Tag: crowding out

With an election approaching, there is much debate about recovery and cuts and about the relationships between the two. Will rapid cuts stimulate confidence in the UK by business and bankers and thereby stimulate investment and recovery, or will they drive the economy back into recession? The debate is not just between politicians vying for your vote; economists too are debating the issue. Many are taking to letter writing.

In the February 2010 news blog, A clash of ideas – what to do about the deficit, we considered three letters written by economists (linked to again below). There has now been a fourth – and doubtless not the last. This latest letter, in the wake of the Budget and the debates about the speed of the cuts, takes a Keynesian line and looks at the sustainability of the recovery – including social and environmental sustainability. It is signed by 34 people, mainly economists.

Letter: Better routes to economic recovery Guardian (27/3/10)
Letter: UK economy cries out for credible rescue plan Sunday Times, 20 economists (14/2/10)
Letter: First priority must be to restore robust growth Financial Times, Lord Skidelsky and others (18/2/10)
Letter: Sharp shock now would be dangerous Financial Times, Lord Layard and others (18/2/10)


  1. Summarise the arguments for making rapid cuts in the deficit.
  2. Summarise the arguments for making gradual cuts in the deficit in line with the recovery in private-sector demand.
  3. Under what conditions would the current high deficit crowd out private expenditure?
  4. What do you understand by a ‘Green New Deal’? How realistic is such a New Deal and would there be any downsides?
  5. Is the disagreement between the economists the result of (a) different analysis, (b) different objectives or (c) different interpretation of forecasts of the robustness of the recovery and how markets are likely to respond to alternative policies? Or is it a combination of two of them or all three? Explain your answer.
  6. Why is the effect of the recession on the supply-side of the economy crucial in determining the sustainability of a demand-led recovery?

In an attempt to stave off recession, countries around the world have made extensive used of fiscal stimuli. Combinations of tax cuts and increases in government expenditure have been used to boost aggregate demand and thereby to halt falling national income. “The G20 group of economies … have introduced stimulus packages worth an average of 2% of GDP this year and 1.6% of GDP in 2010.”

But how much will national income respond to a particular fiscal stimulus? It depends on the size of the fiscal multiplier for each type of government expenditure increase or tax cut. The bigger the multiplier for each expansionary measure, the more will national income rise. Clearly, to estimate the effects of their fiscal measures, governments would very much like to know the size of these multipliers. But that’s not so easy, as the following article from The Economist explains.

Much ado about multipliers The Economist (24/9/09)


  1. What are the formulae for (a) the government expenditure multiplier; (b) the tax multiplier?
  2. Why is the value of the multiplier likely to vary with the type of government expenditure increase or tax cut that is used? Which types of government expenditure increases and tax cuts are likely to have (a) the largest effects; (b) the fastest acting effects?
  3. Why is the size of any particular fiscal multiplier difficult to predict? How do expectations impact on the size of the multiplier?
  4. Under what circumstances are fiscal measures likely to be ‘crowded out’? How can monetary policy be used to prevent, or at least minimise, crowding out?

The current recession has seen the re-emergence of many of the intellectual battles fought amongst economists between the two worlds wars and again from the 1960s to the 1980s. The current debate has hinged around the appropriate policy response to the current recession. Is the solution a Keynesian one of stimulating aggregate demand; or is it a new classical one of keeping public spending under control to make room for private spending and to allow the market to function to best effect? And what about banking reform? What are the arguments here? The following articles by Lord Skidelsky examine the debate.

Robert Skidelsky, Economists clash on shifting sands Financial Times (9/6/09)
Robert Skidelsky, Economic reform needs a dose of reality Guardian (27/7/09)

See also the following video:
Robert Skidelsky, The financial challenge of our times Guardian (2/3/09)


  1. Explain the ways in which economics is (a) similar to and (b) different from the natural sciences.
  2. For what reasons would new classical economists criticise the fiscal stimulus packages pursued by many countries in the past few months?
  3. Under what circumstances would a fiscal stimulus crowd out private spending? Do these circumstances apply (a) today; (b) over the next two years?
  4. Why may crowding out in practice depend on issues of confidence?
  5. What ‘Keynesian lessons’ have been learned from the banking crisis and recession?