisis during Covid-19, but more generally he is one of the most influential historians, currently being a Professor at Columbia University.  His previous books cover German economic history, German statistical history, the financial crisis of 2008, and most generally early to mid-20th century European history.  Here is his home page, here is his bio, here is his Wikipedia page.

So what should I ask him?


I think the two big questions for the economy are:

1. What should we be doing now?

2. Can we hope for a lot of pent-up demand during recovery?

Clearly you have a bad case of HUYA syndrome...

Boxers or briefs?

Another such victory and we are lost.

The 'cure' [destroy the economy] may prove worse than the plague.

As a big believer in pent-up demand, I don't think that's really true.

Get ready for the Roaring Twenties.

Gotta be a troll. Even Rich is not this pathetic...or is he??

No. The world is wonderful because my priors are not yet violated. That has nothing to do with your priors, my priors trump your priors, on account of another prior of mine which says so.

Obvious sockpuppet is obvious

> no associated public event

Hardly needs stating

Ask him about the diesel passenger cars Merkel and VW and IG Metall pushed on the EU that have contributed to coronavirus deaths because of the pollution they emit. Was it worth it to push diesel passenger cars on Europe to reduce carbon emissions in order to comply with Kyoto?

For the Nth time, California did Kyoto without diesel. That is, we were not sold a bill of goods.

Well, except for the Hydrogen Highway bill of goods. We fell for that.

This really speaks for a wider problem in both health and environment.

If someone chooses a stupid solution, does that mean the problem was not real?

Not really, no.

Except in America we chose an equally stupid solution—ethanol. The problem with the green movement is that it is a bunch of people with liberal arts degrees always screaming “science” ...when they should be saying “economics”.

Ethanol is better than MTBE, and definitely better than lead.

Of course in that role you only need 5-10% ethanol, IIRC. And there can be a free market for that.

Ethanol was a horrible policy choice. We drove up the price of corn, which in the US is irrelevant but in food insecure countries is extremely relevant.

Instead of handouts to rent seekers like VW and corn farmers which caused pollution deaths and starvation, just throw a revenue neutral carbon tax in place and be done with it.

Offset with a reduction in FICA taxes for the first $50,000 earned. Reduce both pollution and poverty.

Do you understand the difference between ethanol as a fuel, and ethanol as an anti-knocking agent?


I'm not sure that Merkel has anything to do with the increased use in diesel cars in the EU though...if anyone pushed this, it was Schroeder...

Q: What is your moral philosophy? (e.g., metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics)

Why should we panic over monetisation? By monetisation, I mean the real thing, default in on form or the other.

He quotes Blanchard as saying do not panic, the central banks have not given up on the inflation mandate. But the central banks no have no private sector lending activities, their whole banking network is shutting down, simply to avoid panic? How stupid can Blanchard be?

So my queswtion is. Why the frig to people believe the crap about a stable central banking when history proves there is no such thing. Why don't people believe that government accumulates losses now and then like any other enterprise? What the frig good is it to have dim bulbs like Blanchard around to lie and deny?

Tooze seems to know a lot about economic history and political control. Ask him how much of the downturn(s) he has studied were made worse by government actions or policies?
How might he distinguish between the beneficial effects of social actions of individuals, voluntarily, after being given a heavy barrage by news of knowledge about precautions?
Did coercion and politics help? Or was there democratic panic and chaos?
In other words, break down that silly "WE" into its relevant parts, to separate out what is clearly "they" and not you or me.

What will be the impact of Coronavirus on the EU. Will the rules that cap each country budget deficit at 3% of GDP rescinded ? Will the EU issue joint Corona bonds to keep say Italian borrowing costs low.

Why is printing money to buy imports from Asia, or Germany, a good policy?

That question applies to both the EU and the US.

Those who expected SARS-Cov2 tried to build capital in the US to defend against it.

But the conservative economics of government, investing in capital is wasteful deficit spending.

On the other hand, conservatives value debt funded buying of old capital to create monopoly power for rent extraction.

Thus any government spending to increase worker productivity, education, health care, to build capital the private sector won't, like roads, water and sewer, stockpiles for emergencies, factories to produce drugs and vaccines, factories to produce PPEs, is what Keynes calls capitalism, but that conservatives call wasteful spending.

After all, how can you profit from an economic crash if government investment prevents a crash by both producing what is needed in a crisis while investing more in increasing worker productivity in a crisis.

Thus you must damn the classic borrowing to build capital than generates more revenue return than the cost to build it, repaying the debt.

