Monday, January 19, 2015

5 questions for Nick Rowe about the "victory" of the right:



Nick Rowe writes:
How come no economist on the right is asking "Where are the Galbraiths of yesteryear?"? It's because Milton Friedman won the debate, and John Kenneth Galbraith lost...The right won the economics debate; left and right are just haggling over details. [emphasis mine]
This basically agrees with Chris House, who claims that the facts in economics have a well-known conservative bias.

I wonder if this might not be another instance of "Eternally Recurring 1970s Syndrome." Rowe writes about the 70s like that was when it all went down:
We easily forget how daft the 1970's really were, and some ideas were much worse than pet rocks. (Marxism was by far the worst, of course, and had a lot of support amongst university intellectuals, though not much in economics departments.) When inflation was too high, and we wanted to bring inflation down, many (most?) macroeconomists advocated direct controls on prices and wages. And governments in Canada, the US, the UK (there must have been more) actually implemented direct controls on prices and wages to bring inflation down. Milton Friedman actually had to argue against price and wage controls and against the prevailing wisdom that inflation was caused by monopoly power, monopoly unions, a grab-bag of sociological factors, and had nothing to do with monetary policy.
I was born after the 70s, and so to me that decade doesn't loom quite so large (see Malmendier and Nagel on how those big macro experiences stick with us). So here are the questions I have for Nick Rowe, and for others who may agree with him:


Question 1: What was the left's position in this debate that the right won in the 70s? 

Was the bulk of the left really in favor of Marxism, rather than just a small fringe element? Isn't that setting the bar a little low for the right to win? Or was the left's vision for the U.S. economy centered on price controls for everything?

What exactly was Galbraith's plan that Friedman defeated?

Or was the right's victory the turn toward neoliberalism  (deregulation, freer trade, lower top marginal tax rates) in rich countries?


Question 2: What about the Austrians and other elements of the right that Friedman fought against?

Milton Friedman famously clashed with "Austrians". They definitely seem more rightist, politically, than Friedman. And although they succeeded in injecting some silly ideas into the minds of some people in the finance industry, the Austrians generally lost out to Friedman. Why doesn't this affect the idea that "the right" won the debate?

Also, what about the RBCers? Friedman fought with them, and monetarism (i.e. New Keynesianism) has probably eked out a slim victory in that battle. Do RBCers count as "the right" in your view?


Question 3: What about the turn against monetarism since the crisis?

Although monetarist (New Keynesian) models continue to be the ones used at central banks, and although some heavy-hitting macro people continue to work on them, these models have received a lot of flak and disfavor in academia since 2008, and attention has turned toward models of the economy in which market failures in the financial sector cause business cycles.

Does this constitute "haggling over details"?


Question 4: Has the victory of the right translated into an enduring policy victory?

Since Friedman's time, many types of regulation have decreased, and many types of price controls have vanished. But some types of regulation - environmental regulation, for instance - that the left has advocated have increased in rich countries. And many are struggling to bring back financial regulation.

Meanwhile, government spending continues to climb and climb as a percentage of GDP in rich countries. Tax revenue has not fallen as a percent of GDP. Income redistribution has increased in most rich countries.

Education has not been privatized. Health care has not been privatized, and even in the U.S. is moving toward more government control.

Do these developments point to a policy victory for Friedman and his slice of the right?


Question 5: Is it accurate to say that the left won the economics debate in the 1900s-1930s, and that since then, left and right have been haggling over details?

In the period between 1900 and 1940, many curbs were placed on laissez-faire capitalism. Child labor laws. Workplace safety regulations. Progressive income tax. Product safety and consumer protection laws. Weekends. Social Security. Medicare (and in some countries, universal health care). Land preserves. Antitrust law. Minimum wages.

In the era since Milton Friedman, none of these policies has been eliminated, and few if any have been substantially reduced. Nor have economists formed anything resembling a consensus against any of these policies. The continue to define and shape the lives of most people in rich countries.

So why is it not correct to say that the left won the economic debate in the early 20th century, and Friedman and his slice of the right were just haggling - mostly unsuccessfully - over the details?


Updates

See Nick Rowe in the comment section for answers, and more discussion!

Robert Waldmann offers his thoughts here.

David Glasner criticizes Milton Friedman here.

102 comments:

  1. Man got to sit and wonder 'why, why, why'

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  2. Maybe I'm too much of an optimist, but I'd like to think that grappling with Friedman made the center-left think harder about capitalism and how to patch it up and make it nicer.

    For instance, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a young leftist who knows, let alone cares, that Friedman decisively won the argument over wage-and-price controls. That seems for the best. But on the other hand, the left puts a lot of political work into carbon pricing, and carbon pricing is hard to criticize on economic grounds.

    If you ask someone over 60, who remembers when the basic legitimacy of market mechanisms was much more controversial, that would sound like a victory for the right. You can hear the same thing in places like Jacobin, where some people think that the mainstream left has been tricked into speaking the same language as neoliberals.

    Economists are prone to underestimate how many people are uncomfortable with markets. That discomfort rears it's ugly head when people get mad at Uber over surge pricing, or when we need to explain the downward rigidity of wages.

    Friedman did a lot of intellectual work to make people feel okay about markets, and I think the smarter parts of the left now fight to fix market failures and directly redistribute income.

    Who wants cake?

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  3. I did live through the 1970s. The majority view of economics from the mid 1960s through to 1980 was a perverted Keynesianism that declared that the economy was always and everywhere in a recession and that deficit spending would always and everywhere make things better.

    The "victory" of the right was to convince opportunistic politicians and gullible voters that:
    1) Tax cuts would pay for themselves and entitlement cuts for the middle class would not be necessary. (now of course those economists and politicians are saying that entitlement cuts are necessary - the whole thing was a giant con)
    2) Bank de-regulation would improve efficiency (it was of course predictable that de-regulation would make the system more prone to theft and fraud and make the system unstable so it was just another giant con by the right)
    3) Free trade would increase net welfare. (they denied that all of the net welfare gains from free trade would go to the Mexicans and Chinese but that too was just another con - driven by the fact that economists tend to see themselves as stateless so a gain in China at the expense of workers in Ohio is seen as a good thing.)

    There you have it - the intellectual success of the right since 1970 has been a series of giant cons on voters exploited by unprincipled politicians and benefiting a small number of wealthy Americans.

