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 is another response to a Keynesian critic.
My Keynesian critic says I “cannot compare the USA in 1938 and Australia in 1938 apart from both having stimulatory policy”. Well, I can and I did and justifiably so. It’s ludicrous to argue that comparisons are not justified. You also stated that in 1937 America “had the greatest change in fiscal policy under Roosevelt”. Complete baloney – and I have spent considerable time examining the data from official sources. I made my case in my post on the 1937-1938 crash. Prove me wrong and I will cheerfully (well, perhaps not cheerfully) publish it and graciously admit my error.
After that you returned to your GDP mantra even though GDP does not measure growth. In heavens name, how can an economy enjoy economic growth while at the same time consuming its capital? This is akin to a community getting rich by eating its seed corn. I pointed out in my post that it was estimated that net capital consumption dropped by minus 15.2 per cent1. Your response was to completely ignore that fact and keep on stressing Roosevelt’s grossly misleading super-duper GDP record. Continue reading The Great Depression: Australia’s record humiliates Roosevelt and refutes Keynesianism
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
Some readers, still swayed by the current orthodoxy, are a little puzzled by the argument that government policies that bring about increased consumption come at the expense of economic growth (capital accumulation). The classical economists fully understood that economic growth was forgone consumption, meaning that investment, spending on capital goods, can only take place by directing resources away from consumption. It follows that the reverse must be true. Promoting consumption at the expense of savings results in resources being redirected from investment.
Unfortunately, policy-makers, not to mention a huge number of economists, genuinely believe that increasing the demand for consumer goods, by whatever means, will raise profits and thereby raise the demand for more capital goods which in turn would lead to an increased demand for labour. This Alice-in-Wonderland thinking (meaning the Keynesian multiplier) leads to the absurd conclusion that massively raising the spending power of the unemployed would generate enormous growth. Continue reading Why economic policies promoting consumer spending are bad for an economy