Category Archives: The dismal science

Philip Pilkington: Krugman Redux – Financial Markets in Keynesian Macroeconomic Theory 101

Yesterday when I published my post on Krugman and the vulgar Keynesians not understanding the meaning to the term ‘liquidity trap’ I came to realise that many readers — both sympathetic and hostile — do not really understand the Keynesian theory of financial markets. I then realised that this was actually quite understandable given that it is not much discussed today (with some notable exceptions such as Jan Kregel and Minskyians like Randall Wray).


Philip Pilkington: Paul Krugman Does Not Understand the Liquidity Trap

I came across a very amusing piece from Krugman in 2010. The piece is entitled ‘Nobody Understands the Liquidity Trap‘. Actually, Krugman might have a point — if we include him in the ‘everybody’ that does not understand the liquidity trap and thus conclude that he, and all those that listen to him, do not understand the liquidity trap.


Why Standard Macro Models, DSGEs, Crash During Crises

Many central banks rely on dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models – known as DSGEs to cognoscenti. This column – which is more technical than most Vox columns – argues that the models’ mathematical basis fails when crises shift the underlying distributions of shocks. Specifically, the linchpin ‘law of iterated expectations’ fails, so economic analyses involving conditional expectations and inter-temporal derivations also fail. Like a fire station that automatically burns down whenever a big fire starts, DSGEs become unreliable when they are most needed.


The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Review of Economic Blogs

Yves here. This post from VoxEU gives a partial answer to a question many US readers have been asking: what are the prospects for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership? As we’ve written, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’s evil twin, the TransPacific Partnership, looks to be in trouble. Both the Senate and the House are opposed, and Obama wants them to give him “fast track” approval to facilitate completing the accord. Our resident Japan commentator Clive says the Japanese press is treating the deal as dead, absent major changes in US posture that no one expects to happen. The Wikileaks publication of two draft chapters showed that all of the proposed parties to the agreement have significant objections to many of the provisions.

But much less is known about the state of play of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.


CBO – Still Pushing Deficit Scaremongering Propaganda

Yves here. We’ve written from time to time about the shameless partisan role that the Congressional Budget Office plays in stoking misguided and destructive concern about budget deficits. It’s important to recognize the CBO’s openly partisan stance on this issue, because it is supposed to make independent, apolitical budget forecasts and is widely and mistakenly seen as “objective”. In fact, the CBO’s regularly takes stances that put them in the same camp as billionaires like Pete Peterson and Stan Druckenmiller, who want to slash Social Security and other social safety nets.


More Challenges to “More ‘Free Trade’ is Always Better” Orthodoxy

One way to induce a Pavlovian reflex in mainstream economists is to invoke the expression “free trade”. Conventional wisdom holds that more trade is always better; only Luddites and protectionists are against it. That’s one big reason why the toxic TransPacific Partnership and its evil twin, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, have gotten virtually no critical scrutiny, save from more free-thinking economists like Dean Baker. They have been sold as “free trade” deals and no Serious Economist wants to besmirch his reputation by appearing to be opposed to more liberalized trade.


Technology Displacing Jobs: The European Case

Yves here. Some technology enthusiasts predict that as many as 47% of current jobs will be displaced in the next decade. Candidates include not only trucking and bus driving (to be eliminated by self-driving vehicles) but more and more white collar work, as computer get better at the sort of information scanning and analysis that is now done by entry and low-level workers. This post examines different scenarios for how that might play out in Europe.


US Port Strike Threat Highlights Supply Chain Risk

One issue we’ve raise over the year is the ways that the corporate fetish for offshoring and outsourcing greatly increases business risk. Even when savings are realized (and as we’ve discussed, in many cases, the main result is a transfer from factory/lower level workers to managers and executives), they are seldom weighed properly against the increased fragility of the operation, and the resulting exposure to big losses. For instance, extended supply chains entail more communications across the chain, longer production cycles, more shipping, all of which increase the odds of writeoffs via having too much inventory or inventory in the wrong place, and those occasional losses can swamp the savings over time.

Those supply chain risks have come into focus, as the Financial Times reminds us, as the possibility of West Coast port strikes looms.


