Classical economic theory and the modern world

A post in two sections.

Section I

The March issue of Quadrant has an article of mine which has just been put up online. In the magazine itself the title is, The Dangerous Return of Keynesian Economics – Five Years On. What it is five years on from is an article of mine that found its way into the March 2009 issue which dealt with that very dangerous return of Keynesian economics in the form of the worldwide stimulus that economies across the world were beginning to apply. The original title was The Dangerous Return to Keynesian Economics for which this was the single most important passage:

Just as the causes of this downturn cannot be charted through a Keynesian demand deficiency model, neither can the solution. The world’s economies are not suffering from a lack of demand and the right policy response is not a demand stimulus. Increased public sector spending will only add to the market confusions that already exist.

What is potentially catastrophic would be to try to spend our way to recovery. The recession that will follow will be deep, prolonged and potentially take years to overcome.

That this outcome was absolutely assured in my own mind is, of course, not the same as it being absolute assured in reality. And indeed, it is not too much to say that 99% of the economic opinion of the world went quite the other way. The best example of this attitude may be seen in this comment made to me by Senator Doug Cameron during my appearance before the Senate Economic References Committee in September 2009.

Why have the IMF, the OECD, the ILO, the treasuries of every advanced economy, the Treasury in Australia, the business economists around the world, why have they got it so wrong and yet you in your ivory tower at RMIT have got it so right?

This is, of course, a question I ask myself but also one for which I have an answer. The odd part is that no one else asks this question although it is the question that ought to go to the heart of the matter. Which takes me to the second part of this post.

Section II

The economics I use I did not invent but am near enough unique in applying it to economic questions in the modern world. This is the economic theories of the cycle as developed by classical economists which was the theory accepted universally across the profession prior to the coming of the Keynesian Revolution in 1936. So to see things as I see things about the nature of this theory, let me take you to the opening part of a form I have just sent to my publisher on how to advertise the second edition of my Free Market Economics. It was a book whose first edition I wrote at white heat over the twelve weeks of the first semester in 2009, from March to May, to explain in more detail why the stimulus would with certainty fail, as fail it did.

1. Please describe the book in non-technical layman’s terms (in no more than 150 words). Include brief details of the book’s main objectives and conclusions.

Have you ever wondered why no public sector stimulus has ever worked? You are holding in your hands a book that is unique in our times. It is a text on economic principles based on the economics before Keynesian theory became dominant in macroeconomics and equilibrium analysis became standard in micro. It looks at economics from the perspective of an entrepreneur making decisions in a world where the future is unknown, innovation occurs at virtually every moment, and the future is being created before it can be understood.

Of particular significance, this book assumes Keynesian theory is flawed and policies built around attempting to increase aggregate demand by increasing non-value-adding public spending can never succeed but will only make conditions worse. The theories discussed are the theories that dominated economic discourse prior to the Keynesian Revolution and are thus grounded in the economics of some of the greatest economists who have ever lived.

It is, of course, possible that I might have been right for the wrong reasons, but it might also be the case that I was right for the right reasons. I go on about Say’s Law, John Stuart Mill and classical theory, but you know, when have they ever let me down? The world, so far as the evidence shows, works exactly like their theory says it does. And it’s not even that I picked this downturn as a one-off instance, but I also picked the upturn that followed the massive cuts to public spending after the Costello budget in 1996. Who else did that then? What theory is there other than the classical theory of the cycle that could even explain it let alone predict it? And there is no other text anywhere in the world written more recently than the 1920s that can tell you what that theory is other than mine.

You could, of course, buy the first edition right now or you can wait until the much improved second edition is published in July or August.

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