May 23rd, 2013 by Rick Drain
Respected former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker had some caustic comments for the continuing muddle of agencies involved in regulating US banks, and the continuing lack of effective regulation. As quoted in the WSJ:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I hope someone listens.
May 10th, 2013 by Rick Drain
British Economist John Maynard Keynes has been hugely influential because of ideas he developed while studying the Great Depression, which was then ongoing.
His key observation was that when an economy has been dealt a severe blow, such that there’s mass unemployment and shuttered factories, then the economy if left to itself could take a very long time to recover. That’s simply because unemployed people spend as little as possible, and businesses only re-open factories or build new ones to meet rising demand for goods. Even if, as theory recommended at the time, wages and interest rates dropped to the point where many more people would be hired, those workers’ spending power would be too low to drive growth in the short or medium term.
Keynes proposed that in such a case, government could speed the recovery immensely by borrowing money (interest rates were low and business were not borrowing to build) and funding productive work. Workers would have money to spend for current consumption, and roads, bridges, schools, etc. would be built to make future growth more efficient. Â When the recovery came around, the special projects would wind down and the government would use the increased tax revenues to pay down the debt.
Some people hated the idea, not least because it gave a very big role in the economy to government. Arguments have raged, and good and bad points have been raised.
Seven of the most common bad points are discussed by Mark Thoma in The Fiscal Times:
May 5th, 2013 by Rick Drain
Megabanks are not our friends.
That probably sounds obvious to you. I know that there are no megabanks who would invite me over for dinner, nor I them. Same for you?
In economic theory, though, there’s an argument that megabanks, the largest dozen or so banks in the world, are somehow filling a macroeconomic niche, so that our whole economic ecosystem works more efficiently. It’s an Invisible Hand argument: the megabanks pursue their own interests, but we all benefit from the consequences.
That theory has been taking a thumping from many sides. Most of the arguments have been sociopolitical rather than econo-financial, but here’s a good presentation of the economic arguments against the megabanks, in the form of a rebuttal to a recent attempt at a rigorous defense of the super-sized. It’s a bit technical in spots, but I think anyone who keeps up with current events will be able to follow along. For the technically inclined, there are some good links for further reading.
Simon Johnson writes in the New York Times’ Economix blog:
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April 28th, 2013 by Rick Drain
There’s a joke among economists, “We can see that this works in practice, but we’re not sure it works in theory.”
Unlike in real sciences, economists hold on to theories long after the actual data has swept them aside.
A blogger offers a good example of a theory and the data that falsifies it.
There’s a good reason why almost all major economies abandoned free market economics. It’s that such economies didn’t and couldn’t avoid mass unemployment.
Read the entire article here: