The Relevance of Keynes’s General Theory after 80 years

February 9th, 2016

By Thomas Palley, Louis-Philippe Rochon and Matías Vernengo

This year marks two important anniversaries in macroeconomics: the 80th anniversary of the publication of Keynes’s The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, and the 70th anniversary of Keynes’s premature death, at the age of 63. To mark these anniversaries, the first issue of the fourth year of the Review of Keynesian Economics is dedicated to Keynes.

The issue contains a symposium of papers titled “The Relevance of Keynes’s General Theory after 80 years” and some previously unpublished archive material on Keynes. The unpublished material is notes from a 1936 University of Chicago course taught by Frank Knight in which The General Theory was discussed, and a memorandum written by Lauchlin Currie, who is considered the first and most combative Keynesian in the Roosevelt administration during the early phases of the New Deal.

The 80th anniversary of The General Theory takes place at a time when the global economy is struggling with economic stagnation that set in after the financial crisis of 2008. In some regards, these conditions have parallels with the 1930s when the Great Depression followed the financial crisis of 1929. However, this time economic depression was avoided by timely economic policy interventions that either bore the direct hallmarks of conventional Keynesian thinking or were inspired by Keynesian thinking about the economy’s limited self-stabilizing capacity. [READ MORE]

October’s Job Numbers: Good news for Main Street viewed as bad news by Wall Street

November 6th, 2015

October’s employment report was strong with regard to both jobs and wages, which is good news. But the report also reveals the contradictions in our economy. Good news for Main Street is interpreted as bad news by Wall Street. The challenge for the Federal Reserve, and the standard by which it will be judged, is to ensure this type of news becomes “normal” and not a one month exception that is used to justify hitting the brakes.

Website 10th Anniversary: 10 Things I Got Right

September 27th, 2015

Ten years ago (September 2005) I launched my website. To mark this anniversary, here are ten postings that I think got it right. Many of them are included in my book, The Economic Crisis: Notes From The Underground (2012).

1. Keynesianism: what it is and why it still matters (September 18, 2005). My first post. What was intellectually unfashionable back then is now in.

2. The Questionable Legacy of Alan Greenspan (October 16, 2005). Raining on the Maestro’s parade was not popular.

3. Winner’s curse: The Torment of Chairman-designate Bernanke (November 4, 2005). I suspect Mrs. Bernanke wishes Mr. Bernanke read this before accepting the job.
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Stop Fearing Full Employment

September 4th, 2015

August’s Employment Report showed the unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent and creation of 173,000 new jobs. Predictably, the decline in the unemployment rate has triggered calls for higher interest rates from Wall Street Hawks on grounds that higher core inflation is just around the corner. That is the same call we heard when the unemployment rate was much higher, and it is the same call we heard in the past two business cycles.

Federal Reserve policymakers should ignore the Hawks and stop being afraid of tight labor markets. In a market economy, that is the way workers get a raise. There is no reason for the Fed to rock the boat and risk confiscating the raise working families have waited for so long. That is the message this Labor Day weekend. Read the rest of this entry »

American capitalism, globalization & possibilities for reform

August 12th, 2015

An interview with Andrew Mazzone, President of the Board of Trustees, Henry George School of Social Science [VIEW HERE].

The US Economy: Explaining Stagnation and Why It Will Persist

August 7th, 2015

This paper examines the major competing interpretations of the economic crisis in the US and explains the rebound of neoliberal orthodoxy. It shows how US policymakers acted to stabilize and save the economy, but failed to change the underlying neoliberal economic policy model. That failure explains the emergence of stagnation, which is likely to endure. Current economic conditions in the US smack of the mid-1990s. The 1990s expansion proved unsustainable and so will the current modest expansion. However, this time it is unlikely to be followed by financial crisis because of the balance sheet cleaning that took place during the last crisis. [READ MORE]

Weaker than Expected Job Growth Should be a Yellow Flag to the Federal Reserve

July 2nd, 2015

June’s Employment Report showed the economy continued to edge forward, driven by momentum. But the numbers were softer than expected. That should provide a clear yellow flag to those Federal Reserve policymakers who have expressed impatience to raise interest rates.

Though the headline unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent, that decline masks underlying weakening of conditions. The fall in the unemployment rate is fully explained by a fall in labor force participation, and job creation was on the weaker side.

The economy created 223,000 jobs, which is below the twelve month average of 250,000. Furthermore, April and May job creation numbers were revised down by 60,000.

This relative weakness is also reflected in average hourly wages which were unchanged. A strong labor market should produce sustained wage gains significantly above inflation, but we have not yet seen that.

There are solid reasons for these mixed conditions. The strong dollar is encouraging imports and discouraging manufacturing job creation. Budget austerity continues to strangle public sector investment and public sector job creation. The strong dollar and budget austerity are policy failures we can, should and must fix.

Inequality, the Financial Crisis and Stagnation: Competing Stories and Why They Matter

June 8th, 2015

This paper examines several mainstream explanations of the financial crisis and stagnation and the role they attribute to income inequality. Those explanations are contrasted with a structural Keynesian explanation. The role of income inequality differs substantially, giving rise to different policy recommendations. That highlights the critical importance of economic theory. Theory shapes the way we understand the world, thereby shaping how we respond to it. The theoretical narrative we adopt therefore implicitly shapes policy. That observation applies forcefully to the issue of income inequality, the financial crisis and stagnation, making it critical we get the story right. [READ MORE]

Fraternity of Failure – The Alternative (Hillary Clinton) Version

May 20th, 2015

Hillary Clinton does not want to talk about past economic controversies. And it is easy to understand why. There is much that is troubling. But let’s not go along with her wishes. You can learn a lot by studying recent history and even more by watching how politicians react to that history. Read the rest of this entry »

More Jobs, Flat Wages: Trade and the Trade Deficit Continue to Hurt Us

May 12th, 2015

April’s Employment Report showed a gain of 223,000 jobs and a further one-tenth percent decline in the unemployment rate to 5.4 percent. The good news is the report shows the economy continues to nudge forward and create jobs for newcomers into the labor force. The bad news is the economy is not growing fast enough to raise wages. Read the rest of this entry »