“I was wrong”

Posted: 10 January 2016 in Uncategorized
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Brad DeLong [ht: ja] has finally admitted he was wrong—just like the drunk man searching for his keys under the streetlight.

Back before 2008, I used to teach my students that during a disturbance in the business cycle, we’d be 40 percent of the way back to normal in a year. The long-run trend of economic growth, I would say, was barely affected by short-run business cycle disturbances. There would always be short-run bubbles and panics and inflations and recessions. They would press production and employment away from its long-run trend — perhaps by as much as 5 percent. But they would be transitory.

After the shock hit, the economy would rapidly head back to normal. The equilibrium-restoring logic and magic of supply and demand would push the economy to close two-fifths of the gap to normal each year. After four years, only a seventh of the peak disturbance would remain.

In the aftermath of 2008, Stiglitz was indeed one of those warning that I and economists like me were wrong. Without extraordinary, sustained and aggressive policies to rebalance the economy, he said, we would never get back to what before 2008 we had thought was normal.

I was wrong. He was right.

Finally, in a moment of apparent sobriety, DeLong has recognized the Second Great Depression.

But then DeLong goes back under his streetlight, arguing that the problems we face are ideological and political, not economic—as if capitalism has played no role in creating the conditions for this, the “longest depression.”

  1. I think you are being slightly unfair to DeLong: when economists talk about “economic” problems as opposed to political and social problems, they usually mean market failures. And it’s arguable that the current Lesser Depression is not the result of any kind of market failure.

    However, having read DeLong et al. for some time, I will say that Keynesian economists such as DeLong, Krugman, Summers, and Bernanke do not see that political and social problems are intrinsically part of a capitalist political economy.

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