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    1. Uh, I was in grad school in the 1970s, in economics, and that sure doesn't sound like my experience either of what was being taught or of the policy debates. Maybe it depends on where you were, to some extent, or what you cared about. Mainstream Keynesian economics, though, in my experience, did not declare that "the economy was always and everywhere in a recession." In fact, coming out of the 1970s, concern, both in the policy space and in grad schools, began to focus fairly heavily on inflation...somewhat later, on the slowdown I productivity growth...somewhere in the middle, on deregulation (mostly a micro, not a macro issue, but still of importance both for policy and for graduate education).

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    2. Uh, though I'm really skeptical of the view that trade has been a net bad for the 99% in the US, as an utilitarian I think finding the welfare of Ohioans as vastly more important than that of Chinese or Mexicans is immoral and dangerous. If someone starts thinking that way soon they will be okay with millions and millions of kids dying every year from cheaply treatable diseases in poor countries. And then those people would do nothing to help, and get outraged if their governments spend anything on 'foreign aid' even though it would be very easy to send a monthly check to Doctors Without Borders and to mail their congressmen to point out that it is just plain evil to let kids die when we can do something.

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  4. Rowe: " When inflation was too high, and we wanted to bring inflation down, many (most?) macroeconomists advocated direct controls on prices and wages."

    I'd like to see evidence of that.

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    1. LosGatosCA8:14 PM

      Nixon did it.

      He lied when he said he was not a crook, but apparently he told the truth when he said he was a Keynesian.

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    2. Didn't realize Nixon was a macroeconomist!

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    3. It should be noted that, even though Nixon's wage and price controls were administered by appointees with as much devotion to them as Cardinal Dolan would have shown if running Planned Parenthood, they were considered by most 'civilians' to be very successful (I was born in 1949, a working adult at the time) and a major factor in Nixon's landslide victory in 1972

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    4. Barry: James Tobin, 1983, "The Case for incomes Policy" for starters. Tobin was certainly no lightweight. He was a very mainstream and very influential (and very excellent) Keynesian macroeconomist.

      https://books.google.ca/books?id=6fG6RL3QFrMC&pg=PA375&lpg=PA375&dq=Tobin+%22the+case+for+incomes+policies%22&source=bl&ots=mnSZtzjwED&sig=xZ705p6VbyZaWuF21k6vWt0tmes&hl=en&sa=X&ei=aeW9VMTeGI2wsATk1YDgDg&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Tobin%20%22the%20case%20for%20incomes%20policies%22&f=false

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    5. Nick, I understand that Tobin is a heavy hitter, but *he* is not 'many'.

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    6. Solow was a big fan of tax based incomes policies. One of my favorite papers is MacDonald and Solow 1980 which endorses them.

      I too asked for examples (I consider Tobin enough of a heavy hitter that I didn't ask for more). But wait, I knew about Solow. The reason is that I see a big difference between tax based incomes policies and wage and price controls. It's like the difference betwen a pollution tax and administrative regulations.

      I was at this conference about transition (from communism). A Polish economist noted that Poland had used tax based incomes policies to deal with high inflation during transition and claimed they worked very well.

      The fact that conventional (or now conventional) monetary rigor got inflation down to target doesn't mean that it was optimal policy. Even in the USA the cost was very high. No one talks about tax based income policy any more, but I'm not sure it's a bad idea.

      I just thought of something. What about tax based incomes policies with the opposite sign to fight deflation. Hmmmmmmm

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    7. Yeah people tend to forget that the wage price controls were run by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

      Another interesting note: Pat Buchanan created the Philadelphia Plan-aka affirmative action

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    8. I mean I'm not defending wage price controls. Still Rumsfeld and Cheney running it would be kind of like Hitler running de-nazafication.. It almost certainly would work better if someone else ran it.

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    9. I am not an economist, but I remember John Kenneth Galbraith (whose writing I really enjoyed) talking about how effective the OPA (where he worked) was during World War II. My memory is he stated straight out that it was the only way to stop the high inflation of the '70s. My memory is that just about every other economist (at least the ones I knew about) pooh-poohed the idea.

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  5. "... but that too was just another con - driven by the fact that economists tend to see themselves as stateless so a gain in China at the expense of workers in Ohio is seen as a good thing.)"

    It's more that economists are statists - most academic economists are government supported, under conditions where they are safe from the economic cycle. I don't think that they cared what happened to most Americans.

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  6. LosGatosCA8:17 PM

    Greatest propaganda victories in the past 50 years -

    Liberal economists / Great Society ran the economy into the ground on Jimmy Carter's watch.

    Ronald Reagan singlehandedly won the Cold War and saved the US through tax cuts.

    It's surprising that rich people who own the media would let such propaganda go unquestioned.

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    1. Look at Russia today and you will see what really "won" the Cold War. In 1986 the price of Oil halved after Saudi Arabia refused to carry OPEC's water anymore and decided to defend its "Market Share" against the booming North Sea Oil fields. 33% of the USSR trade was Oil and the primary source of hard currency. 1986 was a spectacular Grain year so imports were low so it didn't really hit until the next year.

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    3. except that none of the significant great society policies were actually removed, and the tax cuts just removed brackets that nobody was in anyway. It looked like tax cuts, but it was just simplification.

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  7. I've contended for years that most intro macro textbooks, at least in their earliest incarnations (say, 1st through 4th editions), tend to focus on the macroeconomic problems that dominated the policy space when they were in grad school. So, for the books written by people in grad school between, say, 1973 and 1983, inflation and the decline in productivity growth were important issues. (Note: I do not know when Nick was in grad school.) For people in grad school between, say, 1985 and 2000, the "great moderation" may figure prominently. For people in grad school from 2000 to 2010, I suspect financial issues will be a big deal when they get around to writing textbooks.

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    1. Don: I was in grad school in UWO Canada 1977-81, where short run macro was central (we did almost no LR growth theory).

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  8. Five is about right. The pendulum swings slowly and hopefully with decreasing amplitude to eke out the truth as time moves on. He was influential in policy but only because he told the political right what they wanted to hear. Now that they no long do, they stick their fingers in their ears and chant or seek out the long discredited far right to do so.

