Tag: depression

The global economic mood is darkening. Levels of consumer and producer confidence have declined and forecasts of economic growth are being downgraded. Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, stated that “this is the most serious financial crisis we’ve seen, at least since the 1930s, if not ever” (see).

So will slow recovery turn into a second recession (a double-dip)? And will recession turn into depression – the persistence of low or negative growth over a number of years? The following articles consider this frightening prospect and whether there are similarities with the Great Depression of the 1930s.

But let’s not be too downhearted. If we all are, the world could end up talking itself into depression. Consumers would seek to claw down their debts and cut back spending; producers would invest less as their confidence wanes; banks would be unwilling to lend. So is there any cause to be cheerful? Well, at least world leaders are increasingly aware of the possibility of world depression and minds are increasingly being focused on how to avoid the situation. The EU summit on 23 October and the G20 summit in Cannes on 3/4 November have EU sovereign debt problems and the global crisis at the centre of their agenda.

But if they do decide to act, what should they do? Is the answer a Keynesian stimulus to aggregate demand through fiscal policy and through further quantitative easing? Or is the approach to act more decisively to reduce sovereign debt and convince markets that governments are serious about tackling the problem – a policy response much more in accordance with new classical thinking and the type of policy that would be recommended by Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims, winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics?

Thinking outside the 1930s box BBC News blogs, Paul Mason (7/10/11)
Britain faces slowest recovery in a century Guardian, Katie Allen (12/10/11)
The Depression: If Only Things Were That Good New York Times, Sunday Review, David Leonhardt (8/10/11)
Recovery has ‘stalled’, say leading economists Financial Times, Sarah O’Connor (11/10/11)
Nobel prize in economics Republica, Opinion (Nepal), Sukhdev Shah (11/10/11)


  1. In what ways is the current global economic situation similar to that in the early 1930s?
  2. In what ways is it different? Do these differences provide more or less cause for hope for avoiding a global depression?
  3. Explain the following quote from the first article above: “I think that we face the quite real prospect that the market is removed as the determining mechanism for setting the price of capital within the eurozone at the sovereign level.This would put internal credit creation back under the control of the state.”
  4. How is the supply side of the economy relevant to (a) the short-run prospects for economic growth; (b) the long-run prospects?
  5. If technological progess slows down, what will be the implications for employment and unemployment? Explain.
  6. How is policy credibility relevant to the success of the decisions made at G20 and EU summits? (See last aricle above.) How would a Keynesian respond to the analysis of Sargent and Sims?

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)


  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”..