Archive for July, 2013

Papadimitriou: Wide-ranging Measures Needed to Tackle Unemployment in the Southern Eurozone (Greek)

Michael Stephens | July 3, 2013

In this Skai TV interview, Dimitri Papadimitriou focuses on the eurozone banking crisis and rising unemployment in the southern tier, arguing that the approval of 200 million euros to combat unemployment in Greece is far too small to reach the desired outcome.  (Segment, in Greek, begins at 23:30)


An Exception to a Keynesian Rule?

Greg Hannsgen | July 2, 2013

Paul Krugman warns against “caricaturing” Keynesian economics, and in particular the General Theory (GT), Keynes’s best known work. One caricature heard from time to time is that the book is not mathematically tractable. The caricature also claims that no one has succeeded in fitting such a contradictory and confusing bunch of arguments into a clear, mathematically coherent model. Okay, in the spirit of a concession to these macro skeptics, what follows is a schematic caricature of sorts that seems okay to me as a broad summary of the first 18 chapters or so of the book, from a classic book by Pasinetti. So for those who insist that (1) they need a preview in a very concise form or (2) that they will never have time for the lengthy and complicated GT, below is the aforementioned schema. It is only meant to show that one can in fact simplify this oft-misinterpreted work quite a bit using mathematical symbols and keep the gist of the first part of the story.

equation 1image

where the variables are defined as follows:

L = liquidity preference (psychological factors affecting long-term interest rates, especially expected future rate changes)

M-overbar = policy-determined money supply

I = nominal interest rate

E = expected profitability of investment projects, given economic conditions

C = consumption

I = investment

Y = total output

All arrows (→) show directions of causality, so that A→B means that knowing A allows us to determine B.

Finally, f(), ψ(), and φ() signify functions endowed with properties that allow one to use math to analyze the model.

(I have altered some of Pasinetti’s notation slightly.)

As Pasinetti points out, this causal schema is different from Krugman’s favored IS-LM model, and it does leave out much that is important, including changes in the numéraire (chapter 19) and long-run dynamics, which the formal argument left up in the air. In a footnote, Pasinetti says that the model is only a first approximation to Keynes’s theory, and that care should be taken with attempts to do exercises involving shifts in the curves. But while Pasinetti’s schema, and the simple model it represents, certainly succeeds in simplifying the GT, it is really not a caricature. The original version of the schema can be found in Growth and Distribution, by Luigi Pasinetti, chapter II, Cambridge University Press, a 1974 collection of generally lucid essays (publisher’s book site).


Are More Jobs the Answer? The “BIG” Bait and Switch

L. Randall Wray | July 1, 2013

Last week Allan Sheahan published a piece arguing that “Jobs Are Not the Answer” to America’s unemployment problem. Here’s his reasoning:

“The current unemployment rate of 7.5% percent means close to 20 million Americans remain unemployed or underemployed. Nobody states the obvious truth: that the marketplace has changed and there will never again be enough jobs for everyone who wants one — no matter who is in the White House or in Congress. Fifty years ago, economists predicted that automation and technology would displace thousands of workers a year. Now we even have robots doing human work. Job losses will only get worse as the 21st century progresses.”

In fact, economists have recognized this possibility since at least the early 19th century, when David Ricardo posed it as “the machine problem.”  “Robots” have been doing “human work” since the time of Adam Smith’s pin factory. Or, indeed, since the first proto-human discovered the fulcrum and lever so that one could do the work of four.

However, “unemployment” has existed only since the development of production for market. Our tribal ancestors “worked” about a dozen hours a week to provide the food, clothing, and shelter required for the standard of life they deemed acceptable. They occupied themselves the rest of the time with all the other human activities that we regard as “culture”: dancing, singing, tattooing, shaman-ing, piercing, ritualizing sacrifices, child rearing, storytelling, marrying, fighting, debating, drawing, and thinking.

Neither were our peasant forebearers, who had access to the main means of production—agricultural land—unemployed. They might have worked much longer days, and they grudgingly turned over an ever-rising portion of their production to rapacious feudal lords, but they were not unemployed. It is only once they lost access to land through enclosures, etc, that their livelihood depended on the whims of the employing class.

Why didn’t the inexorable trend to greater use of “robots” from the time of Smith forward lead to the dis-employment of all (or most all) human labor? First we raised living standards (arguably, of course, since it is not altogether clear that we live better than our tribal cousins in all important respects), always finding other ways to employ humans to produce products that our ancient ancestors never knew they needed. Second, we reduced the workweek—adding “weekends” and “holidays,” and reducing the daily grind from 16 hours to 12, and hence to 10 and finally 8. And there it got stuck—at least in America.

Further, being a Puritanical/Calvinist sort, Americans really never embraced the idea of vacations, anyway, and so unlike every other civilized society on earth, there is no considered right to a vacation and most Americans either don’t get them or don’t want them.

In recent years, it seems that involuntary unemployment and underemployment in the US has been rising. There are a number of reasons. continue reading…