Macroeconomics… perhaps not that useful?*

July 23, 2009

My good friend Ana Luiza was talking today about the article “What went wrong with economics” published in the always interesting The Economist. She mentioned that it was a good analysis of the situation. She’s one of the best economists I know, so I listen to her.

The articles starts powerfully “Of all the economic bubbles that have been pricked, few have burst more spectacularly than the reputation of economics itself.” Something worth it to put in the recently open my quotes page. I enjoyed reading the whole thing. The only thing that I didn’t really agree is when he says “Macroeconomists, especially within central banks, were too fixated on taming inflation and too cavalier about asset bubbles.” I think central banks in the U.S., Spain and many other did not care at all about real inflation. We have to remember that the housing prices (which many say that this is what brought us here) , which is by far the highest expenditure of the families was rising around a 15% yearly, I did not see the central banks really calling for an action on this issue, like for example a tax on an empty house/apartment to avoid speculation.

Anyways what I found interesting is the quote of my man Paul Krugman. Last month at the London School of Economics (!!) he argued that much of the past 30 years of macroeconomics was “spectacularly useless at best, and positively harmful at worst.”

Professor teaching economics

A Professor teaching economics

I was never a fan of macroeconomics, so, obviously this assertion makes me feel really good. I remember in 1998, in my first year at the Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales (Economics and Business School at Universidad de Alcala, Spain), we were going over Mankiw’s textbook on micro and macro, and after a few classes we started questioning our Professor (sorry I can only remember his nickname). I remember raising my hand in a specific example about the labor maket and saying, “but, this does seem to happen in reality”, and he answered “well, you have to learn the theory, even if it does not happen in reality”. Later in class I wondered with friends why in the world we should learn something like the theories of flying pigs. Anyways I was happy to learn about it, but probably less hours on subjects like these would be good.

This non-sense long studies in the mainstream economics studies, among other reasons, was why I probably found Ana in the masters program at the Business Department of Aalborg University in 2005.

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One Response to “Macroeconomics… perhaps not that useful?*”

  1. carlos9900 Says:

    * After talking with my younger brother, a well trained economist, when I told him about the title of this post, he looked at me as I was a very ignorant person. It’s not that macroeconomic per se, is not useful! It’s that the latest research (of the last 3 decades) on macroeconomics, might not be that useful. Obviously, it’s crucial to undestand interest rates, inflation, employment rates, consumption, etc. However, most of it was well known when I was born in the 1970’s.


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