Category: Economics 10e: Ch 17

Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2008. He won the prize for his analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity, but he is also well known in academic circles for his work on international finance. In the article below, he looks at the foundations of the current financial crisis. He explains the history of the crisis, the action that has been taken by governments around the world, the likely success of the policies and also the impact of the crisis on the real economy. This is perhaps the issue that is of most concern to us as economists. With recession having taken a grip on many countries, it is important for governments to understand the root causes of the crisis to ensure that their policies address these. The article is an edited extract from The Return of Depression Economics and The Crisis of 2008, by Paul Krugman.

We all go together when we go Guardian (6/12/08)

Questions

  1. Examine the role of the US housing market in the origins of the current financial crisis.
  2. What is meant by the ‘shadow banking system’? How does the regulatory approach to the shadow banking system differ from that of the mainstream banking system?
  3. “What’s really worrying is the loss of policy traction: the economy is stalling despite repeated efforts by policy-makers to get it going again.” What does Krugman mean by policy traction? Discuss the possible causes of this policy traction.
  4. Explain why Krugman believes that the financial rescue package will not be sufficient to turn the US economy around.
  5. Assess Krugman’s argument that the only way out of the crisis is a “good old Keynesian fiscal stimulus”..

The Chancellor’s pre-Budget report was a massive political and economic gamble. The government has clearly recognised the potential seriousness of the economic situation and, in an attempt to avoid a prolonged recession, has injected £21bn into the UK economy in the form of tax cuts and spending increases. The headline grabbing changes were a cut in VAT and an increase in the top rate of income tax to 45% for those earning over £150,000 per year, but there was a raft of other changes including £3bn of public-sector infrastructure projects being brought forward.

Will this fiscal kick be enough to prevent a deep recession? The Chancellor clearly thinks so. He has amended his forecasts for economic growth to acknowledge that GDP will fall by 1% in 2009, but he believes growth will bounce back to 1.75% in 2010. The links below are to a selection of articles relating to the pre-Budget report, but there are plenty of other sites offering discussion and analysis of the issues relating to this unprecendented Keynesian fiscal boost.

Pre-Budget Report: Alistair Darling’s £1 trillion debt gamble Times Online (25/11/08)

Pre-budget report 2008 Guardian (25/11/08)
Pre-Budget report 2008 BBC News Online (25/11/08)
Average earners lose out in PBR BBC News Online (25/11/08)
Pre-Budget Report – the documents BBC News Online (25/11/08) Links to all pre-budget report documents as pdf files
Robinson and Peston analysis of PBR BBC News Online (25/11/08) Video from the Daily Politics show
Darling needs to cure a nation hooked on debt Guardian (24/11/08)
Darling unveils borrowing gamble BBC News Online (24/11/08)
Analysis: is this the death of New Labour? Times Online (24/11/08)
Alistair Darling announces £20bn economic boost Times Online (24/11/08)
Alistair Darling’s £20bn tax giveaway Times Online (24/11/08)
The mother of all gambles Guardian (24/11/08)
Obama and Darling: compare and contrast Guardian (24/11/08) Video comparing the packages announced by Alistair Darling and Barack Obama
The £21bn tax gamble Guardian (25/11/08)
Call this a cure? Guardian (25/11/08)

Questions

  1. Write a short paragraph outlining the main policies set out in the pre-Budget report.
  2. Evaluate the likely success of the policies announced in the pre-Budget report in preventing a prolonged recession for the UK economy.
  3. Discuss the short-term and long-term impact on the UK money markets of the high levels of borrowing required to fund the tax and spending changes set out in the 2008 pre-Budget report.
  4. Assess the likely impact of the increase in the top tax rate of income tax to 45% on (i) consumer expenditure growth, (ii) tax revenues, and (iii) the incentive for higher rate tax payers to work harder.
  5. Discuss whether a fiscal solution, such as that set out in the pre-budget report, or a monetary policy solution will be more effective at preventing a prolonged recession in the UK..

