Posts Tagged ‘Great Depression’

In the Footsteps of a Forgotten Emigration – America, Russia and the Archaeology of Genocide

By Tim Tzouliadis

Mr. Tzouliadis is the author of The Forsaken, an account of the American emigration to Stalin’s Russia of the early 1930s – an exodus that fell into the interstices of Cold War history. This essay derives from a journey made across Russia earlier this year.

At the height of the Great Depression, several thousand American emigrants left New York on the decks of passenger liners, waving goodbye to the Statue of Liberty bound for Leningrad. They arrived in the “Workers Paradise” confident that they were leaving the miseries of unemployment and poverty behind them.  Inevitably their optimism would prove to be short-lived.

Most were stripped of their American passports soon after their arrival. Considered ideologically suspect by Stalin’s paranoid and totalitarian state, the foreigners were swept away in the Terror – and the American jazz clubs, the baseball teams, and English-language schools where they once gathered, quickly vanished with them.

During the early years, in public, the Americans had learned to follow the Russian example, and never mention the words “GPU” or “NKVD” aloud. Instead they cracked jokes about the Soviet secret police as “the Four-Letter Boys” or  “Phi Beta Kappa” or “the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Bolshevism” or any other whip-smart euphemism designed to confuse the listeners and informers who surrounded them. The bar at the Metropol Hotel had once been the weekly venue for an American party, where young couples danced around a circular fountain kept stocked with fish.

Seven decades later in present day Moscow, the Metropol’s marble fountain still shines in the centre of its dining room. While the rest of the iconic locations of the American emigration remain clearly identifiable. In the green acres of Gorky Park, the American baseball teams once competed against each other in the summer evenings of the early 1930s. The American Ambassador’s residence, Spaso House, still flies the Stars and Stripes out front and young diplomats can be seen sipping cocktails on the terrace.  The original American Embassy – a neo-classical building built on the site of a church destroyed during the atheist campaign – continues to face the Kremlin, although now it has become the headquarters of a Russian investment bank.

At the height of the Terror, the American emigrants besieged this building, begging for passports to leave Soviet Russia. Viewed with suspicion by the American diplomatic staff – described in one communique as “the flotsam and jetsam” of the Depression – they were turned away, only to be arrested on the sidewalk outside by lurking NKVD agents.

In the killing fields at Butovo, a suburb 27 kilometres south-east of Moscow, several of the American baseball players – whose lives I chronicle in The Forsaken – were executed during the Terror, and lie buried in mass graves. They were among the thousands killed in this one particular country backwater, whose present-day stillness belies the horror of a Revolution that has spun out of control. Wearing leather aprons and protective gloves, the NKVD guards had set about their nightly work methodically, killing young and old alike. Exhausted, they returned each morning to steady their nerves with their specifically-allotted quota of vodka, and douse their clothes in eau-de-cologne to remove the stench of death that clung to those who administered it.

The prisoners not executed in the Terror, were sentenced to work in the “corrective labour camps.”  In the far northeastern corner of Russia, the city of Magadan became one of the epicentres for these transportations. Here, according to Alexander Solzhenitysn, was the very “pole of cold and cruelty of the Gulag.” At the infamous bay of Nagaeva, the American emigrants were among a myriad of nationalities, unloaded from the hulls of the decrepit steamers, the so-called “death ships of the Sea of Okhotsk.” Later during World War II, the same Gulag fleet was sailed across the Pacific for refitting in the shipyards of West Coast America, only to return to Vladivostok to pick up more prisoners.  Nowadays the harbor at Nagaeva is quiet, save for a few fishing boats and the stray dogs that lurk where once hundreds of thousands of prisoners were assembled.

In search of the physical evidence of the Gulag camps, we travelled several hundred kilometres inland from Magadan, along the so-called “road of bones” built by the prisoners. The deterioration of the road forced us to walk the final three hours, until eventually we arrived at the camp of Butugychag. The barbed wire fence has withstood some of the coldest winter temperatures on earth, remaining standing in many places at about ten feet high. The main factory buildings are falling apart in a state of ruin, and yet many of the walls remain solid. Thousands of prisoners died in this brutal place, and a tangible presence of horror permeates the archaeological evidence of their suffering – it lies present in the abandoned camp buildings, in the isolator prison with its barred, narrow windows, in the guards’ quarters. Most of the wooden watchtowers have collapsed. One lies on its side in a tangle pool of barbed wire that seems to have wrapped itself around everything here. We walked past an empty plinth covered in undergrowth, where once there would have rested the inevitable statue of Lenin or Stalin.

At the far end of the camp, a primitive funicular runs up into the uranium mine. Built on a track of stone and wooden sleepers, this rusted piece of Gulag engineering has long fallen to pieces. I am fit and fairly healthy, and yet to climb this mountain exhausted me. I wonder how the prisoners would have coped in the long winters – forced first to build and then to work this mine, starved into a skeletal condition, physically abused, and wearing inadequate clothing in sub-Arctic conditions. On the side of this mountain, the ferocious cold alone must have killed many. Within the mine itself, the conditions were no less intolerable. All the Gulag camps had a utilitarian motive for their existence. But an essential part of their utility was always the eradication of the so-called “enemies” of the regime.

On a flat windswept plateau two kilometres outside the camp, the prisoners of Butugychag were buried in a makeshift cemetery. There are rows and rows of graves here, some of them marked by the remnants of rusted tin cans attached to wooden stakes that are crumbling away. Human remains once littered this site, but they have since been reburied by the Russian Orthodox church. A wooden cross was erected as a memorial, but its epitaph has been vandalized. The words of the plaque lie broken in pieces on the ground: “In nameless graves we ended our lives/Who can forget us if you are a human being?”

