Home / Sezioni / capitali / The anti-scientific revolution in macroeconomics

facebook-link twitter-link


Registrati alla newsletter di sbilanciamoci.info


Ultimi link in questa sezione

Why we must end upward pre-distribution to the rich
How Goldman Sachs Profited From the Greek Debt Crisis
Solo lo spirito del Dopoguerra potrà salvarci dalla crisi eterna
The Conundrum of Corporation and Nation
La Grecia, le riforme e il giallo della tabella
Basic Income Pilots: A Better Option Than QE
Le coup de force inadmissible et irresponsable de la BCE contre la Grèce

The anti-scientific revolution in macroeconomics


Well, now I’m in Dublin to receive the James Joyce Award; life is interesting, although it does tend to get in the way of blogging.

But I thought I could squeeze out a few minutes to talk about something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: the remarkable extent to which powerful groups, including a fair number of economists, have rejected intellectual progress because it disturbs their ideological preconceptions.

What brings this to mind is the debate over extended unemployment benefits, which I think provides a teachable moment.

There’s a sort of standard view on this issue, based on more or less Keynesian models. According to this view, enhanced UI actually creates jobs when the economy is depressed. Why? Because the economy suffers from an inadequate overall level of demand, and unemployment benefits put money in the hands of people likely to spend it, increasing demand.

You could, I suppose, muster various arguments against this proposition, or at least the wisdom of increasing UI. You might, for example, be worried about budget deficits. I’d argue against such concerns, but it would at least be a more or less comprehensible conversation.

But if you follow right-wing talk — by which I mean not Rush Limbaugh but the Wall Street Journal and famous economists like Robert Barro — you see the notion that aid to the unemployed can create jobs dismissed as self-evidently absurd. You think that you can reduce unemployment by paying people not to work? Hahahaha!

Quite aside from the fact that this ridicule is dead wrong, and has had a malign effect on policy, think about what it represents: it amounts to casually trashing one of the most important discoveries economists have ever made, one of my profession’s main claims to be useful to humanity.

If you read Barro’s piece, what you see is a blithe dismissal of the whole notion that economies can ever suffer from am inadequate level of “aggregate demand” — the scare quotes are his, not mine, meant to suggest that this is a silly, bizarre notion, in conflict with “regular economics.”

You’d never know, either from the WSJ or from people like Barro, why anyone ever felt that regular economics — the economics of supply and demand and all that — was inadequate.

But you see, there are these things we call recessions. And if you believe regular economics is all there is, you should find them very upsetting.

Read more