When Krugman was a “monetarist”

Back in 1997 the “multiplier was zero”:

… Indeed, if you want a simple model for predicting the unemployment rate in the United States over the next few years, here it is: It will be what Greenspan wants it to be, plus or minus a random error reflecting the fact that he is not quite God…

But putting Greenspan (or his successor) into the picture restores much of the classical vision of the macroeconomy. Instead of an invisible hand pushing the economy toward full employment in some unspecified long run, we have the visible hand of the Fed pushing us toward its estimate of the noninflationary unemployment rate over the course of two or three years. To accomplish this, the board must raise or lower interest rates to bring savings and investment at that target unemployment rate in line with each other. And so all the paradoxes of thrift, widow’s cruses, and so on become irrelevant. In particular, an increase in the savings rate will translate into higher investment after all, because the Fed will make sure that it does.
To me, at least, the idea that changes in demand will normally be offset by Fed policy–so that they will, on average, have no effect on employment–seems both simple and entirely reasonable. Yet it is clear that very few people outside the world of academic economics think about things that way. For example, the debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement was conducted almost entirely in terms of supposed job creation or destruction. The obvious (to me) point that the average unemployment rate over the next 10 years will be what the Fed wants it to be, regardless of the U.S.-Mexico trade balance, never made it into the public consciousness.

OK, now he´ll say that the “liquidity trap” changes everything. But he´ll also have to agree that that was a “Fed-made” situation and that the Fed could certainly undo it, if it wanted to!


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