Nobel laureate, Paul Krugman, to his fellow economists: “How we failed”

This is a terrific critique of the economic profession by one of its leading lights. Paul Krugman, taking names:

Early in 2009, when the Obama stimulus was under discussion, I was stunned to read statements from a number of well-regarded economists asserting not merely that the plan was a bad idea in practice . . . but that debt-financed government spending could not, in principle, raise overall spending. Here’s John Cochrane:

“If the government borrows a dollar from you, that is a dollar that you do not spend, or that you do not lend to a company to spend on new investment. Every dollar of increased government spending must correspond to one less dollar of private spending. Jobs created by stimulus spending are offset by jobs lost from the decline in private spending. We can build roads instead of factories, but fiscal stimulus can’t help us to build more of both. This is just accounting, and does not need a complex argument about ‘crowding out.’”

I won’t go into detail here about why that’s wrong. Let’s just say that statements like this reveal a complete ignorance of almost 80 years of macroeconomic analysis . . . [W]hat became clear in the policy debate after the 2008 crisis was that many economists . . . don’t know the simplest multiplier analysis. They literally know nothing about models in which aggregate demand can be determined by more than the quantity of money. I’m not saying that they have looked into such models and rejected them; they are unaware that it’s even possible to tell a logically consistent Keynesian story. We’ve entered a Dark Age of macroeconomics, in which much of the profession has lost its former knowledge, just as barbarian Europe had lost the knowledge of the Greeks and Romans.

As long as monetary policy could bear the burden of macroeconomic stabilization, this didn’t seem to matter too much: even as equilibrium business cycle theory became increasingly dominant in graduate study, central banks, like medieval monasteries, kept the old learning alive. But once we were hit with such a severe banking and balance sheet crisis that monetary policy hit the zero lower bound [rendering monetary policy ineffective], it was crucial that the economics profession be able to weigh in knowledgeably and coherently on other possible actions. And it turned out that it couldn’t.

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About Guy N. Texas

Guy N. Texas is the pen name of a lawyer living in Dallas, who is now a liberal. He was once conservative, but this word has so morphed in meaning that he can no longer call himself that in good conscience. Guy has no political aspirations. He speaks only for himself.
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