In a recent lecture on the US recession, Robert Lucas gave an outline of what the new classical school of macroeconomics today thinks on the latest downturns in the US economy and its future prospects.
Lucas starts by showing that real US GDP has grown at an average yearly rate of 3 per cent since 1870, with one big dip during the Depression of the 1930s and a big – but smaller – dip in the recent recession.
After stating his view that the US recession that started in 2008 was basically caused by a run for liquidity, Lucas then goes on to discuss the prospect of recovery from where the US economy is today, maintaining that past experience would suggest an “automatic” recovery, if the free market system is left to repair itself to equilibrium unimpeded by social welfare activities of the government.
As could be expected there is no room for any Keynesian type considerations on eventual shortages of aggregate demand discouraging the recovery of the economy. No, as usual in the new classical macroeconomic school’s explanations and prescriptions, the blame game points to the government and its lack of supply side policies.
Lucas is convinced that what might arrest the recovery are higher taxes on the rich, greater government involvement in the medical sector and tougher regulations of the financial sector. But – if left to run its course unimpeded by European type welfare state activities -the free market will fix it all.
In a rather cavalier manner – without a hint of argument or presentation of empirical facts – Lucas dismisses even the possibility of a shortfall of demand. For someone who already 30 years ago proclaimed Keynesianism dead – “people don’t take Keynesian theorizing seriously anymore; the audience starts to whisper and giggle to one another” – this is of course only what could be expected. Demand considerations are simply ruled out on whimsical theoretical-ideological grounds, much like we have seen other neo-liberal economists do over and over again in their attempts to explain away the fact that the latest economic crises shows how the markets have failed to deliver. If there is a problem with the economy, the true cause has to be government.
Trying to explain business cycles in terms of rational expectations has failed blatantly. Maybe it would be asking to much of freshwater economists like Lucas to concede that, but it’s still a fact that ought to be embarrassing. My rational expectation is that 30 years from now, no one will know who Robert Lucas was. John Maynard Keynes, on the other hand, will still be known as one of the masters of economics.
A couple of days ago yours truly had a piece on why mainstream economists have tended to go astray in their tool-sheds and actually thereby have contributed to causing today’s economic crisis rather than to solving it.
J Bradford DeLong – professor of economics at Berkeley – writes on a related theme on Project Syndicate:
It is the scale of the catastrophe that astonishes me. But what astonishes me even more is the apparent failure of academic economics to take steps to prepare itself for the future. “We need to change our hiring patterns,” I expected to hear economics departments around the world say in the wake of the crisis.
The fact is that we need fewer efficient-markets theorists and more people who work on microstructure, limits to arbitrage, and cognitive biases. We need fewer equilibrium business-cycle theorists and more old-fashioned Keynesians and monetarists. We need more monetary historians and historians of economic thought and fewer model-builders …
Yet that is not what economics departments are saying nowadays.
Perhaps I am missing what is really going on. Perhaps economics departments are reorienting themselves after the Great Recession in a way similar to how they reoriented themselves in a monetarist direction after the inflation of the 1970’s. But if I am missing some big change that is taking place, I would like somebody to show it to me.
Perhaps academic economics departments will lose mindshare and influence to others – from business schools and public-policy programs to political science, psychology, and sociology departments. As university chancellors and students demand relevance and utility, perhaps these colleagues will take over teaching how the economy works and leave academic economists in a rump discipline that merely teaches the theory of logical choice.
Or perhaps economics will remain a discipline that forgets most of what it once knew and allows itself to be continually distracted, confused, and in denial. If that were that to happen, we would all be worse off.
Fick du för dåliga betyg? Höll inte uppsatsen måttet? Vågade någon tala om för dig att du gjort ett dåligt arbete eller inte ansträngt dig nog? Det gör inget! För nu för tiden kan alla slö, slappa, lata och likgiltiga komma undan det egna ansvaret med tidens egen deus ex machina – de är kränkta. Och simsalabim är problemet inte längre deras utan den som hade fräckheten att våga påtala bristerna och undermåligheten. O tempora, o mores!
