Economist Mark Blyth, author of Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, is a faculty fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University and professor of international political economy at Brown, where he directs the undergraduate programs in development studies and international relations. Before talking about why austerity never works, he explained in the Zócalo green room that his philosophy on booking hotel rooms is similar to his feelings about macroeconomic policy: One should always pay the extra $10.
What’s the last purchase that gave you buyer’s remorse?
I think it was a hotel, and I think I bought the option that was no cancellation to save myself 10 bucks, and of course I had to cancel it and it cost me 200 bucks. The life lesson learned is of course always pay the extra 10 bucks.
What’s your favorite only-in-Boston meal?
Ten years ago that would have been a hard one to answer because there were no decent meals in Boston. And the problem is, I actually cook a lot at home, so I don’t see that much that blows me away. … It’s the Singapore noodles at Penang in Chinatown. That’s a staple for me.
What’s your specialty in the kitchen?
There’s no specialty. I started off doing North Indian, then I did South Indian, then I migrated to Thai, I fiddled with Malaysian, then I became European in my old age. I do an osso buco with saffron olives and oranges. [That sounds amazing.] It is pretty awesome.
What country would you annex to become the 51st U.S. state?
Canada. I would normalize the relationship with Canada so they can stop pretending it’s a separate country. When 75 percent of your exports go to the U.S., you’re part of the team. That will piss off all the Canadians I know.
Are you Canadian?
What contemporary economist inspires you?
Andrew Haldane, capital markets group, Bank of England. I think he’s one of the few genuine geniuses around at the moment.
What word or phrase do you use most often?
I like to think that my legerdemain is broad enough so I would not be involved in mindless repetition, although I am prone to saying the word “bollocks” quite a lot.
What’s your earliest memory?
My first solid meal. It was custard. I was 2.
Are you lucky?
I’m still here.
What’s your hidden talent?
Oddly enough, I’ve just come back after a 15-year hiatus—a reunion with the last band I played with. I’m actually a very, very good bass player, if I say so myself. I have the blood blister to prove it.
How many credit cards do you have?
Two. One is for travel. One is for repeating expenses, such as gym memberships.