In camps such as these across the Soviet Union, the Americans lost their lives, alongside Stalin’s other victims. It was the final endpoint of their epic Depression migration. Only a lucky few ever returned home to bear witness to the fate of the others. Beside their accounts lies the documentary evidence of the archives, and the occasional artifact smuggled out by a desperate prisoner on which a shared plea had been written in English: “SAVE ME PLEASE AND ALL THE OTHERS.” This wooden tag was hidden in a shipment of Soviet exports, discovered in West Germany, and sent to Washington DC, where it remained classified in a State Department archive for decades, waiting patiently to be re-discovered. By then the Americans’ collective fate had become representative of a far broader Russian tragedy. They were just one forgotten tile on a vast mosaic of suffering.



Why the Spending Stimulus Failed

The Wall Street Journal


New economic research shows why lower tax rates do far more to spur growth

President Obama and congressional leaders meeting yesterday confronted calls for four key fiscal decisions: short-run fiscal stimulus, medium-term fiscal consolidation, and long-run tax and entitlement reform. Mr. Obama wants more spending, especially on infrastructure, and higher tax rates on income, capital gains and dividends (by allowing the lower Bush rates to expire). The intellectual and political left argues that the failed $814 billion stimulus in 2009 wasn’t big enough, and that spending control any time soon will derail the economy.

But economic theory, history and statistical studies reveal that more taxes and spending are more likely to harm than help the economy. Those who demand spending control and oppose tax hikes hold the intellectual high ground.

Writing during the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes argued that “sticky” wages and prices would not fall to clear the market when demand declines, so high unemployment would persist. Government spending produced a “multiplier” to output and income; as each dollar is spent, the recipient spends most of it, and so on. Ditto tax cuts and transfers, but the multiplier is assumed smaller.

Macroeconomics since Keynes has incorporated the effects of longer time horizons, expectations about future incomes and policies, and incentives (including marginal tax rates) on economic decisions.

Temporary small tax rebates, as in 2008 and 2009, result in only a few cents per dollar in spending. The bulk (according to economists such as Franco Modigliani and Milton Friedman) or all (according to Robert Barro of Harvard) is saved, as people spread any increased consumption over many years or anticipate future taxes necessary to finance the debt. Empirical studies (such as those by my colleague Robert Hall and Rick Mishkin of Columbia) conclude that most consumption is based on longer-term considerations.

In a dynamic economy, many parts are moving simultaneously and it is difficult to disentangle cause and effect. Taxes may be cut and spending increased at the same time and those may coincide with natural business cycle dynamics and monetary policy shifts.

Using powerful statistical methods to separate these effects in U.S. data, Andrew Mountford of the University of London and Harald Uhlig of the University of Chicago conclude that the small initial spending multiplier turns negative by the start of the second year. In a new cross-national time series study, Ethan Ilzetzki of the London School of Economics and Enrique Mendoza and Carlos Vegh of the University of Maryland conclude that in open economies with flexible exchange rates, “a fiscal expansion leads to no significant output gains.”

My colleagues John Cogan and John Taylor, with Volker Wieland and Tobias Cwik, demonstrate that government purchases have a GDP impact far smaller in New Keynesian than Old Keynesian models and quickly crowd out the private sector. They estimate the effect of the February 2009 stimulus at a puny 0.2% of GDP by now.

By contrast, the last two major tax cuts—President Reagan’s in 1981-83 and President George W. Bush’s in 2003—boosted growth. They lowered marginal tax rates and were longer lasting, both keys to success. In a survey of fiscal policy changes in the OECD over the past four decades, Harvard’s Albert Alesina and Silvia Ardagna conclude that tax cuts have been far more likely to increase growth than has more spending.

Former Obama adviser Christina Romer and David Romer of the University of California, Berkeley, estimate a tax-cut multiplier of 3.0, meaning $1 of lower taxes raises short-run output by $3. Messrs. Mountford and Uhlig show that substantial tax cuts had a far larger impact on output and employment than spending increases, with a multiplier up to 5.0.

Conversely, a tax increase is very damaging. Mr. Barro and Bain Capital’s Charles Redlick estimate large negative effects of increased marginal tax rates on GDP. The best stimulus now is to stop the impending tax hikes. Mr. Alesina and Ms. Ardagna also conclude that spending cuts are more likely to reduce deficits and debt-to-GDP ratios, and less likely to cause recessions, than are tax increases.

These empirical studies leave many leading economists dubious about the ability of government spending to boost the economy in the short run. Worse, the large long-term costs of debt-financed spending are ignored in most studies of short-run fiscal stimulus and even more so in the political debate.

Mr. Uhlig estimates that a dollar of deficit-financed spending costs the economy a present value of $3.40. The spending would have to be remarkably productive, both in its own right and in generating jobs and income, for it to be worth even half that future cost. The University of Maryland’s Carmen Reinhart, Harvard’s Ken Rogoff and the International Monetary Fund all conclude that the high government debt-to-GDP ratios we are approaching damage growth severely.

The complexity of a dynamic market economy is not easily captured even by sophisticated modeling (an idea stressed by Friedrich Hayek and Robert Solow). But based on the best economic evidence, we should reject increased spending and increased taxes.