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  9. Noah, I remember the 70s all too well. Most economists did not advocate wage and price controls, at least not directly. Nixon’s use of them was interpreted as a temporary and very cynical re-election ploy. The center-left was in favor of tax-based incomes policies, since the first-best approach (in their view), negotiated incomes policies, couldn’t work because of decentralized bargaining in the US. The hard left interpreted inflation as the result of incompatible claims on decelerating productivity growth, either an ineradicable flaw of capitalism or the crisis of the fordist version of it. Keynesians attributed the cause to some combination of oil price shocks and the lasting effects of using credit to finance the Vietnam war. There was insufficient appreciation at the time for the effects of ending the dollar-gold standard. (Friedman had long argued for floating exchange rates.)

    The conservative position, exemplified by Friedman, was that inflation was due to too much activism by the Fed. Just set M2 expansion by the Friedman Rule, sit back, and let whatever happens happens. The expectation was that any increase in unemployment would be transitory, and soon we would all benefit from much more stable prices. Economists to the left of Friedman feared that this would lead to massive disruptions in output, which is why they favored TIPS. When Carter appointed and stuck by Volcker, Friedman had his way, and the Keynesian fears materialized. The years 1979-82 were hard, whether or not you think they were ultimately justified. (And 1982 lasted for another decade in the developing world.)

    But Friedman’s wing of the profession did win on the macro front, at least for a time, despite the failure of monetarism. Permanent income became intertemporal utility maximization, where it still rules. The Friedman rule became inflation targeting or some other fixed rule, since discretion is bad and credibility is good. (Credibility was also why we had to keep fighting in Vietnam, which chewed up a lot of the 70s.) Monetary policy became the go-to and fiscal policy the fatal conceit, which gave us a Great Moderation, for a while.

    Libertarianism has made strides on the micro front, especially in education, where the competitive model has wide support even on the center left, although pure voucherism has stalled. Friedman, were he to come back today, might crack a smile (he had a nice one), but he wouldn’t think his work was close to done.

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    1. Peter "The center-left was in favor of tax-based incomes policies, since the first-best approach (in their view), negotiated incomes policies, couldn’t work because of decentralized bargaining in the US."

      Yep that was TIP. I'm trying to remember what MAP stood for. One wanted to tax inflation; the other wanted tradeable inflation permits. These were serious policy proposals put forward by serious economists. Sidney Weintraub?

      "The model is classical in some respects, but Keynesian in others. Multiple or unstable equilibria are not unlikely. Permanent price controls will, in principle, be desirable, since they allow a permanent and efficient increase in aggregate output."

      That was me, in 1983!

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    2. A little boy who thinks his theft from the cookie jar will remain undetected, The smile, that is.

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    3. urban legend5:19 PM

      "Libertarianism has made great strides . . . in education, where the competitive model has wide support, even on the center-left. . . ."

      Add the words "policy elite" after "center-left," delete the word "wide," change the words "great strides" to "inroads," delete the comma after "support" and change the words "even on" to "among," and then you have a fairly accurate sentence. Anyone who knows anything whatsoever about public education, and this does not include Eli Broad, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp, Davis Gugenheim, Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein, Arne Duncan or Barack Obama, knows that the "competitive model" is complete nonsense when applied to public education. What kind of a "movement" has to move heaven and earth to make sure the people who actually do have genuine expertise in public education do not have a seat at the policy-making table?

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    4. "The years 1979-82 were hard, whether or not you think they were ultimately justified. (And 1982 lasted for another decade in the developing world.)"

      From my very non-economist background, it seems to me that it 'worked' by permanently crushing labor power in the USA. This meant that a higher proportion of GDP growth went to capital and the 1%, which solved the problem of lower growth, because for them, their income growth was now restored.

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  10. Noah:

    0. That pet rock in your picture is a modern fake. I bought mine in Berkeley in Fall 1975. My memory tells me, and Wiki confirms: "The original had no eyes."

    (Just as "aggro" was already common currency among British skinheads (nasty bunch) by 1970, and was not a term invented by millennials. https://britishisms.wordpress.com/2012/10/27/aggro/ )

    1. "Was the bulk of the left really in favor of Marxism, rather than just a small fringe element? Isn't that setting the bar a little low for the right to win? Or was the left's vision for the U.S. economy centered on price controls for everything?"

    The US economy is not the world. The US is an outlier. The defining policy of Marxism is state ownership of the means of production, not just state regulation of non-state industries. Here are some UK examples: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Former_nationalised_industries_of_the_United_Kingdom
    Or Clause IV, a central part of "the longest suicide note in history", finally repealed by Tony Blair in 1995.

    2. The Austrians were right of Friedman, but Friedman was well right of centre (in 1970's terms). So if Friedman won, but the Austrians are still a fringe, that's still a rightward shift. (Though Austrians remind me of *American* soldiers still fighting in the Philippines jungle, not realising they have mostly won, refusing to take "yes" for an answer.)

    RBC are weird. They are too out of it to really be described as "right wing". Their models may be, but I don't think they are.

    3. As I said in my post, if I see economists advocating, and governments adopting, laws to require firms to increase all prices and wages by a minimum of 2% per year, to prevent deflation, then I will know that the monetarists really lost after 2008, and we are back to that 70's show.

    Paradoxically, the only government I'm aware of that actually implemented an Economically Correct New Keynesian ZLB fiscal policy is....Canada's *Conservative* government. That all the Canadian lefties hate because it's so terribly right-wing. Ah well.

    4. Nothing endures. This too shall pass. One day some band will revive The Beatles song "Taxman" because they really do want to complain about 95% marginal tax rates (it was higher still on "unearned" income, and they didn't invent Mr Wilson and Mr Heath). But until then, it's a victory for the right.

    5. That's by far your best question, and the hardest. Imagine if we were living now in the 1930's. Marxism would have looked very attractive, both as a theory of the world, and as a policy recommendation. Yes, the left started winning in the 30's, and their victories continued for decades. But Friedman wasn't around much then.

    And I still find it very hard to believe that communism collapsed. As an undergraduate in the 1970's I never expected that, and thought that the best we could manage was a slow retreat with a skillful rearguard action. (Though Schumpeter always struck me as providing a more plausible story of the inevitability of communism than Marx.) That was by far the biggest thing I ever got wrong about economics. But those who made the same prediction, and actually cheered its coming, were even wronger than me.

    And it is hard for me to convey to you, as an American, and much younger, how the world today looks from the perspective of someone who grew up in that world. I drove through Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin in 1974, and couldn't possibly have imagined then that the Germans would now be trying to preserve bits of the Wall as a historical monument. Yes, we are haggling about details.

