Point-Counterpoint: Keynesian vs. Market Solutions
A U.S. economist argues in favor of Keynesian-style government intervention in response to the recession:
The role of government is to ensure a “wise laisser faire”. This is not the free-for-all capitalism that has been recommended by the current economic theory, and seems to have been accepted as gospel by economic planners, and also many economists, since the Thatcher and Reagan governments. But it also is a significant middle way between those who see the economic disasters and unemployment of unfettered capitalism, on the one hand, and those who believe that the government should play no role at all.
The idea that unfettered, unregulated capitalism would invariably produce the good outcomes was a wrong economic theory regarding how capitalist societies behave and what causes their crises. That wrong economic theory fails to take account of how the animal spirits affect economic behaviour. It fails to take into account the roles of confidence, stories and snake oil in economic fluctuation.
~Yale economist Robert Shiller, "A Failure to Control the Animal Spirits," in today's Financial Times
A New Zealand politician argues in favor of market-based solutions to the global recession:
"We don't tell New Zealanders we can stop the global recession, because we can't," says Prime Minister John Key. "What we do tell them is we can use this time to transform the economy to make us stronger so that when the world starts growing again we can be running faster than other countries we compete with."
That idea -- growing a nation out of recession by improving productivity -- puts Mr. Key and his conservative National Party at odds with Washington, Tokyo and Canberra. Those capitals are rolling out billions of dollars in stimulus packages -- with taxpayers' money -- to try to prop up growth. That's "risky," Mr. Key says. "You've saddled future generations with an enormous amount of debt that then they have to repay," he explains. "There is actually a limit to what governments can do."
Mr. Key's coalition government has moved fast to implement a program of tax cuts, regulatory reform and government retooling. He won't label it supply-side economics and smiles when asked if he's a Milton Friedman or Friedrich Hayek acolyte. "I'm not deeply ideologically driven," he says. "I believe in good center right politics."
Mr. Key's program focuses first on personal income tax cuts, which -- given that the new top rate, as of April 1, will be 38% -- are still high, especially when compared to Hong Kong and Singapore. Cutting the corporate tax rate -- which is now 30% -- isn't as crucial just now as keeping liquidity flowing, Mr. Key argues. Why? Corporate money is "mobile." "If you really are out of whack with the prevailing corporate tax rates, and there's been a global shift toward countries lowering their corporate tax rate, then you're not likely to attract capital, or you're likely to lose capital."
For now, the prime minister is focusing on chipping away entrenched regulations that drive away foreign capital -- a contrast to the U.S. and Australia, which are reregulating their markets in the wake of the financial crisis. "Good regulatory reform can be an important catalyst toward driving economic growth and coming out of the recession faster," Mr. Key says.
Much of Mr. Key's reform agenda hinges on his belief that he has to prepare his country to compete in the global economy. "The world, whether we like it or not, will become more and more borderless." That means Wellington is planted firmly behind free trade. "The sooner Doha is completed," Mr. Key says, referring to stalled global trade talks, "the better from our point of view."
~From the WSJ interview of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key