If anything, we should lower marginal effective corporate and personal tax rates further (for example, along the lines suggested by the bipartisan deficit commission’s Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson). We should quickly enact an enforceable gradual phase-down of the spending explosion of recent years. That’s what the president and congressional leaders should initiate. Then let the equally vital task of long-run tax and entitlement reform proceed.

Mr. Boskin is a professor of economics at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush.

Echoes of the Great Depression

As in the 1930s, policy uncertainty and hostility to business have retarded recovery. At least this time around the political price for economic failure promises to be swift.

The Wall Street Journal
OCTOBER 1, 2010

This may not be your grandfather’s Great Depression, but many aspects of today’s situation would remind him of the 1930s. If the recession that officially ended a year ago feels uncomfortably surreal to you yet familiar to him, it’s probably because the recovery went missing.
During the average recovery since World War II, gross domestic product (GDP) surpassed the pre-recession high five quarters after the recession began. It has never taken longer than seven quarters. Yet today, after 11 quarters, GDP is still below what it was in the fourth quarter of 2007. The economy is growing at only about a third of the rate of previous postwar recoveries from major recessions.
Obama administration officials such as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner have argued that without their policies the economy would be worse, and we might have fallen “off a cliff.” While this assertion cannot be tested, we can compare the recent experience of other countries to our own.
The chart nearby compares total 2007 employment levels in the United States, the United Kingdom, the 16 euro zone countries, the G-7 countries and all OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries with those of the second quarter of 2010. There are 4.6% fewer people employed in the U.S. today than at the start of the recession. Euro zone countries have lost 1.7% of their jobs. Total employment in the U.K. is down 0.6%, G-7 average employment is down 2.4%, and OECD employment has fallen 1.9%.

This simple comparison suggests two things. First, that American economic policy has been less effective in increasing employment than the policies of other developed nations. Second, that if there was a cliff out there, no country fell off. Those that suffered the most were the most profligate, such as Greece, and their problems can’t be blamed on the financial crisis. While the most recent quarterly growth figures are just a snapshot in time, it is hardly encouraging that economic growth in the U.S. (1.7%) is lower than in the euro zone (4%), U.K. (4.8%), G-7 (2.8%) and OECD (2%).

Most striking about these comparisons is their similarity to the U.S. experience in the Great Depression. Using data from the League of Nations’ World Economic Survey, we can look at unemployment in developed nations between 1929 and the end of 1938. Ten years after the stock market crash, total employment in the U.S. was still almost 20% below the pre-Depression level. The decline in France was similar. But in the U.K. and Italy, total employment was up 10% and 12%, respectively. Industrial production on average in the six most developed countries was almost 16% above their 1929 levels by the end of 1938, but industrial production had declined by 20% in the U.S.
Today’s lagging growth and persistent high unemployment are reminiscent of the 1930s, perhaps because in no other period of American history has our government followed policies as similar to those of the Great Depression era
. Federal debt by the end of 1938 was almost 150% above the 1929 level. Federal spending grew by 77% from 1932 to 1934 as the New Deal was implemented—unprecedented for peacetime.
Still the economy did not take off. Winston Churchill gave a contemporary evaluation of the Roosevelt policy by observing, in the April 24, 1935, Daily Mail, “Nearly two thousand millions Sterling have been poured out to prime the pump of prosperity; but prosperity has not begun to flow.”
The top individual income tax rate rose from 24% to 63% to 79% during the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations. Corporate rates were increased to 15% from 11%, and when private businesses did not invest, Congress imposed a 27% undistributed profits tax.
In 1929, the U.S. government collected $1.1 billion in total income taxes; by 1935 collections had fallen to $527 million. In 1929, individual income taxes accounted for 38% of government revenues, corporate taxes accounted for 43%, and excise taxes for 19%. By 1939, individual income taxes made up only 26% of federal revenues, corporate income taxes made up 29%, and excise taxes made up 45%.
When Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau suggested to President Roosevelt that the administration cut income tax rates in 1939, Roosevelt, apparently concerned about the possible effect of deficit-financed tax cuts on interest rates, asked, “You are willing to pay usury in order to get recovery?” Morgenthau said that he responded, “Yes sir.” The president disagreed.
The Roosevelt administration also conducted a seven-year populist tirade against private business, which FDR denounced as the province of “economic royalists” and “malefactors of great wealth.” The war on business and wealth was so traumatic that the League of Nations’ 1939 World Economic Survey attributed part of the poor U.S. economic performance to it: “The relations between the leaders of business and the Administration were uneasy, and this uneasiness accentuated the unwillingness of private enterprise to embark on further projects of capital expenditure which might have helped to sustain the economy.”
Churchill, who was generally guarded when criticizing New Deal policies, could not hold back. “The disposition to hunt down rich men as if they were noxious beasts,” he noted in “Great Contemporaries” (1939), is “a very attractive sport.” But “confidence is shaken and enterprise chilled, and the unemployed queue up at the soup kitchens or march out to the public works with ever growing expense to the taxpayer and nothing more appetizing to take home to their families than the leg or wing of what was once a millionaire. . . It is indispensable to the wealth of nations and to the wage and life standards of labour, that capital and credit should be honoured and cherished partners in the economic system. . . .”
The regulatory burden exploded during the Roosevelt administration, not just through the creation of new government agencies but through an extraordinary barrage of executive orders—more than all subsequent presidents through Bill Clinton combined. Then, as now, uncertainty reigned. As the textile innovator Lammot du Pont complained in 1937, “Uncertainty rules the tax situation, the labor situation, the monetary situation, and practically every legal condition under which industry must operate.”
Henry Morgenthau
summarized the policy failure to the House Ways and Means Committee in April 1939: “Now, gentleman, we have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work . . . I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started . . . and an enormous debt, to boot.”
Despite the striking similarities between then and now, there is one major difference: Roosevelt’s policies remained popular even as the economy faltered. The magnitude of the Depression, with its lack of stabilizers and safety nets, traumatized Americans and undermined their confidence in the economic system. This induced voters, as historians would later do, to judge Roosevelt not on his results but on his intentions.
Today, however, the Obama program appears to be failing politically as well as in the marketplace. The trauma of the financial crisis did not approach that of the Great Depression, and Americans do not appear to have lost faith in our economic system or come to see government as the savior. While progressivism gave the New Deal its intellectual foundations, history today is driven by the freedom tide that produced our economic revival in the 1980s and ’90s and still drives economic liberalization in China and India.
Finally, we should not underestimate that this administration faces stronger and more united congressional opposition than FDR ever faced. The House and Senate Republican leadership has far surpassed all expectations of a minority party.
Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Boehner of Ohio have led a loyal opposition that, through its unity, has exposed the radical underbelly of the Obama program. Young guns like Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Jeb Hensarling of Texas have provided vision and energy.
FDR rode the tide of history while President Obama strives mightily against it.
The progressive vision that resonated in the 1930s foundered on the hard experience of the 20th century, and it has no broad appeal in the 21st. The recovery from the Great Depression did not occur until World War II was underway, but it appears, as of today, that voters will bring the latest experiment in American collectivism to an end on Nov. 2. A real economic recovery won’t be far behind.
Mr. Gramm is a former U.S. senator from Texas and former professor of economics at Texas A&M University.

