Note to Self: I Still Fail to Understand Ken Rogoff’s Medium-Long Term Macroeconomic Optimism…
Ken Rogoff: “In nine years, nobody will be talking about ‘secular stagnation’. I’ve been debating Larry on this for a year, and I started saying ‘in ten years…, and so for consistency I now say ‘in nine years…”.
This is a wager that the full-employment long-run in which money and its associates are a veil that does not affect or disturb the Say’s Law operation of the economy will come not more than 18 years after the shock of 2017–or at least that whatever remnants of the effects of that shock on the business cycle come 2025 will be dwarfed the effects of other business cycle shocks subsequent to now.
I do know from experience that one disagrees with Ken Rogoff at one’s grave intellectual peril. But is he correct here? I really cannot follow him to the conclusion he wants me to reach…
Things to reread and chew over:
- Paul Krugman (2015): The Inflationista Puzzle: “Traditional IS-LM analysis said that the Fed’s [expansionary QE] policies would have little effect on inflation; so did the translation of that analysis into a stripped-down New Keynesian framework that I did back in 1998, starting the modern liquidity-trap literature. We even had solid recent empirical evidence: Japan’s attempt at quantitative easing in the naughties…. I’m still not sure why relatively moderate conservatives like Feldstein didn’t find all this convincing back in 2009…”
Paul Krugman (2015): Backward Induction and Brad DeLong: “Brad DeLong is, unusually, unhappy with my analysis in a discussion of the inflationista puzzle–the mystery of why so many economists failed to grasp the implications of a liquidity trap, and still fail to grasp those implications despite 6 years of being wrong. Brad sorta-kinda defends the inflationistas on the basis of backward induction; I find myself somewhat baffled by that defense…”
Paul Krugman (2015): Rethinking Japan: “Secular stagnation and self-fulfilling prophecies: Back in 1998… I used a strategic simplification… [assumed] the Wicksellian natural rate… would return to a normal, positive level at some future date. This… provided a neat way to deal with the intuition that increasing the money supply must eventually raise prices by the same proportional amount; it was easy to show that this proposition applied only if the money increase was perceived as permanent, so that the liquidity trap became an expectations problem… [so] that if the central bank could “credibly promise to be irresponsible,” it could gain traction even in a liquidity trap. But what is this future period of Wicksellian normality of which we speak?… Japan looks like a country in which a negative Wicksellian rate is a more or less permanent condition. If that’s the reality, even a credible promise to be irresponsible might do nothing…. The only way to be at all sure of raising inflation is to accompany a changed monetary regime with a burst of fiscal stimulus…. While the goal of raising inflation is, in large part, to make space for fiscal consolidation, the first part of that strategy needs to involve fiscal expansion. This isn’t at all a paradox, but it’s unconventional enough that one despairs of turning the argument into policy…”
Paul Krugman (2015): St. Augustine and Secular Stagnation: “The assumption here is that the neutral rate will eventually rise so that monetary policy can take over the job of achieving full employment. What if we have doubts about whether that will ever happen? Well, that’s the secular stagnation question… a situation in which the neutral interest rate is normally, persistently below zero. And this raises a puzzle: If we worry about secular stagnation, should we then say that St. Augustine no longer applies, because better days are never coming? No. The way to deal with secular stagnation, if we believe in our models, is to raise the long-run neutral interest rate…. If we can do this via structural reform and/or self-financing infrastructure investment, fine. If not, raise the inflation target. And how do we get to the higher target inflation rate, when monetary policy is having trouble getting traction? Fiscal policy! If you’re really worried about secular stagnation, you should advocate a combination of a raised inflation target and a burst of fiscal stimulus to help the central bank get there. So the St. Augustine approach is right either way, with secular stagnation suggesting the need to be even less chaste in the short run.”
J. Bradford DeLong (2015): Must-Read: Paul Krugman: Rethinking Japan: “Paul Krugman’s original argument assumed that the economy would eventually head towards a long-run equilibrium in which flexible wages and prices would make Say’s Law hold… [with] the price level would be proportional to the money stock. That now looks up for grabs. It is the fact that that is up for grabs that currently disturbs Paul. Without a full-employment Say’s Law equilibrium out there in the transversality condition to which the present day is anchored by intertemporal financial-market and intertemporal consumer-utility arbitrage, all the neat little mathematical tricks that Paul and Olivier Blanchard built up at the end of the 1970s to solve for the current equilibrium break in their hands…. There is… more. Paul Krugman’s original argument also assumed back-propagation into the present via financial-market… and consumer-satisfaction intertemporal… arbitrage of the effects of that future well-behaved full-employment equilibrium. The equilibrium has to be there. And the intertemporal arbitrage mechanisms have to work. Both have to do their thing…”
J. Bradford DeLong (2015): The Scary Debate Over Secular Stagnation: Hiccup… or Endgame?
Paul Krugman (2015): On Being Against Secular Stagnation Before You Were for It
Duncan Weldon (2016): Negative Yields, the Euthanasia of the Rentier, and Political Economy: “I understand the mechanics of engine that took us here but not what the driver was thinking…”
J. Bradford DeLong (2015): Just What Are the Risks That Alarm Ken Rogoff?: “This part of Ken Rogoff’s piece appears to me to be very much on the wrong track: ‘Ken Rogoff: Debt Supercycle, Not Secular Stagnation: Robert Barro… has shown that in canonical equilibrium macroeconomic models small changes in the market perception of tail risks can lead both to significantly lower real risk-free interest rates and a higher equity premium…. Obstfeld (2013) has argued cogently that governments in countries with large financial sectors need to have an ample cushion, as otherwise government borrowing might become very expensive in precisely the states of nature where the private sector has problems…’ We need to be clear about what the relevant tail-risk states that Ken Rogoff is talking about are…. [They are that] even though it was sold at a high price and carries a low interest rate, the issuing of government debt is very expensive to the government [because] when the time comes in the bad state of the world for it to raise the money to amortize the debt, it finds that it really would very much rather not do so. It is clear if you are Argentina or Greece what the risk is: it is of a large national-level terms-of-trade or political shock, something that you can insure against by investing in the ultimate reserves of the global monetary system. If you are the United States or Germany or Japan or Britain, what is the risk? What is the risk that cannot be handled at low real resource cost by a not-injudicious amount of inflation, or of financial repression?”
J. Bradford DeLong (2015): Watching a Discussion: The Omega Point
- Brad DeLong: New Economic Thinking, Hicks-Hansen-Wicksell Macro, and Blocking the Back Propagation Induction-Unraveling from the Long Run Omega Point
- Paul Krugman: Backward Induction and Brad DeLong
- Brad DeLong: Paul Krugman Was Right. I, Ken Rogoff, Marty Feldstein, and Many, Many Others Were Wrong
- John Hicks (1975): The Crisis in Keynesian Economics
- Brad DeLong: Live from Evans Hall: When I arrived…
- Back propagation induction does not work under inflation targeting :
- Convergence to the Long-Run Macroeconomic Omega Point and Inflation Targeting: Nick Rowe’s View :
- Krugman vs. DeLong :
- Does a “Liquidity Trap” Ever End? :