I’ve had several emails regarding unemployment rates during the Roosevelt administration. These readers were confused by some Keynesian sites asserting that the unemployment figures were inflated. One reader wrote that “the unemployment figures must have been greatly exaggerated because they excluded people on relief. If these people had been included then unemployment in 1938 would have been 12.5 percent and not be 19 percent.” I immediately recognised the figures as coming from Michael R. Darby’s 1975 paper1.
There is a sound reason why it is Keynesian votaries that tend to use Darby’s figures while the vast majority of economists and historians stick with the conventional figures. Putting the unemployed on relief and giving them a pay check is called working for the dole. It is an attempt to hide unemployment, not eliminate it. The old statisticians and economists understood that and were scrupulously honest in their estimates. It was called relief because it was understood that this ‘employment’ was a government-funded substitute for real employment. Better to be paid for doing something rather than be paid for doing nothing. Therefore, if these had been real jobs they would not, by definition, have been called relief. Taken to its logical conclusion all a government would have to do to eliminate unemployment is assign the jobless to various activities, no matter how pointless, and classify their dole payments as wages. Continue reading Australia’s recovery from the Great Depression compared with Roosevelt’s sorry unemployment record
This post is a response to a Keynesian reader.
If the 1931 spending cuts deepened Australia’s depression, as is alleged, then the rate at which unemployment had been rising would have accelerated. In fact, the reverse happened as shown by the chart below. In the year 1928-29 unemployment leapt by 74 per cent and 42 per cent in the following year. For the year ending 30 June 1931 Commonwealth spending peaked at £68,585,546, after which it fell and the Commonwealth began to accumulate surpluses until war broke out. According to Keynesianism this policy should have been an economic disaster. However, as we can clearly see from the chart, not only did the rate at which unemployment had been increasing slow down significantly, rising by only 5.8 per cent, it then began to quickly drop even though the Commonwealth increased its surplus by 277 per cent and cut spending even further. Continue reading Keynesian fallacies and the Great Depression: or how Australia left Roosevelt eating her dust
What is the real connection between inflation and unemployment? Then again, maybe that should be inflation and employment. That this has been raised several time on this site which got me thinking about a 1993 study called The Costs of Unemployment in Australia1 by Raja Junankar and Cezary Kapuscinski. The authors, both of whom are Keynesians, argued that a “fight inflation first” policy generally incurs more costs than benefits, a view that is held by most of the economics profession.
As I recall, this study elicited a favourable response from our media. The striking thing — in my view — is that though 22 years has passed it seems that not a single free market commentator made an effort to establish a link between inflation, booms and the consequent unemployment. What we do get is the likes of P. D Jonson, Peter Smith, Des Moore, Sinclair Davidson and Steve Kates2, etc., falsely asserting that the so-called boom-bust cycle is a natural part of the free market order and that we will just have to grin and bear it. (This attitude is music to the ears of the left and Keynesians because to them it justifies their own so-called solutions to the problem of recurring recessions). Continue reading Unemployment and reduced output is the cost of having inflation, not the cost of fighting it
I am frequently asked why free-market thinking in Australia doesn’t seem to be making any headway against the statist thinking. Needless to say, these people also expressed considerable disappointment in Tony Abbott’s economic record, which brings me to the right-wing’s sorry record. No serious scientist ever disconnects from first principles, and the same should go for economists. Unfortunately, first principles are something that our self-appointed advocates of the free market seem incapable of applying, particularly when it comes to the pricing of labour. And this is why, after more than 30 years of intellectual grandstanding, they have failed dismally to persuade the great majority of Australians that the effective minimum wage destroys jobs. Continue reading The minimum wage and defending the free market
Nottrampis posted a comment criticising my attack on Keynesianism. The following is my response. It is not meant to be a rebuttal but more of an outline of my views. In the very near future I shall expand in far greater detail on each of my points.
Now where to begin:
1. Demand springs from production, not the other way round, a fact that is patently clear in a barter economy. Of course, if it were a simple case of demand bringing fourth production then poverty would never be a problem. Keep on increasing ‘demand’ and eventually you will make everyone as rich as Warren Buffett. Continue reading More Keynesian fallacies and the Great Depression
I think it’s pretty clear that Keynesians and their votaries in the media have learnt nothing from the last recession. Their absolute faith in the fallacy that consumption drives economies is sufficient proof of that. Time and time again I keep reading that consumer spending is 70 per cent or so of GDP which means, according to them, that if consumer spending falls the economy will slide into recession. Austrian economics has continually pointed out how dangerously wrong this view is.
What really matters is total spending, of which business spending is by far the largest and most important component. The problem is that the commentariat unthinkingly swallowed the fallacy that including spending between stages of production would be a case of double-counting with the result that national income figures seriously underestimate actual spending. Continue reading Recessions, investment and total spending: an Austrian perspective
Stephen Koukoulas was expressing a fallacious view shared by the vast majority of economists when he wrote that
if wage levels remains too low for too long. It holds back or even oppresses growth in consumer spending. The household sector needs steady real income growth if it is to maintain a solid growth rate in consumption spending. While borrowing and a run-down in savings can temporarily underpin higher spending, more fundamentally sound and sustainable increases in spending rely heavily on household income growth.
This is the sort of plausible nonsense that leaves one in despair as to whether sound economics will ever gain ground in Australia, or anywhere else for that matter. Continue reading How government spending levels hurt real wages and the standard of living
I wrote this in response to Sarah’s comments about Austrian economics and Catallaxy. It was my original intention to post it as a comment but I then decided to rewrite it as a post. Sarah wrote that the Catallaxy people are “trying to give the impression that they are the only ones in Australia who have read the Austrians”.
Well, she is spot on. The Catallaxy crowd have been trying for years to pass themselves off as experts on Austrian economics. Yet any genuine Austrian who read them would know they are faking it. When it comes to Austrian capital theory, for instance, Sinclair Davidson doesn’t know what he is talking about. He just regurgitates Roger Garrison. He also knows nothing about Austrian trade cycle theory or Austrian monetary theory. In addition, he is also ignorant of economic history and the classical economists. For heaven’s sake, the man is still preaching the gross historical error that Australia left the gold standard in 1931! His casual approach to the crash of 1937-38 is just as bad. He even thinks ‘Ricardo’s theory’ of economic rent “has its origin in the labour theory of value”. No one who had read the classical economists could make such an egregious error. Continue reading Catallaxy gets it wrong again on the classical economists on the trade cycle
by Greg Byrne
Gerry Jackson kindly allowed me to write this introduction. At first, I thought I would just write a basic outline. It was then that I realised the full import of what Gerry had written. For years Australia’s establishment right has promoted Steve Kates’ argument that the classical economists believed that booms and busts were an unavoidable and natural product of capitalism and that we must learn to live with them. This is totally at variance with the historical facts. Continue reading The Real Classical School Theory of the Trade Cycle