The potential relevance of Keynesian economic theory has been sharply brought back into focus as governments struggle to find an appropriate mix of policies to try to avoid or mitigate the impact of recession on their economy. Chancellor Alistair Darling has relaxed fiscal rules to allow spending to rise in an attempt to boost aggregate demand and compensate for falling consumer demand.

How to kick start a faltering economy the Keynes way BBC Magazine (22/10/08)
Situation vacant: a theorist is sought to succeed Mr Keynes Guardian (11/10/08)
In praise of ….. John Maynard Keynes Guardian (9/10/08)
Spend, spend, spend: Alistair Darling adopts John Maynard Keynes doctrine Times Online (20/10/08)
Darling invokes Keynes as he eases spending rules to fight recession Guardian (20/10/08)
Follow Gordon Brown again and spend out of recession Times Online (14/10/08)
Economists condemn Chancellor Alistair Darling’s spending plan Telegraph (26/10/08)
Keynes, the man to get the Government out of a crisis The Independent (20/10/08)

Questions

1. Explain briefly the Keynesian approach to the management of the level of aggregate demand.
2. Using diagrams as appropriate, show the impact of the relaxation of fiscal spending rules on the UK economy.
3. Discuss the extent to which a Keynesian approach to economic policy is likely to help the government avoid a recession in the UK. Is leaving the control of interest rates in the hands of an independent Bank of England a constraint on the effectiveness of this policy approach?

The financial crisis and economic downturn have started to impact on unemployment which, in the UK, has risen at the fastest rate for 17 years. A study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has said that the downturn may add 20 million to the global unemployment total bringing the figure to around 210 million.

Unemployment rises at fastest rate in 17 years Times Online (15/10/08)
Smoke clears to reveal the monster of rising unemployment Guardian (19/10/08)
Unemployment total may be more than 2 million by Christmas Guardian (16/10/08)
Back to the future? No, thanks Guardian (15/10/08)
White collar workers next victims as unemployment accelerates Times Online (16/10/08)
World jobless ‘to add 20 million’ BBC News Online (20/10/08)
UK recession is here to stay, experts warn Telegraph (26/10/08)
Recession Britain: Just how bad is it … and will it get much worse? The Independent (25/10/08)

Questions

1. Explain the likely impact of the economic downturn on the UK labour market.
2. Discuss the view that “Unemployment won’t be solved by labour market flexibility ……. “.
3. Assess policies that governments around the world can adopt to try to mitigate the likely impact of a 20 million rise in unemployment. 

Inflation has reached a 16-year high of 5.2% in September 2008 with rising energy bills leading to much of the increase. This puts inflation well outside the target rate for the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), but analysts are convinced that it will fall sharply in the coming months with some predicting inflation to be just 1% by autumn 2009. Even the Bank of England has now agreed that inflationary risks have moved “decisively to the downside” allowing them to cut the interest rate from 5% to 4.5% as part of a globally coordinated interest rate cut.

Rising gas bills send inflation to 16-year high Times Online (14/10/08)
Inflation high but fear of recession grows Guardian (14/10/08)
Inflation soars to 5.2% Guardian (14/10/08)
Fresh storm gathering as inflation surge adds £3bn to welfare bill Times Online (15/10/08)
Rising cost of living prompts further pay strike threats Times Online (15/10/08)
Where now for UK inflation? BBC News Online (14/10/08)
Consumer inflation reaches 5.2% BBC News Online (14/10/08)

Questions

1. Explain how the CPI is calculated.
2. What are the principal factors that have led to the rise in inflation to 5.2%?
3. Discuss whether, in the current financial crisis, it is appropriate for the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to be targeting just inflation.
4. Explain the transmission mechanism whereby a cut in interest rates will affect inflation. Discuss whether this transmission mechanism will be as relevant in the current financial climate.