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Keynesian vs. Austrian Economics

Here’s a pretty neat infographic from the Austrian Insider detailing the key differences between two very different schools of thought on economics – Keynesian and Austrian.

After working as an engineer for many years before even looking closely at this, I never understood the fixation on supporting aggregate demand regardless of how you got to the position where aggregate demand needed to be supported (i.e., reckless credit expansion leading to asset bubbles), which is why I’d guess that most engineering-types who look at this sort of thing favor the Austrian view.

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Economy in Crisis Like Descending Slime

More hope for the economics profession arrived in the foreward of this paper(.pdf) from the Post-Crash Economic Society (as spotted in this item at Zero Hedge) in which Andy Haldane, Executive Director for Financial Stability at the Bank of England, takes on the dismal science.

Unbridled competition, in the financial sector and elsewhere, was shown not to have served wider society well. Greed, taken to excess, was found to have been bad. The Invisible Hand could, if pushed too far, prove malign and malevolent, contributing to the biggest loss of global incomes and output since the 1930s. The pursuit of self-interest, by individual firms and by individuals within these firms, has left society poorer.

The crisis has also laid bare the latent inadequacies of economic models with unique stationary equilibria and rational expectations. These models have failed to make sense of the sorts of extreme macro-economic events, such as crises, recessions and depressions, which matter most to society. The expectations of agents, when push came to shove, proved to be anything but rational, instead driven by the fear of the herd or the unknown. The economy in crisis behaved more like slime descending a warehouse wall than Newton’s pendulum, its motion more organic than harmonic.

In this light, it is time to rethink some of the basic building blocks of economics.

I’ve not yet read the paper itself, but, if it’s anything like the forward, it should be great.

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Economists and Bubbles

More evidence that, to some economists, certain things don’t exist in the world unless they can not only be modeled, but be predicted by said models, comes via this story at Casey Research in which Doug French takes Nobel Prize winning dismal thinker Eugene Fama of efficient market hypothesis/theory fame to task for some ridiculous lack of common sense.

The New Yorker’s John Cassidy asked Fama how he thought the efficient-market hypothesis held up during the financial crisis. The new Nobel laureate responded:

Fama“I think it did quite well in this episode. Prices started to decline in advance of when people recognized that it was a recession and then continued to decline. There was nothing unusual about that. That was exactly what you would expect if markets were efficient.”

When Cassidy mentioned the credit bubble that led to the housing bubble and ultimate bust, the famed professor said:

“I don’t even know what that means. People who get credit have to get it from somewhere. Does a credit bubble mean that people save too much during that period? I don’t know what a credit bubble means. I don’t even know what a bubble means. These words have become popular. I don’t think they have any meaning.”

No matter the facts, Fama has his story and he’s sticking to it.

“I think most bubbles are 20/20 hindsight,” Fama told Cassidy. When asked to clarify whether he thought bubbles could exist, Fama answered, “They have to be predictable phenomena.”

This explains a lot – unfortunately…

How Wrong, Indeed

I don’t normally agree with Paul Krugman, the Nobel Laureate in economics and New York Times columnist, but the views on former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan that he shared in this recent Playboy interview seem to be spot on:

PLAYBOY: Speaking of high-profile economic voices, you were pretty harsh about former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and his role in the financial crisis. Should we be listening to him anymore?

KRUGMAN: No. I mean, how wrong do you have to be to get written out of the debate? He assured us that deregulation was making the system more stable. He was repeatedly wrong as the crisis unfolded. Look at Paul Volcker, whom I disagree with on some stuff but who is certainly an incredibly upstanding human being. When he left the Fed, he deliberately went silent to leave the field clear for Greenspan. Greenspan instead raced out to cash in personally on his role. He’s been so completely wrong at this point that the idea that some people still listen to him as a source of wisdom is awesome.

‘Ol Greenie is about due for another appearance on NBC (where his wife Andrea Mitchell works) or another Financial Times op-ed as some organizations still can’t seem to get enough of the guy who will surely not be treated kindly by history.

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