More Musings on the Fall of the House of Uncle Milton

Over at Equitable Growth: This, from Paul Krugman, strikes me as... inadequate:

Paul Krugman: Why Monetarism Failed: "Right-wingers insisted--Friedman taught them to insist--that government intervention was always bad, always made things worse...

...Monetarism added the clause, ‘except for monetary expansion to fight recessions.’ Sooner or later gold bugs and Austrians, with their pure message, were going to write that escape clause out of the acceptable doctrine. So we have the most likely non-Trump GOP nominee calling for a gold standard, and the chairman of Ways and Means demanding that the Fed abandon its concerns about unemployment and focus only on controlling the never-materializing threat of inflation. READ MOAR

What about the reformicons, who pushed for neo-monetarism? We can sum up their fate in two words: Marco Rubio. There is no home for the kind of return to realism they were seeking.... The monetarist idea no longer serves any useful purpose, intellectually or politically. Hicksian macro--IS-LM or something like it--remains an extremely useful tool of both analysis and policy formulation; that tool is not helped by trying to state it in terms of monetary velocity and all that. And if you want macro policy that isn’t dictated by Ayn Rand logic, you have to turn to a Democrat; on the other side, there’s nobody rational to talk to.


This is an issue I have worried at like a dog at a worn-out glove for a decade now. So let me worry at it again:

There were gold bugs and Austrians in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and even 1980s too. But Arthur Burns, Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan and company kicked them up and down the street with gay abandon. And the Ordoliberal Germans would, when you cornered them, would admit that somebody else had to take on the job of stabilizing aggregate demand for the North Atlantic economy as a whole for their doctrines to work.

But in 2009 the Lucases and the Prescotts and the Cochranes and the Famas and the Boldrins and the Levines and the Steils and the Taylors and all the others and even the Zingaleses (but we can excuse Luigi on the grounds that if you are (a) Italian and (b) view Berlusconi as the modal politician a certain reluctance to engage in fiscal policy is understandable)--crawled out from their caves and stood in the light of day. And the few remaining students of Milton Friedman got as little respect as the Stewards of Gondor gave to the leaders of the Dunedain.

Yes, there is an intellectual tension between believing in laissez faire as a rule and believing in activist monetary management to set the market interest rate equal to the Wicksellian neutral interest rate. But why is that tension unsustainable? Once you have swallowed a government that assigns property rights, sustains contracts, and enforces weights and measures, why is this extra step a bridge too far?