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Blame the Economists?: Fresh at Project Syndicate

Blame the Economists by J Bradford DeLong Project Syndicate

Fresh at Project Syndicate: Blame the Economists?: Ever since the 2008 financial crash and subsequent Great Recession, economists have been pilloried for failing to foresee the crisis, and for not convincing policymakers of what needed to be done to address it. But the upheavals of the past decade were more a product of historical contingency than technocratic failure: BERKELEY—Now that we are witnessing what looks like the historic decline of the West, it is worth asking what role economists might have played in the disasters of the past decade. From the end of World War II until 2007, Western political leaders at least acted as if they were interested in achieving full employment, price stability, an acceptably fair distribution of income and wealth, and an open international order in which all countries would benefit from trade and finance. True, these goals were always in tension, such that we sometimes put growth incentives before income equality, and openness before the interests of specific workers or industries. Nevertheless, the general thrust of policymaking was toward all four objectives. Then came 2008, when everything changed. The goal of full employment dropped off Western leaders’ radar... Read MOAR at Project Syndicate


#projectsyndicate #economicsgonewrong #economicsgoneright #monetarypolicy #finance #politicaleconomy

Weekend Reading: Robert Solow: A Theory Is a Sometime Thing

Robert Solow: A theory Is a Sometime Thing: "Milton Friedman... aims to undermine the eclectic American Keynesianism of the 1950s and 1960s... goes after two... lines of thought. His first claim is that the central bank, the Fed, cannot ‘peg’ the real interest rate... to undermine the standard LM curve.... The Fed can peg the nominal federal funds rate, but not the real rate...

..."These… effects will reverse the initial downward pressure on interest rates fairly promptly, say, in something less than a year. Together they will tend, after a somewhat longer interval, say, a year or two, to return interest rates to the level they would otherwise have had" (Friedman 1968, p. 6). Now we know what ‘peg’ means.... The goal, remember, is to contradict the eclectic American Keynesian... which did not, after all, require the Fed to control real interest rates forever. If the Fed can have meaningful influence only for less than a year or two, then it is surely playing a losing game, especially in view of those ‘long and variable lags.’ Is that really so?...

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Solving the Flexprice Model: Checkpoint of Chapter 7 of Next Edition of Marty Olney's and My Macro Textbook

nbviewer: http://nbviewer.jupyter.org/github/braddelong/LSF18E101B/blob/master/Equilibrium_in_the_Flexprice_Model.ipynb
keynote: https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0eT-yTiDbnFJG75PcmVtFrsRg
keynote: https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0qCkpCxn5-A4wblAeoqJj7-GQ


#MRE #Macro #flexprice 

Building Blocks of "Flexprice" Business-Cycle Macroeconomics: Checkpoint of Chapter 6 of Next Edition of Marty Olney's and My Macro Textbook

Slides, and slides and text...

nbviewer: http://nbviewer.jupyter.org/github/braddelong/LSF18E101B/blob/master/Building_Blocks_of_the_Flexprice_Model.ipynb
keynote: https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0qPkVy4AgrnNRIMq3I7HCoN-w

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Ricardo J. Caballero: Risk-Centric Macroeconomics and Safe Asset Shortages in the Global Economy: An Illustration of Mechanisms and Policies: "In these notes I summarize my research on the topic of risk-centric global macroeconomics. Collectively, this research makes the case that a risk-markets dislocations perspective of macroeconomics provides a unified framework to think about the mechanisms behind several of the main economic imbalances, crises, and structural fragilities observed in recent decades in the global economy. This perspective sheds light on the kind of policies, especially unconventional ones, that are likely to help the world economy navigate this tumultuous environment...

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Up until 2000, it looks like we have an unemployment-rate (or vacancy-rate) adaptive-expectations price Phillips curve. Since the mid-1990s, we have a non-employment-rate static-expectations wage Phillips curve. How long before another structural shift we do not know. But right now Team Slack has the empirical evidence. And Team Slack says: the economy still has plenty of room to grow: Jay C. Shambaugh: Score One for Team Slack: "As @ModeledBehavior notes, it is not clear how long this relationship will hold, but it looks really good in 2018 (even better than in 2017). Almost impossible to argue slack is not part of wage growth story even if you don't think it is whole story:

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Note to Self: I am once again teaching the origin of business cycles and "general gluts" via John Stuart Mill's 1829 "excess demand for money is excess supply of everything else", and in an economy of sticky prices, wages, and debts produces the recessions and depressions that we all know and love so well. It is a quick way to get into the subject. It is a convincing way. But is it a correct way?

