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Keynes and the Classics Part 8

While I usually use Friday’s blog space to provide draft versions of the Modern Monetary Theory textbook that I am writing with my colleague and friend Randy Wray, today I am departing from that practice (deadlines looming) and devoting the next two days to textbook writing. We expect to complete the text during 2013 (to be ready in draft form for second semester teaching). Comments are always welcome. Remember this is a textbook aimed at undergraduate students and so the writing will be different from my usual blog approach.

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Exploring directions in fiscal policy

This blog extends the discussion in yesterday’s blog – Exploring pro-cyclical budget positions – which is why I am running them on consecutive days. Not that I think any of my readers (Austrian schoolers and other conservatives aside) have memory issues! The discussion that follows focuses on ways in which we can interpret the fiscal stance of a government and hopefully clears up some of the confusion that I read in E-mails I receive from readers. I say that not to put anyone down but rather to recognise that the decompositions of budget outcomes and analysing the direction of fiscal policy on a period-to-period basis is not something that the financial press usually focuses on. In avoid detailed analysis, the press leaves lots of misperceptions unchallenged and often the wrong conclusions are drawn. I am not talking about policy preferences here. Just coming to terms with the facts is sometimes difficult for many commentators to achieve. But, of-course, the “facts” are also sometimes difficult to discover given that the methods used to produce them are often ideologically biased (I am talking here about the decomposition of the actual deficit into structural and cyclical components requires a full employment benchmark, which is where the fun starts.

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Exploring pro-cyclical budget positions

Sometimes one agrees with a conclusion but realises the logic that was used to derive the conclusion was false. Which means that the person will get things wrong when applying the logic to other situations. This is almost always the case when we encounter the reasoning offered by so-called deficit doves. These are economists who do not out-rightly reject the use of deficits but typically believe them to be cyclical phenomenon only and should thus be offset at other points in the economic cycle by surpluses – the so-called balanced budget over the cycle rule. While many progressives think that is a sensible strategy – the reality is that it is an unsustainable fiscal rule to try to follow. The same economists talk about the dangers of pro-cyclical fiscal positions but fail to appreciate that such positions are desirable in certain cases and there is a fundamental asymmetry that applies to evaluation the desirability of a “cyclical” position. Fiscal austerity (pursuing surpluses when the economy is contracting) is never appropriate whereas expanding the deficit when the economy is growing might be. It all depends. This blog aims to clear up some of these misconceptions.

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Britain caught in the mire of its own policy failure

It is a public holiday in Australia – celebrating our national day. For the indigenous Australians, it is symbolically “invasion day” – the day the colonialists came and usurped their rights and engaged in a systematic destruction of their culture and ensured they remain (collectively) among the most disadvantaged citizens on our Earth. So it is a day of shame really. It is also weird that we are gung-ho with nationalism today yet our head of state is the British queen. Taken together it is a confused society – hiding a deeply conservative form of prejudice, fear and paranoia with the anti-intellectual “larrikinism” that many associate with my nation. Not a very compelling mix to say the least. But then I know we need to be careful about generalisations like this. Today, among some pressing deadlines I took a little (depressing) journey into the latest national accounts release from the British Office of National Statistics – Gross Domestic Product Preliminary Estimate, Q4 2012. The narrative gleaned is terrible. It comes on the back of the ONS release of the – Public Sector Finances, December 2012 – which showed that budget deficit and public borrowing rose over the 12 months to December 2012. So at the half-way mark of this government’s tenure, the conclusion is clear – the British government has failed and is inflicting untold damage on its citizens – which has been temporarily interrupted but not curtailed by the Olympic Games.

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Saturday Quiz – January 26, 2013 – answers and discussion

The reference to Invasion Day in this week’s quiz title is in solidarity with the indigenous brothers and sisters in Australia. The other name for yesterday (January 26, 2012) is Australia Day, our national day. It marks the day that the colonists took over this land and declared it – Terra Nullius – or “land belonging to no one”, which explicitly denied the legal rights of the indigenous Australians who had lived here for more than 30,000 years prior to the colonists arrival. Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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Saturday Quiz – January 26, 2013

Welcome to the Invasion Day – Billy Blog Saturday Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

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Keynes and the Classics Part 7

I am now using Friday’s blog space to provide draft versions of the Modern Monetary Theory textbook that I am writing with my colleague and friend Randy Wray. We expect to complete the text during 2013 (to be ready in draft form for second semester teaching). Comments are always welcome. Remember this is a textbook aimed at undergraduate students and so the writing will be different from my usual blog free-for-all. Note also that the text I post is just the work I am doing by way of the first draft so the material posted will not represent the complete text. Further it will change once the two of us have edited it.

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Keynes and the Classics Part 6

While I usually use Friday’s blog space to provide draft versions of the Modern Monetary Theory textbook that I am writing with my colleague and friend Randy Wray, today I am departing from that practice (deadlines looming) and devoting the next two days to textbook writing. We expect to complete the text during 2013 (to be ready in draft form for second semester teaching). Comments are always welcome. Remember this is a textbook aimed at undergraduate students and so the writing will be different from my usual blog approach.

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ILO …. ILF … IMF

The International Labour Organization (ILO) released its latest – Global Employment Trends 2013 – yesterday (January 22, 2013), which carried the sub-title “Recovering from a second jobs dip”. The way things are going in policy circles next year’s ILO Trends report will be titled something like “Heading into a third jobs dip”. There has been a lot of focus in the last few days on how central banks are standing ready or are about to inject liquidity into their respective economies as a further attempt to boost jobs. The press reports I have read (about Japan, UK etc) never also mention that these monetary policy gymnastics (quantitative easing) do nothing as they stand for aggregate demand. Japan will pick up its growth rate in the coming year not because the BoJ is buying bonds but because the Ministry of Finance will be increasing the budget deficit via some large spending injections. Unfortunately, the UK is determined to ensure it has a quadruple(bypass!)-dip recession. The ILO reports highlights the results of the policy folly in very sharp terms but, unfortunately, still situates that organisation within the neo-liberal orthodoxy when it comes to macroeconomic policy. Their heart is at least in the right place, they just have to move their institutional brain – about 180 degrees.

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Okun’s Law survives 50 years – trouble for the neo-liberals

The IMF recently released an interesting Working Paper – Okun’s Law: Fit at 50? – which considers the relationship between the unemployment rate and real GDP growth. I mentioned Arthur Okun in yesterday’s blog. The paper is useful because it debunks a lot of recent research from mainstream economists which claimed that real GDP growth did not bring unemployment down (or not by much). The arguments were then part of the general attack on fiscal activism. The IMF paper finds that the output gaps created by the GFC in the US were so large, that the recovery had to be stronger than usual to eat into the massive buildup in unemployment. The fact that the output gaps have persisted well into the recovery means that fiscal policy has not been aggressive enough in the US. The large output gap that the GFC created needed a very large fiscal response.The bottom line is that shifts in the unemployment is driven by changes output (with the other cyclical adjustments noted above which mediate this relationship). Not a lot has changed – spending equals income which drives employment growth and leads to reductions in unemployment. The neo-liberals can deny that until the cows come homebut those of us who read understand the evidence know they are lying. The message just needs to spread.

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