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Articles by James Barrett

James Barrett is Chief Economist at the Clean Economy Development Center

Featured Article

This post originally appeared on the Great Energy Challenge blog, in partnership with National Geographic and Planet Forward. 

John Maynard Keynes, a giant in modern economic theory, famously wrote, “Most, probably, of our decisions to do something positive, the full consequences of which will be drawn out over many days to come, can only be taken as the result of animal spirits.”

This notion, laid out in his seminal book, The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, was meant to push back on the notion that people behave in an purely economically rational manner, that many of our decisions are based not solely on a cool weighting of probable costs and benefits, but also on “spontaneous optimism” to act.

So professionally, we’ve known at least since Keynes wrote this in 1936 that sentiment and gut instincts drive a lot of our decisions. Score one for common sense.

Practically, what this means is that if people feel bad about their economic prospects, that “spontaneous optimism” is likely to be absent. This is why, for example, many of us think the Recovery Act was so critical. Cutting ... Read more

All Articles

  • Drilling down on oil

    It may be true, but domestic oil drilling won’t help.This post originally appeared on the Great Energy Challenge blog, in partnership with National Geographic and Planet Forward.  It’s an unfortunate fact that stress has a way of making people crazy. At the moment, rising oil prices are creating a lot of stress. One of the […]

  • What Obama should know about ending oil subsidies

    This post originally appeared on the Great Energy Challenge blog, in partnership with National Geographic and Planet Forward.  Despite my seriously mixed feelings about the State of the Union speeches, I tuned in to this year’s speech for the first time in several years. Like many, I was disappointed if not surprised that President Obama […]

  • Silly Season 2.0

    To those with more than a casual interest in politics, “Silly Season” is a common term used to indicate the time running up to an election when the logic of Capitol Hill, such as it is, gets crazier than usual. Votes are scheduled or canceled depending on how much they would help or hurt the […]

  • Rebounds and Jevons: Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded

    My last post on David Owen's piece in the New Yorker and on the Jevons effect stirred up some interesting questions and discussion that I want to follow up on here.