Here’s an excellent article (the first link below) for giving an overview of macroeconomic thinking and policy since the start of the financial crisis in 2007. It looks at how a Keynesian consensus emerged in 2008–9, culminating in policies of fiscal and monetary stimulus being adopted in most major economies.
It also looks at how this consensus broke down from 2010 with the subsequent problem of rising public-sector deficits and debt, and was replaced by a new, although less widespread, consensus of fiscal restraint.
The article is not just about economic theory and policy, but also about the process and politics of how consensus and ‘dissensus’ emerge. It looks at the spread of ideas as a process of ‘contagion’ and how dissent may reflect the view of different defined groups, such as political parties or schools of economic thought.
Consensus, Dissensus and Economic Ideas: The Rise and Fall of Keynesianism During the Economic Crisis, Henry Farrell (George Washington University) and John Quiggin (University of Queensland) (9/3/12)
Keynesianism in the Great Recession Out of the Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell (9/3/12)
Economics in the Crisis (see also) The Conscience of a Liberal, Paul Krugman (5/3/12)
- What were the features of the Keynesian consensus in 2008–9?
- To what extent can the consensus of that period be described as the result of ‘contagion’?
- Why did consensus break down in 2010?
- How do economic experts play a political role in economic crises?
- To what extent does a lack of consensus benefit politicians?
- Why may the appearance of a consensus be more important in driving policy than actual consensus?
In 2008 and 2009, as the global recession deepened, so governments around the world turned to Keynesian policies. Aggregate demand had to be boosted. This meant a combination of fiscal and monetary policies. Fiscal stimulus packages were adopted, combining increased government expenditure and cuts in taxes. On the monetary policy front, central banks cut interest rates to virtually zero and expanded the money supply in bouts of quantitative easing.
The global recession turned out not to be a deep as many had feared and the Keynesian policies were hailed by many as a success.
But how the tide is turning! The combination of the recession (which reduced tax revenues and increased welfare spending) and the stimulus packages played havoc with public finances. Deficits soared. These deficits had to be financed, and increasingly credit agencies and others were asking how sustainable such deficits were over the longer term. These worries have been compounded by the perilous state of the public finances in countries such as Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Hungary. The focus has thus turned to cuts. In fact there is now an international ‘competition’ as to which country can wear the hairiest hair shirt. The new Coalition government in the UK, for example, is busy preparing the general public for deep cuts to come.
We are now seeing a re-emergence of new classical views that increased deficits, far from stimulating the economy and resulting in faster growth, largely crowd out private expenditure. To prevent this crowding out and restore confidence in financial markets, deficits must be rapidly cut, thereby allowing finance to be diverted to the private sector.
But if the contribution to aggregate demand of the public sector is to be reduced, and if consumption, the largest component of aggregate demand, is also reduced as households try to reduce their reliance on borrowing, where is the necessary rise in aggregate demand to come from? We are left with investment and net exports – the remaining two components of aggregate demand, where AD = C + G + I + (X – M).
But will firms want to invest if deficit reduction results in higher taxes, higher unemployment and less spending by the government on construction, equipment and many other private-sector goods and services. Won’t firms, fearing a decline in consumer demand, and possibly a ‘double-dip recession’, hold off from investing? As for export growth, this depends very much on growth in the rest of the world. If the rest of the world is busy making cuts too, then export growth may be very limited.
The G20, meeting in Korea on 4 June, wrestled with this problem. But the mood had definitely turned. Leaders seemed much more concerned about deficit reduction than maintaining the fiscal stimulus.
The following articles look at the arguments between Keynesians and new classicists. The disagreements between their authors reflect the disagreements between economists and between politicians about the timing and extent of cuts.