Smart people say: "no"!:

  • Daniel Kuehn: Nick Rowe, Brad DeLong, and Me on Whack-A-Mole General Gluts and Money: "The interest rate is really one price functioning in two markets: the bond market and the money market. People want loanable funds and people want liquidity.... This is a major problem.... You can arbitrage your way out of whack-a-mole gluts. You cannot arbitrage your way out of an overdetermined system...
  • Nick Rowe: Walras' Law vs Monetary Disequilibrium Theory: "Walras' Law says that a general glut (excess supply) of newly-produced goods (and services) has to be matched by an excess demand for some other good. But it could be matched by an excess demand of anything that is not a newly-produced good. It could be an excess demand for money. Or it could be an excess demand for: bonds; land; old masters; used furniture; unobtainium; whatever. Daniel Kuehn calls this the 'whack-a-mole' theory of general gluts. The excess demand that matches the excess supply of newly-produced goods could pop up anywhere. Monetary Disequilibrium Theory says that a general glut of newly-produced goods can only be matched by an excess demand for money. There's only one mole to whack. Money is special. A general glut is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon...
  • Paul Krugman: There's Something About Macro: "The idea of treating money as an ordinary good begs many questions: surely money plays a special sort of role in the economy. Second, almost all the decisions... involve choices over time:.... So there is something not quite right about pretending that prices and interest rates are determined by a static equilibrium problem.... Finally, sticky prices play a crucial role.... While I regard the evidence for such stickiness as overwhelming, the assumption of at least temporarily rigid nominal prices is one of those things that works beautifully in practice but very badly in theory...

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I don't know why Paul Krugman is tweeting about Marvin Goodfriend's stalled Federal Reserve nomination again, but his main point is worth highlighting: Rand Paul's opposition to Goodfriend is not a bad thing for the country in itself But it is a very bad thing as a sign of the craziness of the Republicans because of the reasons that Rand Paul objects: Paul Krugman: Characteristic: "[Marvin] Goodfriend['s Federal Reserve nomination] is in trouble, not for constantly predicting inflation that never materialized, but because of what he got right: acknowledging that the zero lower bound on interest rates can be a problem...

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Self-Fulfilling Financial Crises: No Longer Fresh at Project Syndicate

As Published: Self-Fulfilling Financial Crises: Many mistaken assumptions about the 2008 financial crisis remain in circulation. As long as policymakers believe the crisis was rooted in the housing bubble rather than human psychology, another crisis will be inevitable. | My Earlier Draft: The 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession left the Global North 10% poorer than it otherwise would have been, based on 2005 forecasts. For those hoping to understand this episode better, for a while now I have been recommending four very good books on and about the financial crisis of 2008 and what has followed—the catastrophes that have left the Global North 10% poorer now than we confidently forecasted back in 2005 that we would be today. They are:

  1. Kindleberger's Manias, Panics, and Crashes https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0230365353,
  2. Reinhart and Rogoff's This Time It's Different https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0691152640,
  3. Martin Wolf's The Shifts and the Shocks https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1101608447, and
  4. Barry Eichengreen's Hall of Mirrors https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0190621079.

Now I want to add on a fifth book: Nicola Gennaioli and Andrei Shleifer's A Crisis of Beliefs: Investor Psychology and Financial Fragility https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0691184925. (Full disclosure: Shleifer was my roommate in college and graduate school; to this day, I credit him more than anybody else with whatever positive skills or reputation as an economist I may have.)

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I am keenly aware that since, say, 1997 one disagrees with Paul Krugman at one's grave intellectual peril. But I am not as confident as Paul Krugman is that "the past decade has been a huge validation for textbook macroeconomics". A large component of what Krugman calls "good old-fashioned macro" was that expectations were, if not rational, adaptive. Keynes's "speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise. But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation. When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done..." had no place in "old-fashioned macro". And it is not as though this was a flaw and could be quickly, coherently, and satisfactorily patched. The integration of behavioral finance and macro is still not done—which is why I am such a booster of Nicola Gennaioli and Andrei Shleifer (2018): A Crisis of Beliefs: Investor Psychology and Financial Fragility https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0691184925. (That, and Andrei is my friend.) They are at least looking in the right direction: Paul Krugman: What Do We Actually Know About the Economy?: "Among macroeconomists, the self-criticism seems to me to be mainly too narrow: people berate themselves for, say, not giving financial markets a bigger role in their models, but few have done what they should, which is to question the whole direction macroeconomics has gone these past four decades or so...

