Mailvox: reflections on RGD

Stilicho’s summary:

I received my copy of RGD on Friday and finished it last night. Excellent work. Funnily enough, just as I was starting to read the Saint Bernanke/green shoots scenario at the end, there was a power outage and I finished by flashlight. How apt. At any rate, I’m not sure I’ve grokked the full implications of your theories yet, but the first reading sure was an eye opener. There are a lot of thoughts I had while reading that are still bouncing around in my head that may take a while (and more reading) to fully digest, but I’ll share a couple with you:

1) The conventional Austrian theory that a switch from capital production to consumer production causes contractions doesn’t seem logical to me. Rather, it seems that such a switch would be a symptom rather than a cause. I don’t think you classified it as such, although you did express doubt that it was a casual factor. Why did the Austrian school think it was a casual factor?

2) I too was quite sympathetic to the WZI scenario until recently. I still think there may isolated incidents as certain industries or sectors experience mini bubbles induced by an excess of credit that is available and actually used in said industries/sectors. However, after reading your thoughts about the depth and breadth of secular debt issues, I don’t think that general inflation will be an issue for some time. If and when there is some recovery on the far side of TGD 2.0, do you think the WZI scenario is likely to occur given the monetary authorities adherence to neo-keynesian and monetarist theories?

3) I wonder how long we can keep limping along in what amounts to great recession mode until the bottom finally drops out? Isn’t that what Japan’s lost decade(s) amount too? A great recession scenario? But given the world-wide nature of the current crisis, you have convinced me that the bottom will drop eventually. How many bullets does Bernanke have left?

4) The neo-keynesians must have an absolute disdain for microeconomics. Either that, or it would be just too damned inconvenient to acknowledge verifiable microeconomic principles that might cast doubt on their macro theories. A bit of both perhaps?

1) I simply don’t know. My feeling is that because so much Austrian theory was not developed ex nihilo as so much Marxian and Keynesian theory was, but built rationally on the work of previous economic theorists, the conceptual model was somewhat influenced and therefore limited by the various pre-classical, classical, and neo-classical ideas that influenced them. What is strange about it to me is that Rothbard points out the exact limits of demand that I propose as a causal mechanism, but he only applies it to the market for labor. In any event, I agree, the shift from one form of production to another is a symptom rather than a cause. This probably makes me impure from the doctrinaire Austrian perspective, but hardly a heretic. The model works to describe and correctly predict regardless of which mechanism is favored. The advantage of my “limits of demand” mechanism is the way it explains how Austrian theory applies to financial services and other markets in which there is no distinction between capital and consumer goods.

2) No, I think the entire structure will collapse of its own weight first. Debt implodes faster than money can be printed. And I reject what appears to be the revised inflationist notion that a deflationary loss of confidence in a currency can be reasonably labled hyperinflation.

3) Not long. Not any. Most of the positive exit scenarios involve the Federal Reserve being either thrown aside by the US government or supplanted by the IMF.

4) Yes, they have ever since Keynes first voiced the idea that perhaps a macroeconomy behaved in a different manner than a microeconomy writ large.


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