Sunday, May 8, 2016

Is Classical Theory Irrelevant?

For the last 70 years, macroeconomics has become so entrenched within a demand-side framework that arguments that don’t operate within that paradigm are often derided as irrelevant.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a piece explaining classical business cycle theory and its denial of demand deficiency. Someone from a prominent think tank (not my former employer) messaged me, asserting that although he agreed classical theory is routinely misunderstood, he didn’t understand why it mattered:
It seems to me that the piece is really about …the fact that goods will command some price in the market - that demand for them will never literally reach zero – [which] is not a terribly interesting finding … and I would really like a clear explanation of why this matters...
Given the difficulty of discarding the macroeconomic lens that has prevailed since the 1930s, this misunderstanding and subsequent dismissal of the argument isn’t surprising. Virtually all modern theory is rooted in an “aggregate demand” paradigm—that is, demand management is understood as the key to a well-run economy. This is true for “Monetarists,” “Keynesians,” and even many free market variations, where disagreement has been reduced to whose model best achieves that end.