The Return of Inflationism?

by Mario Rizzo

The Fed has become desperate, not because the American economy is currently falling apart, but because the economy has stubbornly failed to respond well to the policies of the “best and the brightest.” And now, as if to welcome the impending chairmanship of Janet Yellen, stories are surfacing in various places about the growing consensus inside and outside of the Fed for inflation. There is not enough inflation to stimulate adequate economic growth. Just a little more, or maybe even a lot more (perhaps as high as 6 percent) is needed as Ken Rogoff of Harvard is suggesting.

The arguments being used today are not exactly the same as those of the 1970s, yet I have the feeling that I have been here before.  It is important to distinguish theory from what policy economics is about. Policy economics often comes down to rather simple ideas. The real world has a way of making a mockery of today’s sophisticated macroeconomic theory. For one thing, policy has to be relatively simple if it is to be transparent. Continue reading

Uncertainty and the Keynesians

by Chidem Kurdas

At the current economic juncture two camps offer diametrically opposed macro policy prescriptions. Economists on the Keynesian side such as Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman advocate further monetary easing by the Federal Reserve and massive new federal deficit spending. The opposing camp includes Austrians and monetarists. Among its distinguished members is Allan Meltzer, who in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed column argues against monetary stimulus and favors reduced government spending.

These correspond to two ways of understanding the sluggishness of the US economy,  explanations based on different time horizons Continue reading

Malinvestment in Human Capital

by Jerry O’Driscoll

The Weekend Wall Street Journal has a front-page article on labor mismatch: “Help Wanted: In Unexpected Twist, Some Skilled Jobs Go Begging.” It focuses on the problems that the Union Pacific Railroad is experiencing trying to hire skilled workers to keep the trains rolling. These include electricians who work on diesel engines.

It is a widespread problem: the article reports survey results showing that 83 percent of manufacturers reported a moderate or severe shortage of skilled production workers. Continue reading

The Infrastructure Death Rattle

by Mario Rizzo

The incessant discussion and demand for job-creating infrastructure spending on the part of the news media, Democratic politicians, and some unreconstructed Keynesian economists is both frustrating and pathetic. It is frustrating because how many times can people repeat the same thing without listening to the objections? It is pathetic because the level of understanding is akin to pre-Newtonian physics. Continue reading