Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pseudo Keynesianism

As a solution to the crisis, I am more inclined with Hayek approach of taking the pain quickly and all up front rather than prolonging it as Keynes recommends. However, I dispute the interpretation of Keynes by modern media and experts.
Michael Pento has an interesting article about Keynesian approach. He uses the metaphor of an obese man getting opinion from Hayek and Keynes. While Hayek advises cutting down on food, Keynes advises opposite. And there in lies my problem with interpreting Keynes in modern context. 

At a very simplified level, Keynes suggested that keeping the aggregate demand stable should be the focus of government. While this is true, I believe given the context of the situation Keynes lived in, it is not the interpretation we must derive for our times.
My interpretation of Keynes
Keynesian solution, to my mind, is about bringing certainty on the job side. At what level of income this certainty comes is, just my argument not Keynes, immaterial. So the objective of Keynesian stimulus is to create stable employment. The aim of stimulus is not to push the money through the banking system to achieve this effect, but to use a robust, loss-less mechanism to achieve this end. If the banking system is impaired, it cannot be loss-less mechanism of choice. In such cases direct government employment is better alternative.

Keynes famously argued that how you deploy this manpower is irrelevant. For all practical purposes, he argued, you may simply dig a ditch and fill it up. The real deployment of Keynesian stimulus was targeted towards infrastructure construction. The highway program is a prime example. 

In my view, Keynes would have agreed with Hayek's solution. His endeavor may have been to achieve the change without the pain involved in Hayek's solution. Whether it is possible to change without the pain is a different question.

Keynes and Hayek as alternative approach to same solution
I believe, there are two ways to solve the crisis. 

First is by using the Keynesian solution in the right context. So focus on employment rather than bailouts. Focus on flexible employment rather than entrenching unions. A misdirected Keynesian approach is very costly.

Second approach is by using Hayek's solution. Take the pain, and thereafter let the economy revive. This approach does cost less and has no future tax repercussions.

The dangerous combination
Often what results as policy makers with little grasp of Keynesian option abandon it earlier and switch to Hayek eliminating all the future tax benefits built into Hayek's solution while causing as much pain before the recovery. The Hayekian recovery also takes longer as the first round of Keynesian stimulus, in all probability, has added to mal-investments. We are exactly at this point. The first few rounds of stimuli have been hardly successful. They have or will soon result in mal investment. Where will go next?