Post WWII, governments kept borrowing on top of the war debt to build new capital, which increased productivity and revenue so the income rose faster than debt. The US went from public debt in excess of 100% of GDP in 1945 down to 50% of GDP in 1970 with the nominal annual new debt almost equal to the debt increase in 1944. The level of public investment in 1970 was pretty close to the peak.

Ironically, those damning government debt to build capital cut invest and increased debt increases to fund consumption that was increasing imports funding building capital outside the US, and most extremely, capital in China.

China had a fraction of the transportation capital of the US in 1970, but now has much more than the US which has less than it needs. And while the US has eliminated medical capital in the US, the US has increased imports, first from India and Europe, but increasingly from China which has the world's highest capital stock to produce medical goods of any nation.

Trump wants the medical capital in other nations to be owned by US Wall Street listed global corporations. He dies not want the capital built in the US by paying US workers.

Paying workers costs too much, makes capital too plentiful and thus profits impossible, and no economic profit (monopoly and rents) kills jobs in the US. In the US economic profits are the number one priority of conservatives.

China cheats by embracing Keynes, who advocated building so much capital, monopolists and rentier capitalists are euthanized.

Question for both Tyler and Adam.. completely non-covid related.

Writing seems to be an oft forgotten tool for developing intellect. People are always trying to read more, but seldom trying to write more. Do you believe society could benefit from further emphasis on practicing writing? Have you read any research on this? What do you recommend to those looking to get started? (e.g. personal essays, blogs, forums)

Ask him if he thinks that the influence of Bismarck on the development of European society and economics is underrated internationally.

Also, why exactly was occupied West Germany allowed to unite with East Germany? Wouldn't it have been more sensible to disunite Germany into its previous states before 1871? Do we really to take the chance on the Germans running amok once again?

Also, why exactly was occupied West Germany allowed to unite with East Germany?

Because weakening the Soviet empire and its vassal states was the major goal of America's foreign policy since the end of WWII? It was Reagan that wanted the wall torn down, not the East Germans or Soviets.

Ask him if he has any thots relating to how much more costs & how much more time the current Gov't conflicts-of-interest will delay producing efficient tests & vaccines for CoVid

Reading Crashed I was impressed by his argument that the financial effects of the Great Recession persist as a determining factor in our current politics. I wonder how he understands an endogenous event like the pandemic interacts with the historical effects of the crash?

financial effects of the Great Recession persist
The financial effects of 2009 are still with us, we never normalized. The financial effects of 2000 are still with us, we never normalized.

The accumulate and the deficits have double in each of the three last recessions. Instead, I would ask why is is so blind to our regularly scheduled recessions, why cannot he see the pattern? Why is everyone so afraid to live with a defective system, why do we have to have jerks running around deceiving us on an obvious, and quite trivial point. Having a bit of a defective system is fine, we can deal with it,. Get these friggen economists off their priors or ignore them..

If he ever met Peter Gay, who edited the excellent one volume Columbia History of the World.

What's his opinion about the Hohenzollern prince? Should he get his castle back?

For reference

Overrated or Underrated: claims of U.S. de-globalization a la Peter Thiel, given the dollar dominance Tooze often speaks about

Historians and economists are competitors, not collaborators. They should be collaborators, but they see the world through a very different lens. Do I trust historians or economists?

About German Macroeconomic policy in the past 20 years, the Hartz reforms and how they affected the attitude of german policymakers

Was the flu pandemic of 1918 in part responsible for the economic down turn following the end of WW1.

My question is with regard to higher education. Do you think that the combination of online teaching of classes to end the spring semester in conjunction with the financial toll on Americans from the current crisis will force colleges to reinvent the way they deliver courses and price tuition going forward, possibly as early as this fall?

1. Why do you think regulators base their bank capital requirements on the perceived/expected credit risks?
Is it not what’s misperceived or unexpected, like coronavirus, which poses real dangers to our bank system?

2. Those under 40 years and who, in Italy, represent 0.25% of all coronavirus/COVID19 deaths.
Who will for far longer time bear more of the brunt of all those economic costs derived from social distancing?
Is all as it should be?

Would the strategy that was implemented to deal with mad cow disease work with China and other nations third world public health situations in food markets?

Not to get into too much technical capabilities, but does Adam believe the tele/remote ways of the world may create habits for people to continue to stay inside or will we have social or system overload from this extended time of staying indoors for shelter-in-place purposes?

Where is it a requirement that people actually stay indoors?

