Sunday, October 05, 2008

David Warsh's Economic Principals Gets It right

At last some sensible comment and analysis of the so-called ‘bail-out’, which too many serious economists are treating as a test of one’s virility as free-market economists, as if these irregular events are final proof of the need to call for government passivity and trust in markets to correct with all the brutal force of unforgiving militants for laissez-faire, while others from the left, the doomsday environmentalists (often with a marxist tinge), and the 'we are doomed' fringe, see their chance to extend government into ever greater roles in place of markets.

I refer to the article, The Enormous Bodkin, by David Warsh, of Economic Principals, (subscription) which gives an historical slant to the current problems, while showing that mostly the economics profession, as trained in the past thirty years, is not treated to any passing familiarity with the nature and causes of ‘the cycles of manias, panics and crashed that have been a familiar feature of global capitalism since its emergence in the seventeenth century’. Indeed, as David Warsh shows, leading introductory textbooks scarcely mention them.

I shall make one small quotation from Economic Principals (with apologies to David Warsh for doing so without his permission as the copyright owner):

This is not the bankruptcy of modern economics, as my friend Robert Samuelson put it the other day in Newsweek, a shattering of the conceit that the problem of stability had been solved once and for all. Economists have done pretty well at stitching the global economy together these last thirty years, during a period of unprecedented growth. The failure to give recurring financial crises a more prominent place in its undergraduate texts is, however, somewhat embarrassing, or so it seems to me. Kindleberger was of the opinion that both Keynesian orthodoxy and monetarism were incomplete because they left out credit cycles altogether (he was writing in the mid ’70s, remember). He was right. Last summer, Olivier Blanchard, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, now serving a stint as chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, observed in a survey of macroeconomics that the New Keynesian orthodoxy that, for the past twenty years or so had constituted the mainstream textbook view, had, with respect to asset prices, fallen “short of the mark.”

It had become vividly clear, he wrote, that financial institutions do matter, and that shocks to their capital or liquidity positions can be potentially seriously damaging to macroeconomic health. Research on credit and financial markets was proceeding vigorously, though, Blanchard concluded, and “one can be confident that progress will happen rapidly.”

It can’t happen too quickly for the next editions of those introductory texts

If that doesn’t wet your appetite to subscribe to David’s weekly online sense on economics (from – 1.617.666.3365) you may be beyond saving from ideological paralysis – present but not involved in what’s going on around you.



Blogger Denis Drew said...

Economic Principals is not subscription:

11:10 pm  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

That's odd. I paid a subscription to David for the weekly publication that arrives on Friday each week.

No doubt David will clear the matter up.

6:44 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

Yes, you can read David's column free on his web site. But to maintain his column, David relies on subscriptions from about 300 people who pay a minimum of $50 annually. As Gavin points out, those subscribers are emailed an early edition of the column. David estimates he has ~20,000 readers in ~ 107 countries. So, the vast majority of readers are getting a free ride. Given the great insight to economic history provided by David, it's a shame more readers aren't willing to contribute to supporting his effort.

4:03 am  

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