    But why ask me your five questions? The text stands apart from the author. Brad DeLong for example could give you much better answers than me. Except maybe about pet rocks and aggro.



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    1. Forgot the links:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clause_IV
      http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beatles/taxman.html

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    2. Martin10:39 PM

      So, this world in which the right won the debate against the left is also a world in which Britain pre-Thatcher (and Labour unter 1995) and most of Western Europe was Marxist?

      And what does any of this have to do with Galbraith who according to you lost the debate? Was Galbraith, too, a Marxist? Did Europe pre-privatization wave follow Galbraith? What's the connection?

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    3. Well, if the left was #fullcommunism, then sure, the "right" won the day. That's like winning a game of rock-paper-scissors with a pet rock.

      It's all about the Overton Window...

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    4. Noah: OK. Since 1970, the Overton Window has shifted right (in economics). Wage and price controls (and TIP and MAP) to control inflation, permanent large scale nationalisation, 95% marginal tax rates, etc. are now outside the window.

      James Tobin supported incomes policies. I can't think of any macroeconomist of anything like his stature who would do so today.

      Many grad students learn *only* RBC theory today (I think?). Haberler in the introduction to "Prosperity and Depression" *defined* business cycles as those fluctuations that were *not* caused by RBC. I was gobsmacked by Kydland and Prescott when I first read it, after reading Haberler (I still am). In that case, the new macro Overton Window doesn't even overlap the old Window at all. (Which is nuts, IMO.)

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    5. And here's a graph of the French Communist Party's vote share (and the new party is just a wimpy version of the old, having dropped the Hammer and Sickle):
      http://my.firedoglake.com/inoljt/2010/04/29/communism-in-france/

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    6. Minor quibble, Clause IV was part of the original Labour party constitution which was not "the longest suicide note in history". That phrase actually refers to Labour's 1983 election manifesto.

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    7. I will grant that if "the left" was communism and "the right" was a post-Depression U.S.-style mixed economy, then "the right" won an enduring victory. But I am not sure Friedman, or his debates with Galbraith, had much to do with that. The fact that communism is an insanely bad economic system cannot have failed to make itself apparent to Europeans by the 1970s. No American prophet of free markets was needed to convince them of that.

      However, Friedman and his contemporaries *do* seem to be responsible for the advent of neoliberalism, which has been a big deal, and which, like the New Deal, seems like it will only ever be partly reversed. That is not nothing. In fact it is a big big deal. So Nick, I'm actually sympathetic to your claim, I just think it is stated in a way that overemphasizes the 70s and underemphasizes the earlier and later periods...

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    8. Noah: "So Nick, I'm actually sympathetic to your claim, I just think it is stated in a way that overemphasizes the 70s and underemphasizes the earlier and later periods..."

      Good point. Fair criticism. I'm a child of the 1970's, and they loom far larger in my mind than they should in the big scheme of things. In the same way that the 1930's loomed very large in the minds of the Old Left (and the 1930's were a bigger deal than the 1970's). But what got this all started was Paul Krugman asking "Where are the Friedmans of yesteryear?". He didn't ask "Where are the Keynes of yesteryear?" So the 1970's seemed more relevant to that question. And who was Friedman's opponent as a *public* intellectual at that time? I think Galbraith.

      I think it's true that PK thinks of Galbraith as more of a populariser than a serious economist, and there's a sense in which that's right, but also a sense in which that's wrong, and we only make that judgement from the benefit of a hindsight in which Friedman was the winner of the methodological war too, and got to write, or create, the history of the war. My non-economist colleagues tell me that Galbraith is a much bigger name outside economics than in. Those who followed Galbraith are (mostly) outside economics. It could have gone the other way. We might all be Galbraithians now, with Friedman just a fringe figure, like he once was.

      "The fact that communism is an insanely bad economic system cannot have failed to make itself apparent to Europeans by the 1970s."

      It really didn't feel like that at the time. I know it sounds crazy now, but lots of them didn't see communism as an insanely bad system. They thought it was a very good system, if somewhat flawed in application in many cases. I wish there were some Old Lefties here, or ex Old Lefties, who could tell that story better than I can. Those old communists were not idiots (though they might look like that now).

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    9. Huh. Yep, this is one of those times that you really had to be there. My first memory of a political/economic discussion is of my dad - a dyed-in-the-wool liberal with long hair and a beard - explaining to me why communism was stupid (lack of price signals, lack of incentive for effort). That was in 1987. Hard for me to imagine an age when people thought it was a viable alternative...

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    10. Anonymous12:53 PM

      It looked viable when the alternative was "liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate...".
      Politically you get extremes looking viable when the mainstream politicians can't offer a way out of a depression (see Wiemar Republic) or inequality gets too extreme.
      Well established democracies seem to resist the move to extremes better.

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    11. I didn't live through it, but I have read there was quite a bit of early Cold War economic success on the other side of the iron curtain - that the Soviet bloc countries may actually have experienced faster growth in the immediate post war years.

      So I can see how an impression of communist economic success formed in the mid-1950s could still be kicking around in the mid-1970s. Especially as the need for the Soviets to be a real threat was politically expedient.

      But while I'm a bit older than Noah, I too don't really remember a time when communism was something the general public really took seriously.

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    12. In 1974 my father and I drove through East Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. They were definitely poorer than West Germany, but gave every impression of being functional economies and political systems. (Though the Czechs gave the impression of being fearful and repressed, which is unsurprising given this was so soon after 68.) There seemed to be nothing that would prevent the central planners choosing a higher share of investment to GDP, and thus a higher growth rate, and those countries eventually overtaking the "capitalist" (strictly mixed) economies of the West, especially if you add in strikes and unemployment and the difficulties of running firms with powerful unions.

      Around 1985 the newspapers wrote about a letter, that was supposed to be circulating among the Soviet elite, saying "Look guys, this communism thing really isn't working out, and we need to change the system, otherwise we will fall further and further behind the west." It sounded too good to be true, and I thought it was maybe a CIA fake. I don't remember ever hearing if it was fake or genuine, but the cracks started appearing after that, and Gdansk.

      Havana in Fall 1995 (IIRC) was clearly an economy and society beginning to collapse. One week I felt I might witness the end, but then they opened the Mercados and the peso rose from 120 to 30 on the USD, and within a week the atmosphere had changed, and the system is still going 20 years later, with some reforms.

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    13. Anonymous3:56 PM

      "And who was Friedman's opponent as a *public* intellectual at that time? I think Galbraith."

