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Showing posts from March, 2012

SSCRER this!

The acronym stands for Sustainable and Stable Competitive Real Exchange Rate. It has been an important contention among heterodox, and not so heterodox groups alike, that a depreciated exchange rate leads to higher levels of economic growth. This has been also based to a great extent on the comparative experience of Latin America and Asia. So far so good.

Depreciation, of course, protects local industry and leads to a boost to domestic production, and also, by leading to an increase in exports, reduces the external constraint of the economy. But it is important to note at least two things that heterodox economists used to know, but apparently have since forgotten (or at least some have).

One is that depreciations are inflationary, in particular because they affect costs (not demand). Yes pass-through effects are smaller, but not negligible, and they tend to be larger when wage resistance is relatively strong. In that case, if you want a more depreciated exchange rate, you must be pre…

Gravitation, Full Cost Pricing and Prices of Production

Franklin Serrano (Guest blogger)

Most Sraffians understand that gravitation of market prices to normal prices is much quicker than the slower, but inevitable, adaptation of capacity to demand. But other eminent Sraffians have made some confusion by wrongly identifying classical prices of production with full cost pricing.

Classical prices of production are the centre of gravitation for market prices and are determined by the costs of the dominant techniques (at the level of normal utilization of fixed capital) and the state of distribution. It is a general theory of the structural determinants and limits for the trend of market prices in all types of markets. In spite of the similar name it has little or nothing to do with “normal cost” or full cost pricing which is a generalization of the descriptions given by some firms as to how they actually calculate their own prices based on a markup over their own costs (not those of the dominant technique).

First of all, there is obvious fact …

Brazil, reality and the lessons from adjustment

During the heterodox conference, to which I alluded to in my last post, somebody (cannot remember for sure now; too many talks) suggested that in the middle of the current crisis Argentina and Brazil were islands of growth. This has been a common proposition in the international press, but one that is not founded on fact. The performance of Brazil under the Workers' Party administration (from 2003 onwards), while better than the previous one, has been far from stellar. The figure shows that average growth during the Cardoso administration was around 2.3%, and increased to 3.9% in the Lula-Dilma period.
By the way, last year Brazil decided to promote a fiscal adjustment to keep inflation in line, and also as an informal agreement between the Treasury (Dilma) and the Central Bank (Tombini) to reduce the rate of interest. If they expected the same effects as in the United States in the 1990s (when Clinton agreed to reduce spending in exchange for lower interest rates from Greenspan),…

Sraffian economics vs. Post Keynesian methodology

A very nice debate on the nature of heterodox economics took place yesterday in a heterodox conference in Buenos Aires. Sergio Cesaratto and Marc Lavoie (depicted above during the interval) presented alternative views which, in spite of some important differences, agreed that Sraffian economics is part of the broadly defined heterodox Keynesian camp (or Post Keynesian if one prefers the term). The question of the relation of Sraffians, and more broadly all of those that believe in the importance of the old classical political economy school (from Petty to Marx, including Quesnay, Smith and Ricardo), with non neoclassical Keynesians, that is, those that believe that unemployment does not result from some rigidity or imperfection (be that of the price, wage or interest rate), has been difficult to say the least.

Marc presented first. A version of the paper is here. Taking aside obvious confusions, and sloppy scholarship of the type that suggests that Sraffians accept Say’s Law, because…

Monetary Cranks

Monetary cranks are an interesting bunch. Contrary to vulgar economists, which produced a defense of the status quo without scientific foundations, cranks tended always to provide a critique of dominant views. Often monetary cranks too lacked (and those around still lack) a solid foundation in theory. However, their critical perspective has always made cranks more interesting that the mere sycophants of the powerful that one associates with vulgar economics.

Dennis Robertson (1928), famous Cambridge economist that even though was close to Keynes (at least before the General Theory) remained thoroughly anti-Keynesian, said regarding cranks that:
"those who have Found the Light about Money take up their pens and write, with a conviction, a persistence and a devotion otherwise only found among the disciples of a new religion. It is easy to scoff at these productions: it is not so easy always to see exactly where they go wrong. It is natural that practical bankers, vaguely conscious…

Alice H. Amsden and Asian Development

Professor Amsden, author of Asia's Next Giant: South Korea and Late Industrialization (1989), has passed away. Her contributions to the understanding of the Asian late development experience were essential to debunk the neoliberal views, already dominant by the late 1980s, according to which the export-led experience in Asia was market driven, in contrast with the State-led Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI) in Latin America. She argued that South Korea actually distorted prices (with tariffs, quotas and credit subsidies), that is, got prices wrong, and growth did not result from efficient allocation of resources by market forces. Further, the state intervened directly in production, as a banker and did active industrial policy picking up winners and promoting the consolidation of big national groups, the chaebols.

