Friday, October 31, 2014

On deflation, Japan, the West and ideology (by P. Krugman)

Deflation features prominently in the IB Economics syllabus (Discuss the possible consequences of deflation, including high levels of cyclical unemployment and bankruptcies) and given what has been going on lately, especially in Europe, it makes sense for IB economics candidates to be very aware of the topic.

Today in tn the New York Times there is another interesting Krugman op-ed titled Apologizing to Japan worth reading and taking down a few notes. Quoting

The point, however, is that the West has, in fact, fallen into a slump similar to Japan’s — but worse. And that wasn't supposed to happen. In the 1990s, we assumed that if the United States or Western Europe found themselves facing anything like Japan’s problems, we would respond much more effectively than the Japanese had. But we didn’t, even though we had Japan’s experience to guide us. On the contrary, Western policies since 2008 have been so inadequate if not actively counterproductive that Japan’s failings seem minor in comparison. And Western workers have experienced a level of suffering that Japan has managed to avoid.
 What policies is PK referring to?
...responding effectively to depression conditions requires abandoning conventional respectability. Policies that would ordinarily be prudent and virtuous, like balancing the budget or taking a firm stand against inflation, become recipes for a deeper slump.
And why according to the author has the policy response been so inadequate or even deleterious?
...why the West has done even worse than Japan, I suspect that it’s about the deep divisions within our societies. In America, conservatives have blocked efforts to fight unemployment out of a general hostility to government, especially a government that does anything to help Those People. In Europe, Germany has insisted on hard money and austerity largely because the German public is intensely hostile to anything that could be called a bailout of southern Europe.
Let's wait for the next chapter of this story.  Let's see how long it takes for those in charge to realize that perhaps, over the longer term, these choices are even against their own interests.

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