[UPDATE at end.]
Don, I think, is trying to pull the wool over his readers eyes here. The consensus for a long time now has been that policy rules are superior to policy discretion. All the major Keynesian voices Don usually complains about, and those who he would associate with Nicholas Wapshott, support policy rules – not discretion. Paul Krugman has specifically cited a Taylor rule to govern monetary policy, and has worked out a Mankiw rule answer in the past as well. Brad DeLong has come out in favor of an NGDP level target, although he’s made points in the past grounded in the Taylor rule. And then of course there’s Mankiw who is presumably pro-Mankiw rule and John Taylor who is presumably pro Taylor rule.
In short, Keynesian policy is rules-based policy. People might just cite the need for stimulus right now, because the shortfall is so egregious. But when you ask Keynesians what is required, a rule of one form or another is invoked.
Man, where do we wacky free-market guys come up with these caricatures? Maybe because Krugman writes stuff like this:
Basically, if you listen to Bernanke’s analytical comments, they make a powerful case for more expansion. Underlying inflation is low; unemployment is disastrously high, and the corrosive effects of long-term unemployment are hurting the future as well as the present. More quantitative easing — QE3 and beyond — might not work, but it’s very much worth trying.
I don’t pretend to know what is truly in the heart of our top central banker. But in conversations with Fed watchers and economists, I am convinced that there is something more the Fed can do, and that now is the right time for them to do it. I call it Uncle Ben’s Crazy Housing Sale.
Tomorrow morning, Bernanke could walk in front of a camera and announce that the Federal Reserve intends to begin buying huge numbers of mortgage-backed securities with the simple intention of bringing the interest rate on a 30-year mortgage down to about 2.5 percent and holding it there for one year, and one year only.
The message would be clear: If you have any intention of ever buying a house, the next 12 months is the time to do it. This is Uncle Ben’s Crazy Housing Sale, and you’d be crazy to miss it.
I imagine Daniel can point us to the wild denunciations of Klein’s clearly anti-Keynesian proposal, which flies in the face of everything Krugman has been writing for four years.
UPDATE: I can’t believe I have to point this out, but based on the comments at Daniel’s blog, I think I should: If you have a “rule” that goes out the window when the economy is really bad, then it’s not a rule. That would be like declaring, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists! Unless of course they are holding people hostage.”