Keynesian Economics

Keynesian economics also called Keynesianism and Keynesian theory) is a macroeconomic theory based on the ideas of 20th century British economist John Maynard Keynes. Keynesian economics argues that private sector decisions sometimes lead to inefficient macroeconomic outcomes and therefore advocates active policy responses by the public sector, including monetary policy actions by the central bank and fiscal policy actions by the government to stabilize output over the business cycle. The theories forming the basis of Keynesian economics were first presented in The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936; the interpretations of Keynes are contentious, and several schools of thought claim his legacy.
Keynesian economics advocates a mixed economy—predominantly private sector, but with a large role of government and public sector—and served as the economic model during the latter part of the Great Depression, World War II, and the post-war economic expansion (1945–1973), though it lost some influence following the stagflation of the 1970s. The advent of the global financial crisis in 2007 has caused a resurgence in Keynesian thought. The former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President of the United States Barack Obama, and other world leaders have used Keynesian economics through government stimulus programs to attempt to assist the economic state of their countries.

According to Keynesian theory, some microeconomic-level actions – if taken collectively by a large proportion of individuals and firms – can lead to inefficient aggregate macroeconomic outcomes, where the economy operates below its potential output and growth rate. Such a situation had previously been referred to by classical economists as a general glut. There was disagreement among classical economists (some of whom believed in Say’s Law – that “supply creates its own demand”), on whether a general glut was possible. Keynes contended that a general glut would occur when aggregate demand for goods was insufficient, leading to an economic downturn with unnecessarily high unemployment and losses of potential output. In such a situation, government policies could be used to increase aggregate demand, thus increasing economic activity and reducing unemployment and deflation.

Keynes argued that the solution to the Great Depression was to stimulate the economy (“inducement to invest”) through some combination of two approaches: a reduction in interest rates and government investment in infrastructure. Investment by government injects income, which results in more spending in the general economy, which in turn stimulates more production and investment involving still more income and spending and so forth. The initial stimulation starts a cascade of events, whose total increase in economic activity is a multiple of the original investment.
A central conclusion of Keynesian economics is that, in some situations, no strong automatic mechanism moves output and employment towards full employment levels. This conclusion conflicts with economic approaches that assume a strong general tendency towards equilibrium. In the ‘neoclassical synthesis’, which combines Keynesian macro concepts with a micro foundation, the conditions of general equilibrium allow for price adjustment to eventually achieve this goal. More broadly, Keynes saw his theory as a general theory, in which utilization of resources could be high or low, whereas previous economics focused on the particular case of full utilization.

The new classical macroeconomics movement, which began in the late 1960s and early 1970s, criticized Keynesian theories, while New Keynesian economics has sought to base Keynes’ ideas on more rigorous theoretical foundations.
Some interpretations of Keynes have emphasized his stress on the international coordination of Keynesian policies, the need for international economic institutions, and the ways in which economic forces could lead to war or could promote peace.

Keynes’s work was part of a long-running debate within economics over the existence and nature of general gluts. While a number of the policies Keynes advocated (notably government deficit spending) and the theoretical ideas he proposed (effective demand, the multiplier, the paradox of thrift) were advanced by various authors in the 19th and early 20th century, Keynes’s unique contribution was to provide a general theory of these, which proved acceptable to the political and economic establishments.
See also: Underconsumption, Birmingham School (economics), and Stockholm school (economics)
An intellectual precursor of Keynesian economics was underconsumption theory in classical economics, dating from such 19th century economists as Thomas Malthus, the Birmingham School of Thomas Attwood,[5] and the American economists William Trufant Foster and Waddill Catchings, who were influential in the 1920s and 1930s. Underconsumptionists were, like Keynes after them, concerned with failure of aggregate demand to attain potential output, calling this “underconsumption” (focusing on the demand side), rather than “overproduction” (which would focus on the supply side), and advocating economic interventionism. Keynes specifically discussed underconsumption (which he wrote “under-consumption”) in the General Theory, in Chapter 22, Section IV and Chapter 23, Section VII.