Following Gerschenkron, who had argued about the advantages of backwardness, she suggested that some of the characteristics of South Korean growth resulted fr…

Palley on the destruction of shared prosperity and the role of economics

 Tom Palley's new book is out. From the blurb:
"The U.S. economy today is confronted with the prospect of extended stagnation. This book explores why. Thomas I. Palley argues that the Great Recession and the destruction of shared prosperity is due to flawed economic policy over the past thirty years. One flaw was the growth model adopted after 1980 that relied on debt and asset price inflation to fuel growth instead of wages. The second flaw was the model of globalization that created an economic gash. Financial deregulation and the house price bubble kept the economy going by making ever more credit available. As the economy cannibalized itself by undercutting income distribution and accumulating debt, it needed larger speculative bubbles to grow. That process ended when the housing bubble burst. The earlier post–World War II economic model based on rising middle-class incomes has been dismantled, while the new neoliberal model has imploded. Absent a change of policy paradi…

Is Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI) still possible?

For a very long time Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI) was seen as a four-letter word. The notion was that ISI had led to extensive inefficiencies and that the debt crisis of the 1980s was its last breath. The old ideas about comparative advantage were back with a vengeance, and the prescription was for trade liberalization, encapsulated in the Washington Consensus. Export orientation was promoted, since it was widely believed that an emphasis on exports would force integration into world markets, more efficient allocation of resources, and that external markets would impose discipline by eliminating uncompetitive firms.

The problem with the conventional wisdom is that the ISI period corresponds to a high growth phase for most developing countries, one in which they caught up with the developed world despite the fast growth in the latter, which would not have been possible if ISI-driven growth did produce tremendous inefficiencies on an economy wide scale.

Read the rest here

More on the capital debates: Eatwell on Garegnani

Follow up on my previous post. Here is the link to the lecture given by John Eatwell in honor of Piero Garegnani (hat tip Revista Circus). It goes beyond the question of showing why and how mainstream (aggregative or intertemporal models) are flawed. It shows that the classical-Keynesian approach is rooted in a historical-institutional which makes it directly relevant for policy analysis. As he says:
"Economics is meant to be useful. Not only is it supposed to give a greater understanding of how a market economy works, but also it should be a guide to economic policy.

... classical value theory and Keynesian theory share a common structure that both are dependent upon empirical data from outside the theoretical core. Classical theory is dependent upon market structure, the composition of output and the distribution of income (or, to be more accurate, one of the distributive variables, the wage or the rate of profit). These data can be derived from the historical position of the …

Is China really opening the capital account?

Martin Wolf tells us in a recent column that China is opening up its capital account, according to a report from the People’s Bank of China, and that it is taking a gradual approach. Reform will be in three steps: "The first, to occur over the next three years, would clear the path for more Chinese investment abroad as ‘the shrinkage of western banks and companies has vacated space for Chinese investments’ and so presented a ‘strategic opportunity’. The second phase, in between three and five years, would accelerate foreign lending of the renminbi. In the longer term, over five to 10 years, foreigners could invest in Chinese stocks, bonds and property. Free convertibility of the renminbi would be the ‘last step’, to be taken at an unspecified time." Wait what? What this says is that they are going to lend more in yuan, given the retreat of American and European banks, and will eventually allow some amount of foreign ownership of assets denominated in yuan. This, by the way,…

New Journal: Review of Keynesian Economics

Aims and Scope (for more infor go here)

It is widely recognized that economic crises can sometimes trigger enormous change, both with regard to economic theory and the politics of governance. Today, the global economy is struggling with the fall-out from the financial crash of 2008 and the Great Recession of 2007-09. The economic crisis that these events have generated, combined with the failure of the mainstream economics profession, has again put the question of change on the table.

With regard to the economics profession, it stands significantly discredited owing to its failure to foresee the recession and the financial crash; its repeated over-optimistic forecasts of rapid recovery; and lack of plausibility surrounding its attempts to explain events. Reasonable people do not expect economists to predict the daily movements of the stock market, but they do expect them to anticipate and explain major imminent economic developments. On that score the profession failed catastrophica…

The capital debates: A brief introduction

Teaching on the capital debates this and last week. So here are some thoughts, based on my class notes and the required readings (see below). The capital debates remain a puzzling chapter in the history of economic ideas. Nearly everyone accepts that the British (as opposed to the Massachusetts) Cambridge won the debate, something Paul Samuelson acknowledged early on.[1] Yet, no one seems to grasp the full implications and relevance of the debate itself. Typically it is assumed that the capital debates relate simply to problems of aggregation, and that the use of aggregate production functions and aggregative measures of capital are still justifiable, for simplicity’s sake. However, contrary to this viewpoint the capital debates did not rest upon the possibility of building aggregate measures.

The capital debates are associated with the very notion of capital. Classical political economy authors, from William Petty to Karl Marx, including Quesnay, Smith and Ricardo, treated the proces…