Time to plan for post-Keynesian era Financial Times, Jeffrey Sachs (7/6/10)
The Keynesian Endpoint CNBC Guest Blog, Tony Crescenzi (7/6/10)
Keynes, Recovered Boston Review, Jonathan Kirshner (May/June 2010)
How Keynes, not mining, saved us from recession Sydney Morning Herald, Ross Gittins (7/6/10)
The verdict on Keynes Asia Times, Martin Hutchinson (2/6/10)
The G20 Has Officially Voted For Global Depression Business Insider, Marshall Auerback (7/6/10)
Deficit disorder: the Keynes solution New Statesman, Robert Skidelsky (17/5/10)
Hawks v doves: economists square up over Osborne’s cuts Guardian, Phillip Inman (14/6/10)
Reports and data
OECD Economic Outlook No. 87, May 2010 (see)
Economics: Growth rising faster than expected but risks increasing too, says OECD Economic Outlook OECD (26/5/10)
Economy: responses must reflect governments’ views of national situations OECD (26/5/10)
Editorial and summary of projections OECD (26/5/10)
General assessment of the macroeconomic situation OECD (26/5/10)
Statistical Annex to OECD Economic Outlook No. 87 OECD (10/6/10)
Communiqué, Meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, Busan, Republic of Korea G20 (5/6/10)
- Summarise the arguments for and against making rapid cuts in public-sector deficits.
- What forms can crowding out take? Under what circumstances will a rise in public-sector deficits (a) cause and (b) not cause crowding out?
- Assess the policy measures being proposed by the G20.
- How important is confidence for the success of (a) fiscal stimulus packages and (b) deficit reduction policies in boosting economic growth?
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)
- What are the formulae for (a) the government expenditure multiplier; (b) the tax multiplier?
- 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?
- Why is the size of any particular fiscal multiplier difficult to predict? How do expectations impact on the size of the multiplier?
- 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?
On the eve of the September 5/6 G20 meeting of Finance Ministers in London, the OECD published an interim forecast of the macroeconomic and financial performance of the G7 economies. According to the OECD, “Recovery from the global recession is likely to arrive earlier than had been expected a few months ago but the pace of activity will remain weak well into next year.” So is it time to start reversing the various fiscal and monetary stimuli adopted around the world? Or should governments and central banks continue to stimulate aggregate demand in order to maintain the fragile recovery? The following news releases, speeches and articles look at answers given to these questions by various countries and international institutions.
Recovery arriving quicker than expected but activity will remain weak, says OECD OECD News release (3/9/09)
What is the economic outlook for OECD countries? An interim assessment OECD Economic Outlook, Interim Assessment (3/9/09)
IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn sees Renewed Stability but remains cautious about Global Economic Recovery, notes need for Continued Policy Actions IMF press release (4/9/09)
Beyond the Crisis: Sustainable Growth and a Stable International Monetary System Speech by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (4/9/09)
Brown urges further G20 spending (video) Gordon Brown on BBC News (5/9/09)
America’s Timothy Geithner says it’s ‘too early’ to withdraw economic stimulus Telegraph (3/9/09)
Finance chiefs warn against early end to state support for eurozone economies Guardian (3/9/09)
Keep spending – Darling warns G20 against complacency Independent (3/9/09)
Brown’s agenda deserves a hearing Financial Times (1/9/09)
Tories join Germany and France in call for exit strategy from G20 bailout Times Online (3/9/09)
UK recession: Why are we lagging our neighbours? Telegraph (3/9/09)
Reflections after the conference:
After the shock, challenges remain BBC News (7/9/09)
The G20 has saved us, but it’s failing to rein in those who caused the crisis Observer (6/9/09)
The world is as one on not endangering recovery Times Online (t/9/09)
- Why is the pace of recovery in the G7 countries likely to be modest for some time?
- Why have unemployment rates risen much more rapidly in some countries than in others (see page 19 of the OECD report)?
- Referring to the OECD report, how would you summarise changes in the global financial situation over the past few months?
- Assess the arguments put forward by France and Germany for reining in their expansionary fiscal and monetary policies.
- Why is the UK economy, according to the OECD, likely to be the last of the G7 countries to pull out of recession?
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)
- Explain the ways in which economics is (a) similar to and (b) different from the natural sciences.
- For what reasons would new classical economists criticise the fiscal stimulus packages pursued by many countries in the past few months?
- Under what circumstances would a fiscal stimulus crowd out private spending? Do these circumstances apply (a) today; (b) over the next two years?
- Why may crowding out in practice depend on issues of confidence?
- What ‘Keynesian lessons’ have been learned from the banking crisis and recession?