Adam writes very big books. Are big books better than small books? Under what conditions is that statement true or false?

Better/more influential - "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" or "Berlin Diary".

What statistical principle should more of the general population understand?

This can be asked either as an overall question or a corona-virus-specific question, if the two answers differ.

-What is the world missing about Germany?
-Is it likely that Brexit in the end results in a stronger EU?

Okay I'm not am economist but I am European do I'll answer...
1st: I honestly think Germany is overrated currently both economically and politically... long-term trends are more negative for Germany than for France and/or Scandinavia, who I think will play s more important role in Europe in the future...
2nd: I'm not sure about this... the gist I'm getting from Germany is that many Germans would like the eastern EU members to leave the EU, and then that the EU should be reformed so as to have a "core" EU, with only the Western and maybe some southern countries as members... in this sense maybe, but it creates another basket of problems so that I'm not convinced it's better for the EU long-term...

Has Berlin changed appreciably since the Federal government moved from Bonn and made it the capital of Germany? Have federal agencies also moved to Berlin, or do the officials endlessly commute back and forth?

"Europe prides herself on her practical and scientific organisation and efficiency. I am waiting till her organisation is perfect; then a child shall destroy her."

Sri Aurobindo wrote these words over 100 years ago (maybe 90). Given the state of the euro and the disjointed monetary and fiscal controls, how long until this so called destruction. And it is curious he mentions a “child.” Is this a metaphor or a infantile personality like the American President’s.

Thank you.


That comment is utterly gnomic and can refer to anything. Define “destroy”? What is the scope of the destruction? Hitler didn’t destroy Europe, though he ravaged and occupied much of it and caused the death of millions. Europe rose from the ashes.

Why should a non specific remark from 1920, when Europe was recovering from war and pandemic, mean anything in our present day where Europe has very different problems?

You might as well see the child as Greta Thunberg or some other Joan of Arc.

Check your date

Some states are taking this pandemic seriously, while others are not. How will this staggering of action affect our ability to recover economically?

Name a state not taking the pandemic seriously, please. Just one.

Don’t say Sweden, just because Sweden is doing something that doesn’t fit with your priors or my priors.

In your opinion as a historian, how far along on the path towards fascism has the Trump administration pushed us, and to what degree did the Libertarian movement contribute to this result in the last 50 years.

Before you answer, reflect on how many late-term African-American babies have been aborted in the last decade or so because Obama did not care about the least of us.

Trump tried to put a stop to that genocidal nonsense, didn't he?

Trump, as scion of libertarianism, libertarianism as harbinger of fascism, you’ve managed to combine two of the dumbest extant ideas into one. This is like asking “how far has Obama pushed us toward theocracy, and how much are Muslims to blame?”

Tooze loathes Trump and so will undoubtedly say something vague about the threat Trump poses, instead of seeing Trump accurately as a rude thin skinned Eisenhower Republican.

Trump’s grand strategy extends to needling the more moronic members of the media posse, not a far reaching restructuring of the American state. Hell, even now with the coronavirus, he’s cleaving to the age old State - Fed divide.

Assuming some of the more pessimistic outcomes for Coronavirus , what will be the biggest change to financial market regulation in the next 5 years?

And do the Wirtschaftswunder and China's Great Transformation have essentially the same causes - made possible by then emerging technologies, but such things are no longer possible. Or are there policies which Germany got right immediately after the War which current emerging countries still can learn from?

Since he has deep knowledge of post WWI Germany, I would like to know his view of' Modern Monetary Theory.' Does It work until it doesn't , until it runs into Stein's law?

His book - as far into it as I’ve read - sort of offers a rather complex answer To this, but a summary would be nice: does he think Nazi Germany’s increase in spending (mostly toward rearmament) helped the German economy’s recovery? In essence, does Nazi Germany‘s economic performance during the 30s at least partly vindicate Keynesianism?

And relatedly: he discusses in his book a complicated way using subsidies and central bank IOUs the German government indirectly devalued its currency without officially devaluing (which was politically unacceptable). To what extent did this unofficial devaluation contribute to Germany’s recovery?

What I’m getting at is sort of “Nazis as Keynesians vs. Nazis as monetarists.”

The story of his grandfather is quite incredible, so perhaps something about that? If it isn't too personal…

And perhaps something about information flow/management? His books cover so much ground, so a big sweep of history and yet in such detail. Must be a great production function!

What if all developed countries keep on printing money, could that eventually lead to hyperinflation, or doesnt it work that way if all countries Keep doing the same thing?