Numerous concepts were developed earlier and independently of Keynes by the Stockholm school during the 1930s; these accomplishments were described in a 1937 article, published in response to the 1936 General Theory, sharing the Swedish discoveries.
The multiplier dates to work in the 1890s by the Australian economist Alfred De Lissa, the Danish economist Julius Wulff, and the German American economist Nicholas Johannsen,[7] the latter being cited in a footnote of Keynes.[8] Nicholas Johannsen also proposed a theory of effective demand in the 1890s.
The paradox of thrift was stated in 1892 by John M. Robertson in his The Fallacy of Savings, in earlier forms by mercantilist economists since the 16th century, and similar sentiments date to antiquity:

Today these ideas, regardless of provenance, are referred to in academia under the rubric of “Keynesian economics”, due to Keynes’s role in consolidating, elaborating, and popularizing them.
Keynes and the Classics

Keynes sought to distinguish his theories from and oppose them to “classical economics,” by which he meant the economic theories of David Ricardo and his followers, including John Stuart Mill, Alfred Marshall, Francis Ysidro Edgeworth, and Arthur Cecil Pigou. A central tenet of the classical view, known as Say’s law, states that “supply creates its own demand”. Say’s Law can be interpreted in two ways. First, the claim that the total value of output is equal to the sum of income earned in production is a result of a national income accounting identity, and is therefore indisputable. A second and stronger claim, however, that the “costs of output are always covered in the aggregate by the sale-proceeds resulting from demand” depends on how consumption and saving are linked to production and investment. In particular, Keynes argued that the second, strong form of Say’s Law only holds if increases in individual savings exactly match an increase in aggregate investment.

Keynes sought to develop a theory that would explain determinants of saving, consumption, investment and production. In that theory, the interaction of aggregate demand and aggregate supply determines the level of output and employment in the economy.

Because of what he considered the failure of the “Classical Theory” in the 1930s, Keynes firmly objects to its main theory—adjustments in prices would automatically make demand tend to the full employment level.

Neo-classical theory supports that the two main costs that shift demand and supply are labor and money. Through the distribution of the monetary policy, demand and supply can be adjusted. If there were more labor than demand for it, wages would fall until hiring began again. If there was too much saving, and not enough consumption, then interest rates would fall until people either cut their savings rate or started borrowing.

Wages and spending
During the Great Depression, the classical theory defined economic collapse as simply a lost incentive to produce, and the mass unemployment as a result of high and rigid real wages.

To Keynes, the determination of wages is more complicated. First, he argued that it is not real but nominal wages that are set in negotiations between employers and workers, as opposed to a barter relationship. Second, nominal wage cuts would be difficult to put into effect because of laws and wage contracts. Even classical economists admitted that these exist; unlike Keynes, they advocated abolishing minimum wages, unions, and long-term contracts, increasing labor-market flexibility. However, to Keynes, people will resist nominal wage reductions, even without unions, until they see other wages falling and a general fall of prices.

He also argued that to boost employment, real wages had to go down: nominal wages would have to fall more than prices. However, doing so would reduce consumer demand, so that the aggregate demand for goods would drop. This would in turn reduce business sales revenues and expected profits. Investment in new plants and equipment—perhaps already discouraged by previous excesses—would then become more risky, less likely. Instead of raising business expectations, wage cuts could make matters much worse.
Further, if wages and prices were falling, people would start to expect them to fall. This could make the economy spiral downward as those who had money would simply wait as falling prices made it more valuable—rather than spending. As Irving Fisher argued in 1933, in his Debt-Deflation Theory of Great Depressions, deflation (falling prices) can make a depression deeper as falling prices and wages made pre-existing nominal debts more valuable in real terms.
To Keynes, excessive saving, i.e. saving beyond planned investment, was a serious problem, encouraging recession or even depression. Excessive saving results if investment falls, perhaps due to falling consumer demand, over-investment in earlier years, or pessimistic business expectations, and if saving does not immediately fall in step, the economy would decline.

The classical economists argued that interest rates would fall due to the excess supply of “loanable funds”. The first diagram, adapted from the only graph in The General Theory, shows this process. (For simplicity, other sources of the demand for or supply of funds are ignored here.) Assume that fixed investment in capital goods falls from “old I” to “new I” (step a). Second (step b), the resulting excess of saving causes interest-rate cuts, abolishing the excess supply: so again we have saving (S) equal to investment. The interest-rate (i) fall prevents that of production and employment.

Keynes had a complex argument against this laissez-faire response. The graph below summarizes his argument, assuming again that fixed investment falls (step A). First, saving does not fall much as interest rates fall, since the income and substitution effects of falling rates go in conflicting directions. Second, since planned fixed investment in plant and equipment is mostly based on long-term expectations of future profitability, that spending does not rise much as interest rates fall. So S and I are drawn as steep (inelastic) in the graph. Given the inelasticity of both demand and supply, a large interest-rate fall is needed to close the saving/investment gap. As drawn, this requires a negative interest rate at equilibrium (where the new I line would intersect the old S line). However, this negative interest rate is not necessary to Keynes’s argument.

Third, Keynes argued that saving and investment are not the main determinants of interest rates, especially in the short run. Instead, the supply of and the demand for the stock of money determine interest rates in the short run. (This is not drawn in the graph.) Neither changes quickly in response to excessive saving to allow fast interest-rate adjustment.

