23 Jul 2009

Rizzo on Keynes vs. Hayek

All Posts No Comments

Mario Rizzo has another good post:

While I am not a Keynesian, I would agree that the economics of Keynes (and Keynesian economics!) is more relevant to the present crisis than the graduate macroeconomics taught in most high-level departments today.

I’d also suggest that the business cycle analysis of F.A. Hayek is also more relevant than today’s macro-theory.

That’s definitely true. Let me commit heresy and say that Keynes’ General Theory is (a) comprehensible and (b) packed full of deep insights. Of course, Keynes’ policy recommendations are wrong. Rizzo goes on to say:

By “relevant” I mean, in both cases, that the issues addressed and emphasized are keys to either understanding what is going on or making progress in so understanding. Hayek asks us to consider the role of resource misallocation. Keynes asks us to consider the role of radical uncertainty. Mainstream macro is silent on these issues. In fact, much of it recognizes no connection between financial markets and the real economy.

I am not saying that there is some grand synthesis of Hayek and Keynes that will yield truth. I am saying that these economists raised the fundamental issues. They are relevant.

I actually do think a grand synthesis of Hayek and Keynes is a good approach; I was trying to lay the foundation for such an enterprise in my dissertation [.pdf]. (Now Rizzo was my dissertation chairman, meaning he presumably read it. I hope I did not sour him on the prospects for a grand synthesis.)

Rizzo and O’Driscoll had a very important and (at the time) celebrated book, The Economics of Time and Ignorance. They pushed the idea of “pattern coordination” as a way to retain some type of equilibrium construct, in the face of “radical” uncertainty. The problem was, thinkers like Shackle and Lachmann had come up with very serious objections to the typical notion of intertemporal equilibrium, in which everybody’s expectations about the future are compatible. So rather than just yell, “Ah take your nihilist doubt and go hang out with Krugman!” Rizzo and O’Driscoll tried to salvage things.

I think they were on the right track, and in my dissertation I tried to apply their new equilibrium concept to money. What was amusing is that the single biggest objection I got from Austrians (who had the intrepidity to read my dissertation) was, “Isn’t your theory Keynesian?”

Comments are closed.