Why have no great dry rages surged up onto the Bahama Banks since the early 1990s?

Do german economists have a unique conception of community? If so, how does this influence their economic thinking and in which way(s) does it contrast to US economic thinkers' conception?

Ok so this is very interesting for me... anyway here are some questions I think would be of interest not just to me, but also broadly:
- does he think that France will have a stronger economy than Germany going forward or not? Both in the short and long-term?
- does he think the east-central EU members (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary) do have any chance of surviving outside of the EU, or are they too dependent on the EU for trade, and thus they would collapse economically if they would leave the EU (my view)?
- does the US, because of it's geographic and demographic advantages, have a much stronger long-term economic potential than is seen currently? Compared to both the EU and China?
- should Canada and the US basically "merge" to form the largest country in the world?
- is something like the EU imaginable in a North American context (the US, Mexico, and Canada forming a political-economical union)?
- should the UK orient itself more towards the US or EU? Or should they try to stay neutral as much as possible?
- does he think any kind of major conflict between the EU and the US is possible? Should the EU and China work together in a kind of anti-american coalition?

Also, forgot to write this: I will all future conflicts be economic rather than military in nature? If so, should countries stop investing in military equipment (outside of cyberwarfare)?
And also this: is they an economic level of immigration that can be considered optimal for any country? If so what is it (as a percentage)?

1. What concrete changes for China in the global commerce scheme and supply chins do you anticipate once the immediate crisis has tided over.

2. Do you forsee major changes in governance models (autoritatiranism / socialism / communism etc.) in any specific countries post Covid?

3. Does Covid have implications for skewing the India vs China role in supply chains?

What to ask Adam Tooze?

Ask him what role democracy should have in a post-modern world?

Democracy is sloppy, as we all know, but we are, generally, willing to put up with its sloppiness because we are used to it and because it provides up with freedoms we enjoy. But it is, in my view, increasing difficult for it to provide for our general welfare.

Democracy suffers from its traditional flaw -- it allows a poorly-informed public pick its leaders. How can this produce a good result? This problem has existed from the start, obviously, but recent changes in society cause me to be skeptical of its utility in the future.

Firstly, technological change now occurs at a speed that democratic institutions cannot keep up with. For example, we will soon become a species that can hold evolution at bay by creating "designer" babies. This is both good and bad. It enables us to avoid some horrible diseases but will soon enable people to select for intelligence and beauty, a benefit that will be enjoyed disproportionally by the rich. Our governance mechanisms are very slow in regulating either the positive aspects of this or the negatives as they go through the laborious and contentious process of legislation, regulation and enforcement.

Secondly, technological change, particularly regarding social media, have left society's traditional concepts of freedom of speech and notions of privacy in the dust. If freedom of speech can be weaponized to influence elections, and more, can society continue to define it so broadly that damaging lies can be spread in an almost total absence of rules to block them or even slow them down?

Finally, how can a democratic West with all its freedoms and with so much sand in its gears compete in a world that is becoming dominated by a well-organized, well-educated monolithic China that uses dictatorial rule quite effectively? I don't think it can.

Love your blog.

William Armstrong

Does he see parallels between pre-WWI Europe, particularly the dynamic between Britain and Germany, and the current dynamic between USA/China? If not, why? If so, what are the similarities and what are the differences.

Does the EU project end as it started: in war?
Have the Ordoliberals being hiding in plain sight the whole time whilst the liberal left has been obsessed by neoliberalism and its counterpoint popularism?

I haven't been reading his tweets, but I read The Deluge fairly recently. I was struck at the time by both the nuance of the political spectrum he describes, particularly in Weimar Germany, and robustness of citizens' pursuit of their self interest. What I would ask if I could is, to what degree does the repetition of history depend on those two factors (accurate identification of self-interest, and willingness to do something about it)? In other words, are we even _capable_ of the tempestuousness of the period he analyzes in that book?

His argument in Crashed was that gross trade flows matter more than one-way net flows. How does he view China/US supply chain decoupling playing out? Assuming significant decoupling does result over the next 10-20 years, what follow-on effects, financial and economic, could result from reduced interdependence?

Why does he think a Fed-PBoC swap line is so infeasible, as stated in his recent NYT piece? Blowback from hawks in the WH and Congress? They don't seem to be constraining Fed freedom of action much..

How does he see post-COVID stimulus fiscal policy in the US playing out (in different D/R permutations for Congress and the WH)? Retrenchment or have the Keynesians/MMTers won the day, even at post-stimulus debt loads?

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