links for 2009-09-17
Bubbles!

"The Childish Babbling of a Say..."

David Beckworth on John Cochrane:

Macro and Other Market Musings: Friends Don't Let Friends Mix Say's Law with Money: Nick Rowe recently noted that John Cochrane, in his rebuttal to Paul Krugman, effectively invokes Say's law with this sentence:

Paul’s Keynesian economics requires that people make plans to consume more, invest more, and pay more taxes with the same income.

Cochrane's point is that it is impossible to have total planned expenditures exceed total income. This line of thinking or Say's law, taken to its logical conclusion, implies it is impossible to have a general, economy-wide glut since (1) total income must equal total expenditures and (2) total income comes from the production of goods and services upon which total expenditures are spent. (i.e. total expenditures = total income = total value of production). Obviously, history has not been kind to this proposition. As Nick notes, this is because Say's law assumes a barter economy and ignores the complications found in a money economy...

And David correctly tells us that the thing to read here is Leland Yeager:

Here to explain these complications is Leland Yeager (Source: The Fluttering Veil: Essays on Monetary Disequilibrium, p.4-6):

Say's law, or a crude version of it, rules out general overproduction: an excess supply of some things in relation to the demand for them necessarily constitutes an excess demand for some other things in relation to their supply...

The catch is this: while an excess supply of some things necessarily mean an excess demand for others, those other things may, unhappily, be money. If so, depression in some industries no longer entails boom in others...

[T]the quantity of money people desire to hold does not always just equal the quantity they possess. Equality of the two is an equilibrium condition, not an identity. Only in... monetary equilibrium are they equal. Only then are the total value of goods and labor supplied and demanded equal, so that a deficient demand for some kinds entails and excess demand for others.

Say's law overlooks monetary disequilibrium. If people on the whole are trying to add more money to their total cash balances than is being added to the total money stock (or are trying to maintain their cash balances when the money stock is shrinking), they are trying to sell more goods and labor than are being bought. If people on the whole are unwilling to add as much money to their total cash balances as is being added to the total money stock (or are trying to reduce their cash balances when the money stock is not shrinking), they are trying to buy more goods and labor than are being offered.

The most striking characteristic of depression is not overproduction of some things and underproduction of others, but rather, a general "buyers' market," in which sellers have special trouble finding people willing to pay more for goods and labor. Even a slight depression shows itself in the price and output statistics of a wide range of consumer-goods and investment-goods industries. Clearly some very general imbalance must exist, involving the one thing--money--traded on all markets. In inflation, an opposite kind of monetary imbalance is even more obvious.

At one level, this is absolutely terrifying. I had been using the line that today's Chicago School knew less economics than the cutting edge of the profession knew in the 1920s. But now it looks as though it knows less economics than the cutting edge of the profession knew in the 1820s.

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