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The Wrong Financial Crisis: Hoisted from the Archives (October 2008)

stacks and stacks of books

Hoisted from the Archives (October 2008): The Wrong Financial Crisis: Catastrophic failures of risk management throughout the entire banking sector multiplied a relatively minor collapse in housing prices into a paralysis of the global finance system not seen since the Great Depression. To fix it, governments should embark on a coordinated fiscal and monetary expansion and a coordinated bank recapitalisation:

All of us from Lawrence Summers to John Taylor were expecting a very different financial crisis. We were expecting the ‘Balance of Financial Terror’ between Asia and America to collapse and produce chaos. We are not having that financial crisis. Instead we are having a very different financial crisis. Catastrophic failures of risk management throughout the entire banking sector caused a relatively minor collapse in housing prices to freeze up global finance to a degree that has not been seen since the Great Depression.

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Hoisted from the Archives: “Unknown Unknowns”: High Public Debt Levels and Other Sources of Risk in Today’s Macroeconomic Environment

Preview of Hoisted from the Archives Unknown Unknowns High Public Debt Levels and Other Sources of Risk in

Next time I give a "general macro-finance" talk, I should give this one—updated, of course. But how much updating is needed>: “Unknown Unknowns”: High Public Debt Levels and Other Sources of Risk in Today’s Macroeconomic Environment (NEEDS REVISION) https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0_py01Y-ZrGddLKba8Rl2r9eQ

It's alternative title is: Confusion: High Public Debt Levels and Other Sources of Risk in Today’s Macroeconomic Environment:

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THE MUST-READ OF MUST-READS on the links between behavioral finance and macro: John Maynard Keynes (1936): The State of Long-Term Expectation: The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money: Chapter 12: "If I may be allowed to appropriate the term _speculation for the activity of forecasting the psychology of the market, and the term enterprise for the activity of forecasting the prospective yield of assets over their whole life, it is by no means always the case that speculation predominates over enterprise. As the organisation of investment markets improves, the risk of the predominance of speculation does, however, increase...

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The Federal Reserve Is Raising Interest Rates Again for Probably All The Wrong Reasons: Last Month Over at Equitable Growth

The Federal Reserve is set to raise interest rates again for probably all the wrong reasons Equitable Growth

Last Month Over at Equitable Growth: The Federal Reserve Is Set to Raise Interest Rates Again for Probably All The Wrong Reasons: The meeting [last month] of the Federal Open Market Committee—the principal policymaking body of the U.S. Federal Reserve system—[was] overwhelmingly likely to raise the benchmark interest rate it controls, the Federal Funds rate. The rate, which governs short-term safe nominal bonds, is likely to go up by one-quarter of a percentage point, from the range of 1.75 percent to 2 percent per year to the range of 2 percent to 2.25 percent per year. That would make it a little more expensive to borrow and spend and a little more attractive to cut spending and save. Thus, there would be a little less spending in the economy, and so a few fewer jobs. Economic growth would be a little slower. The U.S. economy would be a little less resilient in the face of adverse shocks to resources or confidence that might generate a recession. These are all minuses—small minuses from a 25-basis-point increase in the Federal Funds rate, but minuses nonetheless.

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Nicola Gennaioli and Andrei Shleifer: Two Myths of the 2008 Meltdown: "The 2008 financial crisis was not the result only of moral hazard; nor was it unforeseeable. While too-big-to-fail banks believed–rightly, it turned out–that they would be bailed out, consumers, rating agencies, and policymakers all bet on housing as well, destabilizing the system.... Two misconceptions in the current retrospectives of the crisis. These misunderstandings may seem purely academic, but they are not. They have major consequences for the ability of policymakers to prevent future crises...

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Stagnant Real Wages and Secular Stagnation Are Not Closely Related: DeLong FAQ

EconSpark: Derrick Miedaner asks: What role, if any, does secular stagnation play in the flat growth of wages since the recovery?": I reply: I think Ed Lambert is correct. "Secular stagnation" is probably not the best label for the worry. The worry is that financial markets have gotten themselves wedged into a situation in which frequently and for sustained periods of time it is the case that the full-employment real safe short-term Wicksellian neutral rate of interest turns out to be less than the negative of the central bank's inflation target. In a flexible-price full-employment economy, the economy deals with this and maintains full employment by having the price level drop instantaneously and discretely whenever this occurs in order to generate the extra inflation needed to get the market rate at the zero lower bound to its value needed for full employment, the real safe short-term Wicksellian neutral rate of interest. This was one of the major (but I think often overlooked) points of Krugman (1998) https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/1998/06/1998b_bpea_krugman_dominquez_rogoff.pdf.

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Yes, the relationship between the unemployment rate and the vacancy rate is back to its pre-2008 normal. But the relationship between the prime-age employment rate and the vacancy rate is not. Whether the U.S. is now at "full employment" is thus a very dicy and unsettled question: Will McGrew: JOLTS Day Graphs: July 2018 Report Edition: "The Beveridge Curve maintains its levels near those last seen during the expansion of the early 2000s: The relationship between the U.S. unemployment rate and the open job rate is back to its pre-recession normal:

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