Finally, because of fear of capital losses on assets besides money, Keynes suggested that there may be a “liquidity trap” setting a floor under which interest rates cannot fall. While in this trap, interest rates are so low that any increase in money supply will cause bond-holders (fearing rises in interest rates and hence capital losses on their bonds) to sell their bonds to attain money (liquidity). In the diagram, the equilibrium suggested by the new I line and the old S line cannot be reached, so that excess saving persists. Some (such as Paul Krugman) see this latter kind of liquidity trap as prevailing in Japan in the 1990s. Most economists agree that nominal interest rates cannot fall below zero, however, some economists (particularly those from the Chicago school) reject the existence of a liquidity trap.

Even if the liquidity trap does not exist, there is a fourth (perhaps most important) element to Keynes’s critique. Saving involves not spending all of one’s income. It thus means insufficient demand for business output, unless it is balanced by other sources of demand, such as fixed investment. Thus, excessive saving corresponds to an unwanted accumulation of inventories, or what classical economists called a general glut. This pile-up of unsold goods and materials encourages businesses to decrease both production and employment. This in turn lowers people’s incomes—and saving, causing a leftward shift in the S line in the diagram (step B). For Keynes, the fall in income did most of the job by ending excessive saving and allowing the loanable funds market to attain equilibrium. Instead of interest-rate adjustment solving the problem, a recession does so. Thus in the diagram, the interest-rate change is small.

Whereas the classical economists assumed that the level of output and income was constant and given at any one time (except for short-lived deviations), Keynes saw this as the key variable that adjusted to equate saving and investment.
Finally, a recession undermines the business incentive to engage in fixed investment. With falling incomes and demand for products, the desired demand for factories and equipment (not to mention housing) will fall. This accelerator effect would shift the I line to the left again, a change not shown in the diagram above. This recreates the problem of excessive saving and encourages the recession to continue.

In sum, to Keynes there is interaction between excess supplies in different markets, as unemployment in labor markets encourages excessive saving—and vice-versa. Rather than prices adjusting to attain equilibrium, the main story is one of quantity adjustment allowing recessions and possible attainment of underemployment equilibrium.
Active fiscal policy

As noted, the classicals wanted to balance the government budget. To Keynes, this would exacerbate the underlying problem: following either policy would raise saving (broadly defined) and thus lower the demand for both products and labor. For example, Keynesians see Herbert Hoover’s June 1932 tax increase as making the Depression worse.

Keynes′ ideas influenced Franklin D. Roosevelt’s view that insufficient buying-power caused the Depression. During his presidency, Roosevelt adopted some aspects of Keynesian economics, especially after 1937, when, in the depths of the Depression, the United States suffered from recession yet again following fiscal contraction. But to many the true success of Keynesian policy can be seen at the onset of World War II, which provided a kick to the world economy, removed uncertainty, and forced the rebuilding of destroyed capital. Keynesian ideas became almost official in social-democratic Europe after the war and in the U.S. in the 1960s.

Keynes′ theory suggested that active government policy could be effective in managing the economy. Rather than seeing unbalanced government budgets as wrong, Keynes advocated what has been called countercyclical fiscal policies, that is policies which acted against the tide of the business cycle: deficit spending when a nation’s economy suffers from recession or when recovery is long-delayed and unemployment is persistently high—and the suppression of inflation in boom times by either increasing taxes or cutting back on government outlays. He argued that governments should solve problems in the short run rather than waiting for market forces to do it in the long run, because “in the long run, we are all dead.”

This contrasted with the classical and neoclassical economic analysis of fiscal policy. Fiscal stimulus (deficit spending) could actuate production. But to these schools, there was no reason to believe that this stimulation would outrun the side-effects that “crowd out” private investment: first, it would increase the demand for labor and raise wages, hurting profitability; Second, a government deficit increases the stock of government bonds, reducing their market price and encouraging high interest rates, making it more expensive for business to finance fixed investment. Thus, efforts to stimulate the economy would be self-defeating.
The Keynesian response is that such fiscal policy is only appropriate when unemployment is persistently high, above the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment (NAIRU). In that case, crowding out is minimal. Further, private investment can be “crowded in”: fiscal stimulus raises the market for business output, raising cash flow and profitability, spurring business optimism. To Keynes, this accelerator effect meant that government and business could be complements rather than substitutes in this situation. Second, as the stimulus occurs, gross domestic product rises, raising the amount of saving, helping to finance the increase in fixed investment. Finally, government outlays need not always be wasteful: government investment in public goods that will not be provided by profit-seekers will encourage the private sector’s growth. That is, government spending on such things as basic research, public health, education, and infrastructure could help the long-term growth of potential output.

A Keynesian economist might point out that classical and neoclassical theory does not explain why firms acting as “special interests” to influence government policy are assumed to produce a negative outcome, while those same firms acting with the same motivations outside of the government are supposed to produce positive outcomes. Libertarians counter that because both parties consent, free trade increases net happiness, but government imposes its will by force, decreasing happiness. Therefore firms that manipulate the government do net harm, while firms that respond to the free market do net good.

In Keynes’ theory, there must be significant slack in the labor market before fiscal expansion is justified. Both conservative and some neoliberal economists question this assumption, unless labor unions or the government “meddle” in the free market, creating persistent supply-side or classical unemployment. Their solution is to increase labor-market flexibility, e.g., by cutting wages, busting unions, and deregulating business.
Deficit spending is not Keynesianism. Keynesianism recommends counter-cyclical policies to smooth out fluctuations in the business cycle. An example of a counter-cyclical policy is raising taxes to cool the economy and to prevent inflation when there is abundant demand-side growth, and engaging in deficit spending on labor-intensive infrastructure projects to stimulate employment and stabilize wages during economic downturns.

