If one person saves more, then it will increase that person’s consumption possibilities in the future. If, however, everyone saves more, and hence spends less, then businesses will earn less and are likely to respond by producing less if the decline in aggregate demand continues. Hence if a country saves more, people could be worse off. That’s the paradox of thrift.
There is considerable debate around the world at the moment about the desirability of austerity policies. The debate has become more intense with the worsening economic outlook in many European countries and with the election in France of François Hollande who rejects many of the austerity measures of his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.
But can further stimulus be given to aggregate demand without causing a further worsening of countries’ public-sector debt positions and causing a fall in confidence in financial markets? And how would that impact on investment?
And in the meantime, as the economic outlook darkens, people are trying to save more, despite low interest rates. The paradox of thrift seems to be getting more acute. (Click here for a PowerPoint of the chart.)
How National Belt-Tightening Goes Awry New York Times, Robert J. Shiller (19/5/12)
Japan disease is spreading: High risk and low returns Firstpost (India), Vivek Kaul (17/5/12)
The Solution can not be More Debt Huffington Post, Jill Shaw Ruddock (29/5/12)
Crediting debt Breaking Views, Edward Hadas (30/5/12)
Green investments can overcome the paradox of thrift New Statesman, Dimitri Zenghelis (7/6/12)
Austerity has never worked Guardian, Ha-Joon Chang (4/6/12)
The False Choice Between Austerity And Growth Forbes (24/5/12)
It’s not a case of austerity v stimulus for Europe Guardian, Paul Haydon (1/6/12)
UK households’ saving ratio: series NRJS ONS
Household saving rates for OECD countries StatExtracts: OECD
- Why may we be experiencing a paradox of thrift at the current time?
- What are the arguments for the use of fiscal and monetary policies to expand aggregate demand at the current time?
- What are the arguments against the use of fiscal and monetary policies to expand aggregate demand at the current time?
- Can economic growth be stimulated by a redistribution of aggregate demand and, if so, in what way?
- Can green investment overcome the paradox of thrift?
- To what extent are demand-side and supply-side policies (a) complementary; (b) contradictory? Or, to put the question another way, to what extent may policies to encourage growth in the long term damage growth in the short term and vice versa?
On Tuesday 29 November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his Autumn Statement. This presented the outlook for the UK economy, with forecasts supplied by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). It also contained details of government fiscal measures to tackle various macroeconomic problems, including economic slowdown and high levels of national debt.
The outlook for the UK economy came as no surprise. Things are looking much bleaker than a few months ago. The OBR, along with other forecasters, has downgraded its predictions of the UK’s growth rate. Although it is still forecasting positive growth of 0.9% this year and 0.7% in 2012, these rates are well below those it predicted just eight months ago. In March it forecast growth rates of 1.7% for 2011 and 2.5% for 2012.
To make things worse, its growth forecasts are based on the assumptions that the eurozone crisis will be resolved with little or no effect on the UK. But even if that were so, the debt reduction plans in the eurozone are likely to drive the eurozone back into recession. This, in turn, will impact on UK exports, more than 50% of which go to eurozone countries.
The OBR forecasts that national debt will be 67% of GDP this year and will rise to 78% by 2014/15 but then start to fall. Government borrowing is forecast to be £127bn this year, falling to £120bn in 2012/13 and then more substantially each year after that to £24bn in 2016/17.
So what measures were included in the Autumn Statement? These are detailed in the articles below, but the key ones were:
• a programme of credit easing, which will underwrite up to £40bn in low-interest loans for small and medium-sized businesses.
• £5bn of public money to be invested in infrastrucuture projects and a further £5bn in the next spending round. Agreement had been reached with two groups of pension funds to invest a further £20bn of private money in infrastructure projects.
• an additional £1.2bn for capital investment in schools.
• A cap on public-sector pay increases of 1% per year for the two years after the current two-year pay freeze.
The following videos and articles give details of the forecasts and the measures and give reactions from across the political spectrum.
George Osborne: Key points from chancellor’s speech BBC News, Andrew Neil 29/11/11)
Autumn Statement 2011: George Osborne – my plan to ‘see Britain through The Telegraph on YouTube (29/11/11)
UK economy slows to crawl Reuters (29/11/11)
George Osborne’s autumn statement – video analysis Guardian, Larry Elliott (29/11/11)
Autumn Statement: Osborne reveals state of UK economy BBC News, Nick Robinson (29/11/11)
Autumn Statement: Why is the deficit not shrinking? BBC News, Hugh Pym (29/11/11)
Autumn Statement: Robinson, Flanders and Peston analysis BBC News, Nick Robinson, Stephanie Flanders and Robert Peston (29/11/11)
Can the UK economy be ‘re-balanced’? BBC Newsnight, Paul Mason (29/11/11)
Autumn Statement 2011: main points The Telegraph, Rachel Cooper (29/11/11)
The Autumn Statement at a glance WalesOnline, Rhodri Evans (30/11/11)
Autumn Statement Summary 2011 TaxAssist Accountants (29/11/11)
Into the storm The Economist (3/13/11)
A battalion of troubles The Economist (3/12/11)
Weapons of mass construction The Economist (3/12/11)
Mr Osborne’s unwelcome statement BBC News, Stephanie Flanders (29/11/11)
£30bn of extra cuts keep Osborne on track, just BBC News, Paul Mason (29/11/11)
Autumn Statement 2011: Commentators give their verdict The Telegraph (30/11/11)
Autumn Statement 2011: concern remains but ‘Plan A-plus’ welcomed The Telegraph, Graham Ruddick (29/11/11)
Autumn statement: George Osborne’s cutting fantasy is over Guardian, Robert Skidelsky (29/11/11)
Hoarding for the apocalypse? I really wouldn’t blame you Guardian, Zoe Williams (30/11/11)
Reports and data
Autumn Statement 2011 – documents HM Treasury (29/11/11)
Economic and fiscal outlook – November 2011 Office for Budget Responsibility (29/11/11)
Autumn statement 2011: the key data you need to understand George Osborne’s speech Guardian DataBlog (29/11/11)
How much will the autumn statement cost and how will the economy change? Guardian DataBlog (29/11/11)
- Compare the OBR’s March and November 2011 forecasts.
- What factors explain the differences in the two sets of forecasts?
- For what reasons might national debt in the future turn out to be higher or lower than that forecast by the OBR?
- What will be the impact on aggregate demand of the measures announced in the Autumn Statement?
- What will be the impact on aggregate supply of the measures announced in the Autumn Statement?
- Why may a recession impact not just on aggregate demand but also on long-term aggregate supply?
- Why may increased pessimism by both consumers and producers make it more difficult for the government to meet its macroeconomic objectives?