Tuesday, June 22, 2010

If Ignorance is Bliss, William Greider is Ecstatic...

...and he insists on sharing his joy with us in The Nation.

Goodbye Keynes, Hello Hoover
The first fundamental failure of Keynesian economics occurred forty years ago during the Vietnam War when the economy was overheating but the political system failed to take the corrective steps that would restrain price inflation—that is, raise taxes and reduce federal spending. The decade of economic stagnation that followed became a central factor in discrediting both liberalism and the Democratic Party.

Wrong. Despite popular mythology, Keynesian economics actually first failed during Keynes' own lifetime, back in the Great Depression. More accurately, the rather selectively-interpreted and extremely cherry-picked tactics scalpeled out of Keynes' theoretical work failed, in large part because of that selective interpretation and cherry-picking. And among the first to say so was Keynes himself, who noted that his prescription was for short-term ameliorative action, not long-term doctrine. But I digress...back to Greider:
We are now witnessing a second great failure of the doctrine John Maynard Keynes devised for managing a healthy economy. This time, Washington faces the opposite problem—a starkly underperforming economy in which 10 percent of the workforce are without jobs and income. Yet the President and Democratic Congress, spooked by the swollen federal deficits, are unwilling to do what Keynes prescribed in these circumstances—pump up federal spending enormously and run even larger budget deficits in order to force-feed a stronger recovery.

One can gain a solid grasp of Greider's own political stance simply by noting what he (along with most other liberals) leaves out of the classic Keynesian prescription for recession -- cutting taxes. Yet Greider and his ideological cohorts have no problem whatsoever remembering the "raise taxes" part of the Keynesian price inflation prescription.

Keynesian theory has many empirically demonstrable flaws and it's not my intent to begin a long dissection of them*. My point here is highlighting the willful selective ignorance of those socialist/statist ideologues who want more government and more more spending and (at root) more more MORE state control over individuals with the concomittant loss of freedom that implies, and use Keynes as their crutch. Even dedicated Keynesian Paul Krugman (who really is a brilliant economist when he's not being a complete political-media whore for "progressivism") has had some things to say about Greider's utter lack of critical-thinking skills, at least in the field of economics.

So when you hear ideologues tossing derogatory sneers at "Keynesianism" and "Monetarism" and "Libertarianism" and such, keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of them, like Greider, haven't got the intellectual foundation to know WTF they're talking about. Or even the ability to grasp that they don't have that foundation.

[*--For a much more balanced and empirical rather than ideological view of the current state of our economic situation and the failed applications of Keynesian theory thereto, N. Gregory Mankiw's recent article in National Affairs provides an excellent start for the intelligent layperson. Pay particular attention to his thoughts on the disparities between theoretical models and observed reality -- they have major applications in other areas, such as climate "science."]

Sunday, June 06, 2010

How's That Stimulus Coming?

About as I predicted.

Stimulus aside, we're not seeing increase in jobs
The economy will kick into gear again when the private sector begins adding jobs. Investors were spooked Friday because it isn't doing that yet. Of the 413,000 jobs added in May, just 41,000 of them were in the private sector, barely a fifth of what economists expected, and many of those jobs were temporary ones. Speaking of which, virtually all the public-sector job increases were the result of temporary workers hired by the U.S. Census Bureau...

...The Keynesians who advocate for bigger stimulus spending to avoid a double-dip recession are beginning to bump up against the limits of their argument that deficit spending can lead the economy back to a growth cycle. The stimulus spending has to show some private-sector results. We can't keep pointing to the census workers, teachers and other public-sector jobs that have been "kept" thanks to stimulus money.

This really isn't rocket science or brain surgery. The "stimulus" bill was, as I repeatedly said, mostly aimed at shoring up government and union (and public-sector union) jobs, NOT at "stimulating" the private economy that actually generates the wealth that pays for all that government. While private-sector employment crumbled, government employment barely budged at state and local levels, and actually grew at the federal level.

Shoring up government at the expense of the private sector is not stimulus. It's an attempt to permanently expand government. And it won't boost the economy. Quite the opposite. It suppresses growth, as we're seeing. When we do begin to see positive recovery in the private sector, it won't be because of government "stimulus," but in spite of it.