Talk of military intervention in Venezuela is absurd

In early February, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson embarked on a Latin America tour aimed at promoting "democratic security". But just before he set off on his trip, he speculated on the possibility of a military coup in Venezuela.

"In the history of Venezuela and South American countries, it is often times that the military is the agent of change when things are so bad and the leadership can no longer serve the people," he said at an event at the University of Texas at Austin.

Tillerson's comments came six months after US President Donald Trump threatened military action in Venezuela.

Full piece published by Al Jazeera here.

Cohen and DeLong on Hamilton's Report on Manufactures

Hamilton's Reports, posthumous 1821 edition

Stephen Cohen* and Brad DeLong, in their highly readable book Concrete Economics: The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy (if you haven't, go buy a copy now), argue that “Alexander Hamilton [was a] major economic theorist. His theory of economic development, first set out in his famous Report on Manufactures (1791), not only reshaped America’s economy but was channeled by Frederich List half a century later to play a central role in Germany’s rapid industrialization, and still later became a canonical text in Japan." Further they suggest that: “This Hamiltonian project was contrary to Ricardo’s canons of comparative advantage as well as Smith’s free markets. It was bold. The direction of economic activity was not commanded, but it was not left unguided either."

While I generally agree with the main points of the book (my major issues are with the notion that technical change was driven by scarcity of labor, and …

What About the New Tax Law?

New Event from the Susquehanna Progressives. Drop by if you're around the area. Info below.
"As activists we need to understand the history of US tax policies, how they have changed since the 50's and why, the affect on our social fabric and what the new tax bill will mean for the health of our nation (Presentation followed by Q&A)."

Presenter: Matías Vernengo, Professor of Economics, Bucknell University

Thursday, February 22 | 7:00 - 8:30 PM
Community Zone, Market Street in Lewisburg 7-8:30

Keynes' intellectual influence: the theorist vs the pamphleteer

Keynes' 1933 and 1929 pamphlets, respectively
One of the many unfair criticisms of Keynes' General Theory (GT) is that is badly written or somewhat incomprehensible. Note that Keynes started to write it in 1932, four years into the Depression, and two years after publishing the Treatise, which he probably thought was going to be his Magnus Opus. In other words, by the time he started to write the GT the worst part of the Depression was coming to an end (the UK had abandoned gold in 1931, and the US would start the New Deal the following year). Keynes' policy advice, mostly about the need to abandon gold and promote public works was not based on the GT, which came considerably later. The idea of an employment multiplier, even before Richard Kahn developed the concept, can be found in one of the pamphlets depicted above (Can Lloyd George Do It?).

As he said, the book was basically for his fellow economists. More importantly the book marked a theoretical break with neoclassic…

Alan Blinder on Fiscal Adjustment

Alan Blinder published recently two columns on the WSJ (here and here) on the need to exercise fiscal restraint. In both cases he complains that the fiscal deficit is too large. Note that he is not saying that this is always the case, he emphasizes that in the second and most recent piece. The reason, as always, is that we are close to full employment. In his words:

"... today we are back at full employment, or perhaps beyond it, ad economic growth kooks solid. The economy doesn't need fiscal stimulus."

Blinder one must note was strongly for hiking rates in the mid to late 1990s, when he was the vice chairperson at the Fed, exactly for the same reasons (see this old piece in The American Prospect).  So at least he is coherent. We cannot grow too fast, since that would cause inflation. And we have a tendency to be at full employment (note that a few years back almost everybody said full employment, the natural rate, was about 6%, not the 4% or so we have). But if he is c…

Investment Rate, Growth and Accelerator Effect in the Supermultiplier Model: the case of Brazil

A new paper by Julia Braga, that she will present at the next Eastern Association Economic Meeting in Boston. From the abstract:

"This paper investigates the role of demand in the productive investment evolution in the Brazilian economy. First, it assesses the long-run relationship between investment rate and GDP growth, taking annual data since 1962 until 2015. We then construct a “Final Demand” index and estimate its impact on productive investment growth rate, taking quarterly data since 1996q1 until 2017q2, highlighting a shift in the aftermath of the 2008 world economic crisis. The results support two hypotheses of the Supermultiplier model of Freitas and Serrano (2015) and Serrano, Freitas and Behring (2017) for the Brazilian economy: 1) non-capacity creating expenditures lead productive investment; 2) there is a very slow adjustment of the investment rate to demand growth, as described by the flexible accelerator process."
Read full paper here.

Demand Drives Growth all the Way

New paper by Lance Taylor, Duncan Foley and Armon Rezai. From the abstract:

"A demand-driven alternative to the conventional Solow-Swan growth model is analyzed. Its medium run is built around Marx-Goodwin cycles of demand and distribution. Long-run income and wealth distributions follow rules of accumulation stated by Pasinetti in combination with a technical progress function for labor productivity growth incorporating a Kaldor effect and induced innovation. An explicit steady state solution is presented along with analysis of dynamics. When wage income of capitalist households is introduced, the Samuelson-Modigliani steady state “dual” to Pasinetti’s cannot be stable. Numerical simulation loosely based on US data suggests that the long-run growth rate is around two percent per year and that the capitalist share of wealth may rise from about forty to seventy percent due to positive medium-term feedback of higher wealth inequality into its own growth."
Read full paper here