Friday, March 14, 2008

Did Keynesian Economics Kill the Business Cycle?

Not so long ago, economists resigned themselves to the fact that recession is just a part of the economic cycle. Then came John Maynard Keynes who shattered that dogma and revolutionized the science of economics. Will “Keynesian Economics” save us from the harmful effects of the business cycle?

By: Ringo Bones and Vanessa Uy

Despite the problems affecting our global economy like sub prime mortgage exposure and the worrying trend of economic recession, we often tend to forget the fact that business conditions have always been fluid and dynamic. One year, the markets are booming and bullish with jobs aplenty. Another year, the stock market goes into a free fall, and bankruptcy courts become more crowded than the Tokyo Subway at rush hour. As chronicled in our economic history books: recession, expansion, then recession follows a sequential saga. And in the memory of the bad old days of ruthless capitalism that brought us Black Tuesday – October 29, 1929 – the day the stock market crashed. Tales chronicling the “Great Depression” even mentioned about banks failing by the thousands and a very drastic slowdown of the US economy that weeds started to grow on the materialistic self-complacent provincialism of Main Street.

America’s post-World War II economy which is largely – if not totally – governed by the principles laid out by John Maynard Keynes in the hopes of making the 1929 “Black Tuesday” incident just an ugly footnote of the American economic history. Thus in the United States, pure capitalism has gradually given way to a mixed economy, in which the government shapes the tax and fiscal policies to stabilize the ups and downs of business. “Keynesian Economics” which is viewed by “conservative” Americans with disdain because it tends to undermine the Protestant / Calvinist work ethic that helped built the American nation, which in turn downgrades productivity. Government “over regulation” of industries like the savings and loans has resulted only in disaster. Despite of it’s detractors, the economic policies laid out by John Maynard Keynes gain widespread praise by economists for keeping a full-blown economic depression from ever happening again. But as the Federal Reserve Board acts to control the money supply and counteract the business cycle, can we really conclude that recessions are a thing of the past?

But economists tend to forget that economics – in general – is primarily greed driven. The promise of rich rewards / gains despite atrocious levels of risks is what makes traders take foolhardy decisions at the expense of their representative investors’ funds. And yet we can take real comfort in the fact that economic recessions are milder in the “Keynesian Mixed Economy” environment than they where under the pre - New Deal capitalism. And if they occur, post – World War II economic recessions are also shorter in duration and much rarer in occurrence. Let’s just hope that our current post – sub prime mortgage / credit crunch 2008 will follow this trend. Maybe the “worries” that made our grandparents and great grandparents gray and wrinkled is something that the under 25s will scarcely know.

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