      So, Nick, this has been irritating me since I first read this. Your claim in the post is that Friedman bested Galbraith in mainstream academic economics, and you explicitly discount his having won in the political realm. Yet Galbraith was primarily, as you say, a public intellectual. The only time that he was mainstream in academic economics was at the very beginning of his career, when Institutionalism was still dominant in the US. Friedman's primary opponents within academic economics would have been Paul Samuelson, James Tobin (whom you mention), and Bob Solow.

      By bringing up Galbraith, you seem to suggest that the victory you're talking about is actually one of politics and policy (despite your denial of this in the post). This opens the door to the objections of the sort Noah makes. And then bringing Marxists into it -- and Galbraith was not one, although elements of Marx's analysis did influence him -- further muddies things. To my knowledge, the only occasion when Friedman took on Marxism directly was in Capitalism and Freedom, and this section was cursory and full of straw men -- hardly the sort of argument he was capable of, or one that anybody remembers that book for.

      And is modern academic economics more in the mold of Friedman than of Samuelson or Tobin or Solow? Or of other people entirely? I'm not sure it's at all clear.

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    14. Anonymous: Institutionalism didn't just disappear from academic economics of its own accord. It is not written in stone that institutional economics and mainstream academic economics are two different things. There was a methodological debate too, and Friedman was very much part of that debate. And his side won. It could have gone the other way, and mainstream academic economics could have become institutional economics.

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    15. Anonymous6:52 PM

      Well, sure, but that's a very different point, and one having nothing to do with Checkpoint Charlie, price controls, and so forth. Friedman may have been on the winning side methodologically vis-à-vis Institutionalism, but so were Keynes, Hicks, Pigou, Joan Robinson, Paul Samuelson, and a host of others, and that argument was decades earlier. Galbraith was an outlier as early as the 50s, and surely the victory being attributed to Friedman must have occurred well after that and must distinguish him from Keynes, Hicks, et al.

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    16. Another thought, reading this thread is that people might be interested in taking a look at what the 1983 Labour Manifesto actually said. It's not particularly communist but there are many references to public ownership and central planning.

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    17. Anonymous12:48 AM

      Pr Rowe :

      "It really didn't feel like that at the time. I know it sounds crazy now, but lots of them didn't see communism as an insanely bad system. They thought it was a very good system, if somewhat flawed in application in many cases. I wish there were some Old Lefties here, or ex Old Lefties, who could tell that story better than I can. Those old communists were not idiots (though they might look like that now)."

      Was a kid in 70's too but reducing Left in Europe to Communism is simply historically inexact. Socialists, even though still embracing some Marx's ideas were quite different. It's would be like reducing US Right to Birch's society.

      You also wrote that Marx was about State taking control of means of production. Would not be taking control of ALL means of productions ? Police force provide security, does this qualify US or Canada as Marxists ? Safe for arnacho-capitalist it is wrong for everyone.

      EDF, SNCF, La Poste, France Telecom were all State owned and controlled. Was France in 60's to 80's Marxists ?

      Ludovic Coval

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  11. As usual, I think this post is excellent (I guess I should save pixels by leaving that part out).

    I definitely agree that mentioning Marxists is a bit odd. Marxist economists were marginal in the 70s. I don't think it makes sense to use the same word for Keynesians and Marxists together at all.

    I do not recall widespread support for price controls among mainstream left of center economists. I definitely do recall hearing Robert Solow say that, while he doesn't have any strong ideological fixation on free markets, wage and price controls are just bad policy. Here (and always) I think that claims about what was generally said and written should be ruled out of order unless backed by names and citations. I personally recall hearing what Solow said on the topic in a Kennedy School public debate on what to do about high inflation.


    Or to put it another way, I am interested in Friedman vs Samuelson, Solow and Tobin.

    Actually I have a challenge. Name a Friedman Solow debate which, with the benefit of hindsight, we agree was won by Friedman. I do not think this is easy to do.

    I was alive in the 70s although kinda young and not an economist. I remember almost no discussion of wage and price controls after 1973 (when Nixon who was not Galbraith imposed them).


    I recall extensive discussion of whether central banks should target interest rates or the money stock. This is a debate which Friedman won leading to a shift in the late 70s to targetting the money stock, then lost in around 1982. How often do you read about the quantity of money ? How much did it grow in the past year ? Monetarism wasn't just the claim that monetary policy matters but also the claim that the quantity of money was the key variable, because velocity is stable and predictable. This, the absolutely central aspect of monetarism according to Friedman, seems to have been conveniently forgotten by March 2008 at the latest. Or to put it another way, Friedman and new Keynesians have a lot in common, but also disagree on something Friedman considered extraordinarily important.



    Your point 4 is related to your point 1. Rowe defines the left so that universal health insurance and environmental regulation are not leftist. It isn't as if people far to the left of Friedman ranging from Samuelson to Che Guevara are so similar that it is useful to discuss them together. Friedman, however, definitely advocated deregulationa and a sharp reduction of the state which haven't happened. He and Rose Friedman wrote a book called "The Tyranny of the Status Quo" during the Reagan administration. This is not a title for a book written by someone who won the policy debate (you may correctly guess that I haven't read the book).

    Finally, you Rowe and I agree that Friedman dominated academic macroeconomics in 2007 with new Keyenesians better labeled Friedmanites. However, there have been some rather shocking new data since then leading to heated debate and making it a very odd time to try to decide who won the debate.

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    1. Robert: "Actually I have a challenge. Name a Friedman Solow debate which, with the benefit of hindsight, we agree was won by Friedman. I do not think this is easy to do. "

      Let's make 2 lists, one for Friedman and one for Solow, of economic ideas and policies they invented/discovered/advocated, that are now mainstream.

      I'll start with Friedman: permanent income, expectations-augmented Phillips Curve, monetary policy should follow a rule and announce the target, monetary policy is responsible for inflation, flexible exchange rates, volunteer army, school vouchers

      Solow: Solow growth model. Solow growth accounting,

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    2. Anonymous9:07 AM

      Where's the evidence Friedman "won" on school vouchers and the permanent income hypothesis?

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    3. Robert: I found this quote from Larry Summers:

      "Not so long ago, we were all Keynesians. (“I am a Keynesian,” Richard Nixon famously said in 1971.) Equally, any honest Democrat will admit that we are now all Friedmanites. Mr. Friedman, who died last week at 94, never held elected office but he has had more influence on economic policy as it is practiced around the world today than any other modern figure."

