The Economics of the Third Way

The Economics of the Third Way

Experiences from Around the World

Edited by Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer

The ‘third way’ is a term often used by politicians and others to indicate a set of new policies adopted by former social democratic parties throughout the world. This book is an attempt to dissect the ideas and economic theory behind the rhetoric of the ‘third way’ through a critical evaluation of the experiences of ‘third way’ administrations in a diverse range of countries.

Chapter 5: Anatomy of Clintonomics

Robert Pollin

Subjects: economics and finance, post-keynesian economics, public sector economics


Robert Pollin 1 The performance of the US economy in the eight years of the Clinton presidency is widely regarded as having been an extraordinary success. There is no doubt that dramatic departures from past US economic trends have occurred under Clinton. Three, in particular, stand out: the attainment of balance, and then a surplus, in the federal budget; the simultaneous declines in unemployment and inflation, in direct contradiction to the predictions of mainstream economic theory; and the historically unprecedented stock market boom. The Clinton administration and its supporters tout these as the fruit of a new direction in economic policy - what Clinton himself terms a ‘Third Way’ between ‘those who said government was the enemy and those who said government was the solution’ - an ‘information-age government’ that ‘must be smaller, must be less bureaucratic, must be fiscally disciplined, and focused on being a catalyst for new ideas’.2 Clintonites are not, of course, the only political force to boast of the discovery of a Third Way between the legacy of Reagan and Thatcher and that of traditional social democracy (or what used to be termed ‘liberalism’ in the United States). Over the past five years, regimes ranging from those of Blair in Britain to Cardoso in Brazil have invoked the same slogan. But if its main theoretical development has come from the UK, in the work of Anthony Giddens (for example 1998), it is the practical record of the US economy that is often held to offer the...

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