Nov 15 2009

Welker’s daily links 11/14/2009

Published by at 12:30 am under Daily Links

  • AP Macro and IB teachers should read this review of George Akerlof and Robert Schiller’s book “Animal Spirits”. There are some great points in this piece that can be brought into the AP or IB classroom with regards to the assumption of rational behavior and more importantly the Keynesian/Classical debate on Macroeconomic policy issues.

    tags: Keynes, rational behavior, free markets, markets, macroeconomics, animal spirits, fiscal policy, efficiency

    • The last two years, in which capitalism has suffered one of its periodic shocks, have given John Maynard Keynes a new lease of life. Events have demonstrated the limits of the theory that economies can be relied on to be stable if they are lightly regulated and otherwise left to themselves. There is now much talk of the paradox of thrift, whereby the rational choices of individuals can prove collectively ruinous, and of the need for government to counteract the inherently anarchic tendencies of markets. Keynes has been revived because he understood that markets are very often irrational. Unfortunately, few of those who urge that we go back to him seem to have understood why he believed this.
    • Apart from a brief postscript to one of the chapters and a few remarks in the preface, George Akerlof and Robert Shiller’s Animal Spirits was written before the current crisis. Yet, based on research undertaken over many years, it can be read as prefiguring the current disillusionment with economics. The trouble with prevailing theories, in Akerlof and Shiller’s view, is that they assume human beings are more rational than they actually are. ‘This book, which draws on an emerging field called behavioural economics, describes how the economy really works,’ they claim. ‘It accounts for how it works when people really are human, that is, possessed of all-too-human animal spirits.’
    • ‘Just as Adam Smith’s invisible hand is the keynote of classical economics,’ they write, ‘Keynes’s animal spirits are the keynote to a different view of the economy – a view that explains the underlying instabilities of capitalism.’ Here they are endorsing the caricature of Smith propagated by neoliberal ideologues anxious to confer a distinguished patrimony on an illegitimate intellectual offspring.
    • Shackle took Keynes’s argument a step further, and showed that no economic policy can ensure economic stability indefinitely. ‘Keynesian’ policies are no exception to this rule. Deficit financing and monetary expansion may have worked well in the conditions that existed after the Second World War. It is not clear that they will be so effective today, when globalisation has brought a freedom of capital movements that did not exist then.
    • Economics and politics are not separate branches of human activity, and economic life cannot be studied independently of social divisions and political conflicts among populations, along with their cultures and religions.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

About the author:  Jason Welker teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Economics at Zurich International School in Switzerland. In addition to publishing various online resources for economics students and teachers, Jason developed the online version of the Economics course for the IB and is has authored two Economics textbooks: Pearson Baccalaureate’s Economics for the IB Diploma and REA’s AP Macroeconomics Crash Course. Jason is a native of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and is a passionate adventurer, who considers himself a skier / mountain biker who teaches Economics in his free time. He and his wife keep a ski chalet in the mountains of Northern Idaho, which now that they live in the Swiss Alps gets far too little use. Read more posts by this author

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