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    4. Yeah, school vouchers lost. And PIH was shown to be true only for a subset of people, the others being liquidity-constrained. Monetary policy does not follow rules anywhere. And volunteer armies are not even an economic issue.

      The rest, though, is right. Most of the world believes in monetarism, and the main opposition in academia comes from RBC type people and their descendants.

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    5. Also, monetarism seems like a pretty apolitical idea. Perhaps many on the left now support monetarism not because Friedman won an intellectual battle and forced them to accept it, but because it fits just fine into their ideology. If the left wants stabilization policy and monetarism is the way to do it, why not embrace monetarism?

      Many of Friedman's ideas are pro-free-market. But monetarism - at least, in its modern, interest-rate-targeting incarnation - just says that having the govt control the price of money is a more effective stabilization intervention than having it control the prices of other things.

      It's a Friedman victory, it's Friedman's biggest victory, but is it a victory for the right?

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    6. My university, like all Ontario universities, is almost exactly on a (partial) school voucher system. The vouchers are not on paper, but we get a (nearly) fixed amount of money per student from the government. (Student fees pay the rest.) If our student numbers halve, our government money (almost exactly) halves.

      Yep, it's debatable whether monetarism really is right-wing. (My mind screams at identifying "the price of money" with "the rate of interest", but that's an argument for another day.)

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    7. Anonymous10:57 AM

      Above, and with this comment, you indicate what seems kind of obvious: this isn't really a political debate but an academic debate. I get these things cross boundaries, but really, was the big left/right debate over nationalizing railroads?

      I'd like to see some sort of statistical representation of what was nationalized or how else the government was involved. If the government merely owned part of an industry with private players, as seemed to be the case in some countries, does that count?

      What about the fact that price controls are still featured in some health care sectors and not even the conservative parties seem to disagree?

      And what about sorverign wealth funds? Would Friedman approve?

      And yeah, as you indicated, any sort of stablization of the economy, fiscal or monetary, seems to be a mark in favor of activist government. I seem to remember reading Friedman didn't really think this was ideal--that he was accepting this as the lesser of two evils--but it's still with us, and few seem to disagree with it.

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    8. Considering that Friedman designed the extremely efficient Federal withholding tax system, I'd say he won for the left instead of the right. :-)

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    9. Anonymous2:37 AM

      lol...Nick Rowe believes that Carlton University is a prime example of free market fundamentalism and libertarianism success, all while admitting that his University is dependent on government interference and taxation.

      Talk about cognitive dissonance.

      His university and job would not exist if it was not for big government liberalism.

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  12. Tim W4:31 AM

    Very Americancentric worldview Noah. Australia used incomes policy between 1983-1996 in the form of the so-called Accord. The outcomes are generally regarded by macroeconomists in this country as being satisfactory. During this period the reserve bank also experimented with monetary targeting and moved to an explicit inflation target in early 1994. So incomes policy and monetarism need not be mutually exclusive. The Accord has been credited with saving Australia from the more excessive elements of the Thatcher/ Reagan supply side agenda during the period that were wholeheartedly embraced in New Zealand with objectively poorer macroeconomic results. Would the Australian Labour Party advocate for an incomes accord today? Not at all. The reason being that unionism has declined precipitously in Australia over the last 30 years, and centralised wage bargaining has been abolished. So there are effectively no centralised institutions left with which to efficiently pursue such a policy. Does this mean the right have won? I don't think so. Wages and incomes policies are just one potential element of a social contract entered into between a government and its people. As you suggest many of the elements of the welfare state or social contract remain impervious to the liberal revival of the 1970s.

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  13. Anonymous5:13 AM

    I think the left of economics rely almost only on ZLB, so when we are not at ZLB then economy will shift right Again. Just New-Keynesians models only say fiscal stimuli at ZLB.

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  14. As I understand it, economists are working to make economists professionally incapable of addressing the post topic with any rigor. That is, history of economics and economic history are being systematically driven out of the supposed best departments.

    Milton Friedman had one worthwhile contribution. He encouraged Abraham Wald in the development of sequential testing. I have not found Friedman's statistic for the nonparametric analysis of variance all that useful. It presumes a certain structure of the data.

    On the intellectual plane, Nicholas Kaldor defeated Milton Friedman. The supply of money is properly modeled as endogenous, and Friedman's theory was shite.

    I could go on, but I'll content myself with noting that historians frequently refer to the period before Friedman's deleterious influence as the "Golden age of capitalism".

    For somewhat random comments on Friedman: http://robertvienneau.blogspot.com/search/label/Milton%20Friedman

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    1. True, Nicky Kaldor won on endogenous money. Until 2008. "Quantitative Easing" is a silly new name for Friedmanite base control.

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    2. Endogenous money is a choice of the CB isn't it? Friedman's original position meant that money need not be endogenous because it was the goal of policy. Money is endogenous only to the extent that money is created within the costs chosen by the FED.

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  16. First a Diclaimer – I am young and did not live through 70ties. However I think I can still appreciate what some people like Nick Rowe had to experience. And since you mentioned 1st half of 20th century I think some historical context is warranted.

    You are right, early 1900ies were big win for the left. However it was also a period of big win on the right – at least in non-economic conservative sense. There was a point in time where Communists/Fascists were arguing about who should own the term “socialism”. For the former socialism meant that class is more important than individual, for the latter it was about other ideas – especially nationalism. What both movements hated was classical individualistic liberalism of English/American vein. And this push existed across the society, in economics, philosophy etc. It seemed like history had a set course.

    Then fascism collapsed. Then about two decades later it was more and more clear that “socialism” may not fare better – either as more moral political system but also as a more economically efficient regime. Era of neoliberalism started. There were new ideas, most notably Public Choice Theory, Efficient Market Hypothesis, Lucas Critique, Coase’s theorem and other. For the first time it was taken seriously that omnipotent and benevolent state may not be the best solution in many areas. A serious study of how lowering transaction costs may increase productivity resulted in wave of deregulation and privatization. While it may not have hit all areas like healthcare, we can now see some things unheard of before. We saw almost total defeat of protectionist policies and according to Krugman we now live in a world with largest international trade ever.