Classical economics, on the other hand, argues that one should cut taxes when there are budget surpluses, and cut spending—or, less likely, increase taxes—during economic downturns. Keynesian economists believe that adding to profits and incomes during boom cycles through tax cuts, and removing income and profits from the economy through cuts in spending and/or increased taxes during downturns, tends to exacerbate the negative effects of the business cycle. This effect is especially pronounced when the government controls a large fraction of the economy, and is therefore one reason fiscal conservatives advocate a much smaller government.

“Multiplier effect” and interest rates
Two aspects of Keynes’ model had implications for policy:
First, there is the “Keynesian multiplier”, first developed by Richard F. Kahn in 1931. Exogenous increases in spending, such as an increase in government outlays, increases total spending by a multiple of that increase. A government could stimulate a great deal of new production with a modest outlay if:
1. The people who receive this money then spend most on consumption goods and save the rest.
2. This extra spending allows businesses to hire more people and pay them, which in turn allows a further increase consumer spending.

This process continues. At each step, the increase in spending is smaller than in the previous step, so that the multiplier process tapers off and allows the attainment of an equilibrium. This story is modified and moderated if we move beyond a “closed economy” and bring in the role of taxation: the rise in imports and tax payments at each step reduces the amount of induced consumer spending and the size of the multiplier effect.
Second, Keynes re-analyzed the effect of the interest rate on investment. In the classical model, the supply of funds (saving) determined the amount of fixed business investment. That is, since all savings was placed in banks, and all business investors in need of borrowed funds went to banks, the amount of savings determined the amount that was available to invest. To Keynes, the amount of investment was determined independently by long-term profit expectations and, to a lesser extent, the interest rate. The latter opens the possibility of regulating the economy through money supply changes, via monetary policy. Under conditions such as the Great Depression, Keynes argued that this approach would be relatively ineffective compared to fiscal policy. But during more “normal” times, monetary expansion can stimulate the economy.

Postwar Keynesianism
Keynes’s ideas became widely accepted after WWII, and until the early 1970s, Keynesian economics provided the main inspiration for economic policy makers in Western industrialized countries. Governments prepared high quality economic statistics on an ongoing basis and tried to base their policies on the Keynesian theory that had become the norm. In the early era of new liberalism and social democracy, most western capitalist countries enjoyed low, stable unemployment and modest inflation, an era called the Golden Age of Capitalism.
In terms of policy, the twin tools of post-war Keynesian economics were fiscal policy and monetary policy. While these are credited to Keynes, others, such as economic historian David Colander, argue that they are rather due to the interpretation of Keynes by Abba Lerner in his theory of Functional Finance, and should instead be called “Lernerian” rather than “Keynesian”.

Through the 1950s, moderate degrees of government demand leading industrial development, and use of fiscal and monetary counter-cyclical policies continued, and reached a peak in the “go go” 1960s, where it seemed to many Keynesians that prosperity was now permanent. In 1971, Republican US President Richard Nixon even proclaimed “we are all Keynesians now”.[16] However, with the oil shock of 1973, and the economic problems of the 1970s, modern liberal economics began to fall out of favor. During this time, many economies experienced high and rising unemployment, coupled with high and rising inflation, contradicting the Phillips curve’s prediction. This stagflation meant that the simultaneous application of expansionary (anti-recession) and contractionary (anti-inflation) policies appeared to be necessary, a clear impossibility. This dilemma led to the end of the Keynesian near-consensus of the 1960s, and the rise throughout the 1970s of ideas based upon more classical analysis, including monetarism, supply-side economics and new classical economics. At the same time Keynesians began during the period to reorganize their thinking (some becoming associated with New Keynesian economics); one strategy, utilized also as a critique of the notably high unemployment and potentially disappointing GNP growth rates associated with the latter two theories by the mid-1980s, was to emphasize low unemployment and maximal economic growth at the cost of somewhat higher inflation (its consequences kept in check by indexing and other methods, and its overall rate kept lower and steadier by such potential policies as Martin Weitzman’s share economy).

Currently, multiple schools of economic thought exist that trace their legacy to Keynes, notably Neo-Keynesian economics, New Keynesian economics, and Post-Keynesian economics. Keynes’ biographer Robert Skidelsky writes that the post-Keynesian school has remained closest to the spirit of Keynes’ work in following his monetary theory and rejecting the neutrality of money.

In the postwar era Keynesian analysis was combined with neoclassical economics to produce what is generally termed the “neoclassical synthesis”, yielding Neo-Keynesian economics, which dominated mainstream macroeconomic thought. Though it was widely held that there was no strong automatic tendency to full employment, many believed that if government policy were used to ensure it, the economy would behave as neoclassical theory predicted. This post-war domination by Neo-Keynesian economics was broken during the stagflation of the 1970s. There was a lack of consensus among macroeconomists in the 1980s. However, the advent of New Keynesian economics in the 1990s, modified and provided microeconomic foundations for the neo-Keynesian theories. These modified models now dominate mainstream economics.

Post-Keynesian economists on the other hand, reject the neoclassical synthesis, and more generally, neoclassical economics applied to the macroeconomy. Post-Keynesian economics is a heterodox school which holds that both Neo-Keynesian economics and New Keynesian economics are incorrect, and a misinterpretation of Keynes’s ideas. The Post-Keynesian school encompasses a variety of perspectives, but has been far less influential than the other more mainstream Keynesian schools.

