Saturday, October 13, 2018

Bob Solow on Friedman's Presidential address and the natural rate failure

His full paper was published in the Review of Keynesian Economics. He reminds us that it was a talk to undermine 'eclectic Keynesianism' about which he says:
Milton Friedman's famous presidential address of 1968... aims to undermine the eclectic American Keynesianism of the 1950s and 1960s, the habits of thought to which Joan Robinson attached the (unintentionally) complimentary label of ‘bastard’ Keynesianism. I will only say a little about what that was. In fact, the adjective ‘eclectic’ is meant to remind you that it was not a tight axiomatic doctrine but rather the collection of ideas in terms of which people like James Tobin, Arthur Okun, Paul Samuelson and others (including me) discussed macroeconomic events and policies.
More substantively, he argues, correctly my view, that Friedman's misperception model was not accurate, and that the Volcker shock was not caused by any misperception. In fact, Solow suggests that:
So the Fed was in fact able to control (‘peg’) its real policy rate, not for a year or two but for at least six years, certainly long enough for the normal conduct of counter-cyclical monetary policy to be effective.
Note that this is the real, not nominal rate. But perhaps Solow's most important conclusion, drawing from the evidence and Blanchard's more recent contributions is that: "findings imply that there is no well-defined natural rate of unemployment, either statistically or conceptually." In that regard, I think that Solow goes further than Blanchard, and I'm glad he does.

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