    So back to Nick Rowe’s original theme – if there is no Milton Friedman on the right there is no Milton Friedman on the left either. I just do not see any serious pushback against the aforementioned core ideas. Maybe the closest that we have to the leftist Friedman is paradoxically Krugman himself. And I can imagine that if Paul met with Milton they would agree on far more topics than they would disagree.

    Also I do not see any new big ideas on the left. Somebody mentioned Piketty and his focus on inequality. You mentioned new focus on financial sector. OK, so what are the actual revolutionary proposals? Is it wealth tax on the rich? It was tried in France and it ended in the whimper. Is it maybe a new wave of financial regulation? If increasing capital requirements as part of some Basel IV agreement and differentiating investment from deposit banking is the most revolutionary idea then I fear it will not cut it.
    So I essentially agree with Nick Rowe. Great man needs a great job. And I really do not see such a thing right now.

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    1. JV: I see it much the same way. Where are the Mein Kampfs and Little Red Books of yesteryear? (Thank God.) Does anybody here remember Radio Tirana? (Google tells me it's still broadcasting, but there's no way it is the Radio Tirana of old, complaining about Soviet backsliding. "Card-carrying communists" really were a thing once; I shared an apartment with two of them (good guys, apart from being communists), and then one read Gulag Archipelago and tore up his card.

      God this argument is making me feel old.

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    2. Phil Koop3:55 PM

      "Does anybody here remember Radio Tirana?"

      With a pickaxe in one hand and a rifle in the other! Oh yes, our campus communists were touting the glories of Albanian communism well into the '80s.

      I was only 13 in 1975, but I do recall that Trudeau won the election campaigning against price and wage controls only to turn around and implement them himself. (And I remember those "What ever happened to price controls?" lapel buttons!) So I think that your point about policy, at least in Canada, holds good.

      But I can't support your claims about public the public's perception of economic opinion. A person less interested in economics than my young self can scarcely be imagined; yet somehow I formed a strong impression from the media that the professional economic consensus was that price and wage controls could never work.

      I don't have an opinion about the state of academic debate, except to note that in order to establish your point, you have to do a lot more than just name a few prominent economists who thought something or other. One would be hard pressed to name a more prominent physicist than Einstein or a more prominent astronomer than Eddington; yet both were denying the physical reality of the Schwartzschild solution long after it had been generally accepted.

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  17. Martin9:23 AM

    I think Rowe has either completely forgotten or silently given up on his initial premise that Friedman won against Galbraith. Acutally, Galbraith seems to have to do exactly nothing watsoever with his argument from the get-go: his name just stands there completely unmotivated - it's just some warmed-over rhetoric about some right-left battle that seems to resonate well with an older generation of economists. Or else it's all about Solow, or Tobin, now. And the even sillier premise that Europe was Marxist. What the demise of the communist parties in Europe has to do with Friedman winning anything I'd like to see demonstrated...

    This has become silly rather fast.

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  18. Great post and discussion guys - more please. Much more of this on the internet - and less of the flaming, would be great.
    Honestly, I think you're both right. Nick is right about how accepted hard leftism was. But Noah is right that large govt. programs for healthcare, education, and welfare, really haven't been reduced at all in a way that MF would have liked (I'm British BTW). And overall govt spending doesn't look like it's going anywhere but up in most countries (that's per capita, ex-interest, local + national).
    Perhaps a Bryan Caplan style friendly bet is called for - if Friedman won then spending is going to trend at inflation or lower, if he lost then it goes higher.

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    1. Thanks Sean. But I have no idea which side I would take on that bet. Actually, I would guess that government share in GDP will stay about the same, which means rising in real per capita terms. My guess will be wrong, but I don't know in which direction.

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    2. Sean, you can find a bit more here: http://www.the-human-predicament.com/2015/01/are-we-all-friedmanites-now.html

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    3. OK, Thanks Greg. Will do.

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    4. Anonymous7:13 AM

      The rise in G/Y since the end of the 1950- 1970 Golden Age (to use the term of another great forgotten Keynesian - Angus Maddison) was due to lower growth in Y, rather than active increases in G.

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    5. Anonymous9:41 AM

      This is demonstrably false.

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  19. A Pyrrhic victory though. It seems increasingly obvious that the right has not delivered on its promises.

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  20. Anonymous12:17 PM

    I would argue that economic theory is essentially right-wing. From its foundation of limited wants and limited resources defining the economic problem and the behaviour of agents, of course is it.

    But that does not mean it has won the Policy Debate

    It did during the Thatcher/Reagan and Clinton/Blair years. But since 2008 we have seen the return of Government, including the introduction of financial regulation, healthcare in the US, and serious talk about inequality - and I do believe, soon we will get action.

    I went to a lecture by Skidelsky. He said that Keynes in the 1930s was the only person who seriously challenged the rational choice/monetarist orthodoxy. Ultimately, however, he failed, and after WWII we simply see the gradual retreat of the dominance of the left, especially in academic economics and economic theory, but not necessarily in policy.

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  21. Anonymous2:31 PM

    What exactly was Galbraith's plan that Friedman defeated?

    Not so much Friedman, but Sargent and Lucas.

    I studied economics when Friedman and Galbraith's works were actually read. Galbraith attacked the very underlying assumptions of economics - unlimited wants, limited resources (greed). He said people's tastes and preferences were manipulated by the capitalist system; disagreeing with the implied theory of micro-economics that somehow we are born this way.

    I have no doubt sociologists and psychologists would agree with Galbraith, so would a lot of the evidence. Why can we say he failed? Simple, undergraduates these days do not read his stuff. There is no trace of it or any ideas resembling it. Pity, because I do not think he was always right, but certainly nor was he always wrong and we had real debate in economics in those days. These days, so called debate never really takes place outside the rational choice and optimisation framework - which isn't really debate.

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    1. As anonymous states, Galbraith's and Friedman's debate was not about "monetarism" v. "TIPS," but the role of the State in a modern, capitalist, economy. Galbraith, an Institutionalist very much in the tradition of Veblen, had a very jaundiced eye about Capitalists and there capacity for twisting the political economy for purposes of rent seeking. He believed in a powerful Democratic State to counter this power. Friedman, except for the role of Central Banks, wanted a very limited state and believed all social problems should be solved by market forces. Galbraith was very much a heterodox economist in the 1960s and 70s, and never represented the mainstream where one could find Paul Samuelson, Jim Tobin, Robert Solow, etc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kenneth_Galbraith

      Nick and Noah should invite James Galbraith to the conversation and given the influence of his dad on might be called Warrenism, the regulation of large, rent seeking, financial institutions.