One of the main functions of System 2 is to monitor and control thoughts and actions “suggested” by System 1 … For an example, here is a simple puzzle. Do not try to solve it but listen to your intuition:
A bat and ball cost $1.10.
The bat costs one dollar more than the ball.
How much does the ball cost?
A number came to your mind. The number, of course, is 10: 10 cents. The distinctive mark of this easy puzzle is that it evokes an answer that is intuitive, appealing, and wrong … The right answer is 5 cents.
Economics – and especially mainstream neoclassical economics – has as a science lost immensely in terms of status and prestige during the last years. Not the least because of its manifest inability to foresee the latest financial and economic crisis – and its lack of constructive and sustainable policies to take us out of the crisis.
We all know that many activities, relations, processes and events are uncertain and that the data do not unequivocally single out one decision as the only “rational” one. Neither the economist, nor the deciding individual, can fully pre-specify how people will decide when facing uncertainties and ambiguities that are ontological facts of the way the world works.
Neoclassical economists, however, have wanted to use their hammer, and so decided to pretend that the world looks like a nail. Pretending that uncertainty can be reduced to risk and construct models on that assumption have only contributed to financial crises and economic havoc.
How do we put an end to this intellectual cataclysm? How do we re-establish credence and trust in economics? Five changes are absolutely decisive.
(1) Stop pretending that we have exact and rigorous answers on everything. Because we don’t. We build models and theories and tell people that we can calculate and foresee the future. But we do this based on mathematical and statistical assumptions that often have little or nothing to do with reality. By pretending that there is no really important difference between model and reality we lull people into thinking that we have things under control. We haven’t! This false feeling of security was one of the factors that contributed to the financial crisis of 2008.
(2) Stop the childish and exaggerated belief in mathematics giving answers to important economic questions. Mathematics gives exact answers to exact questions. But the relevant and interesting questions we face in the economic realm are rarely of that kind. Questions like “Is 2 + 2 = 4?” are never posed in real economies. Instead of a fundamentally misplaced reliance on abstract mathematical-deductive-axiomatic models having anything of substance to contribute to our knowledge of real economies, it would be far better if we pursued “thicker” models and relevant empirical studies and observations.
(3) Stop pretending that there are laws in economics. There are no universal laws in economics. Economies are not like planetary systems or physics labs. The most we can aspire to in real economies is establishing possible tendencies with varying degrees of generalizability.
(4) Stop treating other social sciences as poor relations. Economics has long suffered from hubris. A more broad-minded and multifarious science would enrich today’s altogether too autistic economics.
(5) Stop building models and making forecasts of the future based on totally unreal micro-founded macromodels with intertemporally optimizing robot-like representative actors equipped with rational expectations. This is pure nonsense. We have to build our models on assumptions that are not so blatantly in contradiction to reality. Assuming that people are green and come from Mars is not a good – not even as a “successive approximation” – modeling strategy.
Enligt en Sifo-under-sökning beställd av Aftonbladet rasar nu förtroendet för center-ledaren Annie Lööf.
Nu har bara var femte väljare stort eller mycket stort förtroende för henne.
För ett år sedan var det nästan en tredjedel
Förvånande? Knappast – för få svenskar tänder på vad fru Lööf argumenterat och motionerat för på senare år:
Inför plattskatt (lägre skatt för höginkomsttagare)
Avskaffa lagen om anställningsskydd
Sälj ut SvT och SR
Sverige bör gå med i NATO
Bygg ut kärnkraften
Med en sådan politisk agenda är det naturligt att centerns alla väljare snart får plats på Stureplan.
Verkligheten börjar nu komma ikapp vår egen Margaret Thatcher. Det börjar dra ihop sig till ett uppvaknande ur den nyliberala mardröm denna politiska broiler och klyschmakare lyckats dra ner det en gång så stolta centerpartiet i …
Bedövande vackert och nästintill outhärdligt smärtsamt berörande.
Stefan Nilsson har skrivit musiken till filmatiseringen av Göran Tunströms episka mästerverk Juloratoriet.