Yellen Tells Whoppers to the New Yorker

A Nicholas Lemann profile of Janet Yellen in the New Yorker, based on interviews with her, is creating quite a stir, and for many of the wrong reasons. The article verges on fawning, but even after you scrape off the treacle, it’s not hard to see how aggressively and consistently the Fed chair hits her big talking point, that’s she’s on the side of the little guy. As correspondent Li put it:

She’s simultaneously Mother Teresa (spent her whole life caring about the poor without actually meeting any poor people) and Forrest Gump (present when all bad deregulatory polcies were made, but miraculously untainted by them).

Puh-lease! She’s Bernanke in a granny package, without the history lessons.

In fact, as we’ll discuss, Yellen’s record before and at the Fed shows she’s either aligned herself with banking/elite interests or played two-handed economist to sit out important policy fights. Even if she actually harbors concern for ordinary citizens, she’s never been willing to risk an ounce of career capital on it.


Bill Black: Two EU Finance Ministers Throw Their Bosses and Nations Under the Bus

The finance ministers of Italy and Serbia have just publicly thrown their heads of state and their nations under the bus.  In a testament to the crippling effect of the belief that “there is no alternative” (TINA) to austerity, these finance ministers have insisted on bleeding economies that are in desperate need of fiscal stimulus.  Their pursuit of economic malpractice is so determined that they eagerly sought out opportunities to embarrass the democratically elected head of state in Serbia when he dared to support competent economic policies.


Ignacio Portes: Paul Singer v. Argentina – Where Did All That Debt Come From?

With Argentina’s payment to the holders of its restructured debt on June 30th in limbo at the Bank of New York Mellon, blocked by Federal Judge Thomas Griesa, and the 30 day grace period to official default ticking away, financial pundits have taken a keen interest in the biggest debt struggle in memory.

Some have been very critical of both the judge’s interpretation of the pari passu clause that created this mess and, more importantly, of his damaging precedent. But no one seems able to resist adding digs at Argentina, even when generally supporting its position in the litigation.


Philip Pilkington: Beware the Scholastics! Thoughts on the Economics Curriculum Reform Movement

With the Rethinking Economics student movement in full swing the topic of economics curriculum reform is once again on the table. For those of you who read this blog and are uncomfortable with this: sorry, you’ve already lost that debate, you just haven’t realised it yet. The question is now which direction this curriculum reform will take.


Randy Wray: “Debt-Free Money” – A Non Sequitur in Search of a Policy

Yves here. I must confess that I am at a loss to understand the deep emotional reactions some readers have to MMT. It’s like raging at a thermometer because it shows you your body temperature. Virtually all of the complaints about MMT are based on a failure to understand what it says about how money works. MMT is descriptive of our current system, and it also has a message that progressives (the real kind, not the Democratic fauxgressive kind) ought to welcome, that the Federal government as a sovereign does not need to run a balance budget, and that a balanced budget is in fact destructive when the economy is as slack as it is now. That means the government not only can but should spend more, which is in contrast to all those barmy arguments about how we can’t spend to [fill in your priorities, have national health care, improve our infrastructure, feed low income kids in school, etc.]. If you don’t like the Federal government directing that much spending, there’s a remedy for that too: revenue sharing, which was instituted under that great liberal Richard Nixon, who though the Federal government raised revenues more efficiently than state and local governments, but state and local government were better at setting spending priorities.

MMT provides a basis for rejecting neoliberalism and austerity, and people who ought to embrace it are instead being told falsehoods about it and are becoming skeptical. That assures that the current crop of looters can continue their work unperturbed.

However, MMT does require that you turn the conventional stories about money inside-out. It takes some mental rewiring to understand it, and that degree of reorientation seems to be a big reason for the heated reactions.


Capital is Not Back: On Thomas Piketty’s ‘Capital in the 21st Century’

Yves here. This article pokes at a topic near and dear to my heart, which is the generally reverential treatment of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. It appears to be a classic example of the cognitive bias called halo effect, in which people have a tendency to see things as all good or all bad. Because there is a lot to recommend Piketty’s work, for instance, the fact that it is exceptionally written, that it has made inequality into one of the hottest topics in economics, and that Piketty has done an admirable and exhaustive job of finding and analyzing the returns on certain types of income producing assets are all highly commendable.

But as readers may know, one of my pet peeves is that Piketty has made a very strong claim, in the form of his formula r>g, or the rate of return on capital (which he also calls “profit”) exceeds the growth rate of the economy, when his data falls short of what would be necessary to prove that assertion.