Main theories
The two key theories of mainstream Keynesian economics are the IS-LM model of John Hicks, and the Phillips curve; both of these are rejected by Post-Keynesians.
It was with John Hicks that Keynesian economics produced a clear model which policy-makers could use to attempt to understand and control economic activity. This model, the IS-LM model is nearly as influential as Keynes’ original analysis in determining actual policy and economics education. It relates aggregate demand and employment to three exogenous quantities, i.e., the amount of money in circulation, the government budget, and the state of business expectations. This model was very popular with economists after World War II because it could be understood in terms of general equilibrium theory. This encouraged a much more static vision of macroeconomics than that described above.

The second main part of a Keynesian policy-maker’s theoretical apparatus was the Phillips curve. This curve, which was more of an empirical observation than a theory, indicated that increased employment, and decreased unemployment, implied increased inflation. Keynes had only predicted that falling unemployment would cause a higher price, not a higher inflation rate. Thus, the economist could use the IS-LM model to predict, for example, that an increase in the money supply would raise output and employment—and then use the Phillips curve to predict an increase in inflation.


Monetarist criticism
One school began in the late 1940s with Milton Friedman. Instead of rejecting macro-measurements and macro-models of the economy, the monetarist school embraced the techniques of treating the entire economy as having a supply and demand equilibrium. However, because of Irving Fisher’s equation of exchange, they regarded inflation as solely being due to the variations in the money supply, rather than as being a consequence of aggregate demand. They argued that the “crowding out” effects discussed above would hobble or deprive fiscal policy of its positive effect. Instead, the focus should be on monetary policy, which was considered ineffective by early Keynesians.

Monetarism had an ideological as well as a practical appeal: monetary policy does not, at least on the surface, imply as much government intervention in the economy as other measures. The monetarist critique pushed Keynesians toward a more balanced view of monetary policy, and inspired a wave of revisions to Keynesian theory.
New classical macroeconomics criticism

Another influential school of thought was based on the Lucas critique of Keynesian economics. This called for greater consistency with microeconomic theory and rationality, and particularly emphasized the idea of rational expectations. Lucas and others argued that Keynesian economics required remarkably foolish and short-sighted behavior from people, which totally contradicted the economic understanding of their behavior at a micro level. New classical economics introduced a set of macroeconomic theories which were based on optimising microeconomic behavior. These models have been developed into the Real Business Cycle Theory, which argues that business cycle fluctuations can to a large extent be accounted for by real (in contrast to nominal) shocks.

Austrian School criticism
Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek criticized Keynesian economic policies for what he called their fundamentally collectivist approach, arguing that such theories encourage centralized planning, which leads to malinvestment of capital, which is the cause of business cycles. Hayek also argued that Keynes’ study of the aggregate relations in an economy is fallacious, as recessions are caused by micro-economic factors. Hayek claimed that what starts as temporary governmental fixes usually become permanent and expanding government programs, which stifle the private sector and civil society.
Other Austrian school economists have also attacked Keynesian economics. Henry Hazlitt criticized, paragraph by paragraph, Keynes’ General Theory. Murray Rothbard accuses Keynesianism of having “its roots deep in medieval and mercantilist thought.”
Methodological disagreement and different results that emerge

Beginning in the late 1950s neoclassical macroeconomists began to disagree with the methodology employed by Keynes and his successors. Keynesians emphasized the dependence of consumption on disposable income and, also, of investment on current profits and current cash flow. In addition Keynesians posited a Phillips curve that tied nominal wage inflation to unemployment rate. To buttress these theories Keynesians typically traced the logical foundations of their model (using introspection) and buttressed their assumptions with statistical evidence. Neoclassical theorists demanded that macroeconomics be grounded on the same foundations as microeconomic theory, profit-maximizing firms and utility maximizing consumers.

The result of this shift in methodology produced several important divergences from Keynesian Macroeconomics:
1. Independence of Consumption and current Income (life-cycle permanent income hypothesis)
2. Irrelevance of Current Profits to Investment (Modigliani-Miller theorem)
3. Long run independence of inflation and unemployment (natural rate of unemployment)
4. The inability of monetary policy to stabilize output (rational expectations)
5. Irrelevance of Taxes and Budget Deficits to Consumption (Ricardian Equivalence)
Keynesian responses to the critics

The heart of the ‘new Keynesian’ view rests on microeconomic models that indicate that nominal wages and prices are “sticky,” i.e., do not change easily or quickly with changes in supply and demand, so that quantity adjustment prevails. According to economist Paul Krugman, “while I regard the evidence for such stickiness as overwhelming, the assumption of at least temporarily rigid nominal prices is one of those things that works beautifully in practice but very badly in theory.” This integration is further spurred by the work of other economists which questions rational decision-making in a perfect information environment as a necessity for micro-economic theory. Imperfect decision making such as that investigated by Joseph Stiglitz underlines the importance of management of risk in the economy.

Over time, many macroeconomists have returned to the IS-LM model and the Phillips curve as a first approximation of how an economy works. New versions of the Phillips curve, such as the “Triangle Model”, allow for stagflation, since the curve can shift due to supply shocks or changes in built-in inflation. In the 1990s, the original ideas of “full employment” had been modified by the NAIRU doctrine, sometimes called the “natural rate of unemployment.” NAIRU advocates suggest restraint in combating unemployment, in case accelerating inflation should result. However, it is unclear exactly what the value of the NAIRU should be—or whether it even exists.