Greg Mankiw on Finance

30 Sep, 2012 at 16:56 | Posted in Economics | 1 Comment

Greg Mankiw has added a new chapter on the financial system to the 8th edition of his intermediate textbook Macroeconomics.

Having read it, yours truly have to confess of not being particularly impressed.

After thoroughly neglecting anything resembling a real-world finance system, Mankiw appends the new chapter to the other nineteen chapters where finance more or less is equated to the neoclassical thought-construction of a “market for loanable funds.”

On the subject of financial crises he admits that

perhaps we should view speculative excess and its ramifications as an inherent feature of market economies … but preventing them entirely may be too much to ask given our current knowledge.

This is of course self-evident for all of us who understand that both ontologically and epistemologically founded uncertainty makes any such hopes totally unfounded. But it’s rather odd to read this in a book that bases its models on assumptions of rational expectations, representative actors and dynamically stochastic general equilibrium – assumptions that convey the view that markets – give or take a few rigidities and menu costs – are efficient! For being one of many neoclassical economists so proud of their (unreal, yes, but) consistent models, Mankiw here certainly is flagrantly inconsistent!

And as if being afraid that all the talk of financial crises might weaken the student’s faith in the financial system, Mankiw, in his concluding remarks, has to add a more Panglossian warning that we

should not lose sight of the great benefits that the system brings … By bringing together those who want to save and those who want to invest, the financial system promotes economic growth and overall prosperity


Finance has its own dimension, and if taken seriously, its effect on an analysis must modify the whole theoretical system and not just be added as an unsystematic appendage. Finance is fundamental to our understanding of modern economies, and acting like the baker’s apprentice who, having forgotten to add yeast to the dough, throws it into the oven afterwards, simply isn’t enough.

1 Comment

  1. Funnily, I was just reading the Richard Koo’s book and came across this:

    “A bubble becomes a bubble when asset prices reach a level that can no longer be justified by DCF analysis.”

    The key work, I think, is “justified”. The whole modern economics is built with one single purpose – to justify. To justify one single truth out of many without telling anything about those many.

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