      There are more reasons to loathe the Haper Government then just its economic policies (which may now get the test since they are no longer supported by $100 a barrel oil.)

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    2. Anonymous3:51 PM

      I agree, it was very much about the fundamentals of capitalism. But Nick Rowe is right. To think we can even consider rational expectations as a serious form of analysis is enough to say the right one. For the left (and here I am talking ala Keynes, Polanyi, Myrdal, Galbraith etc, , that is a complete non-starter.

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    3. Anonymous9:39 AM

      Fortunately for the world, no one gives a crap what you think.

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  22. If one measures short-run macro performance by minimizing the misery index (unemployment rate plue inflation rate), the best performing nations in the world in the 1950s through 1980s were two smaller homogeneous nations that practiced a corporatist collective collective bargaining form of incomes policies, namely Sweden and the actually existing Austria, beating out even monetarist West Germany and Switzerland.

    Barkley Rosser

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    1. Anonymous3:32 PM

      West Germany and Switzerland also practice corporatist collective bargaining systems, so do the Japanese and most of East-Asia. It is the Anglo-Saxon world who don't. (Although the Australians ha a highly successful centralised union-government-firm centralised wage fixation system during the 1980s and 1990s, which even the ultra conservative Howard Government did not completely dismantle.)

      The economics profession is very US-centric. Another way it is a political rather than a scientific construct.

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    2. Anonymous3:35 PM

      Sorry that should be Germany and Switzerland!

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    3. None of them nearly as much as did Sweden and Austria during the period in question. Sweden's broke down substantially in 1986, but Austria's has continued, and it continues to have one of the lowest misery indexes around.

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    4. Anonymous9:30 AM

      Having a low misery index can be quite misleading. Likely the USSR, China and North Korea had even lower "misery" indexes than Austria and Switzerland. Yet most of their population indeed lived in misery.

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  23. Anonymous4:01 PM

    Noah,

    You said:

    "However, Friedman and his contemporaries *do* seem to be responsible for the advent of neoliberalism, which has been a big deal, and which, like the New Deal, seems like it will only ever be partly reversed."

    How are you defining neo-libreal here?

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  24. Anonymous4:22 PM

    The right made great gains in ideology, but limited gains in actual policy and economics. However, no where on the Earth has a developed nation fully embraced right wing free market fundamentalism.

    The right wing believes in an economics system where safety nets are gutted, regulations are abolished, and there is no taxation. If there is taxation, people are only taxed enough (flatly) to provide a legal system that protects and enforces property rights. Some, such as David Friedman would even privatize the law.

    Friedman made some modest gains in policy, such school vouchers and even the EITC (a bastardized version of his negative income tax). Even then these were more likely pragmatic compromises on his part than rather enacting his actual beliefs. Schools vouchers do not have a good track record. At best, their record it mixed.

    However, his policies, have largely gone to the wayside. He wanted to abolish the Fed and replace it with a strict monetary rule. He wanted to abolish, dismantle, and privatize almost every government agency, from the FDA to national parks to public safety to public education to healthcare.

    What is even more astonishing is that according to some right wingers, particularly ancaps, Friedman was a socialist since he, at times, advocated government intervention, albeit very rarely.

    Even the neoliberal success of Chile, in which free marketers supported a brutal dictator, was not really a free market privatization success. It was an export success and Chile has abandoned free market fundamentalism.

    Contrast that to the left. Almost every developed nation has adopted a liberal welfare state to one degree or another. Almost every economist rejects free market fundamentalism.

    Markets can do a lot of good, but they are not a panacea to all of our economic and social problems. Markets can also fail and lead to less optimal outcomes. Public policy can enhance well-being. Government involvement can create preserve outcomes. The world is much more nuanced than what right wing free market fundamentalist spew, and most economist embrace this. Most economists also embrace counter-cyclical stabilization policies.

    While Friedman and right wingers were good at winning the ideological debate during his time, they had limited success in policy. The height of neoliberalism free market fundamentalism reached its peak in the 1990's. Quite frankly, I don't think it will ever see that sort of popularity again, especially it was largely driven by abnormal economic events in the 70's.

    For those who said that right wing free market fundamentalist have won the debate, just take a look around. Where in the world has a successful nation adopted free market fundamentalism?

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  25. Anonymous4:40 PM

    When I compare Galbraith and even Friedman to Lucas and Sargent, the first two were philosophers; the second two, applied mathematicians. I don't think there even is a deep philosophical explanation of capitalism behind Sargent and Lucas's stuff. Just a lot of artificial construct to enable the creation of mathematical models. Substantially they enable a crude reconstructions of basic classical and monetarist theory.

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  26. Oh yay, an epic comment battle between Keynesians and Monetarists.

    Noah had it about right - Friedman won the battle on free markets. Monetarism on the other hand is all but dead except in vestiges yet to be expunged from New Keynesian doctrine and half-baked bloggerdom. His protege Bernanke killed it, inadvertently.

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  27. Anonymous12:57 AM

    Rule of thumb: monetarist views should be taken with a grain of salt.

    Did Milton Friedman add anything to modern debate? Just his arguments and the refutation of such.

    I think Friedman added important ideas to modern macro. But did his most prominent ideas prevail? NO!

    So this system doesn't work at all. We have countries taking the ideas of lunatics and making it policy. Oh, I should sleep easy tonight, right?

    Crap!

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    1. Anonymous2:45 AM

      Wrong. All the credibility and commitment and rules arguments are monetarist, they are Sargent/ Friedman/pre-Friedman - basically Gold Standard era stuff. Stupid, and I hope policy makers are sceptical - usually they are (Kocherlakota has come in recently to remind us of the stupidity of mathematical rules for monetary policy), but unfortunately it keeps a lot of people in the profession employed.

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  28. Friedman was the Keynes of his day as Krugman is the Friedman of ours, but if Krugman is the Keynes of our day, who will be the Friedman of tomorrow? Too early to say.

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  29. Anonymous1:58 AM

    Noah is the master of images. How do you find such pertinent images?

    He told us this a long time ago. I still don't know how he doest it.

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  30. Noah, if I give you an icon to put on the bottom of your blog, will you do it? It will create a level of world understanding never before encountered. It will begin on your blog.

    Will you participate?

    It is just a plugin. What is it about? It asks people to agree or disagree.

    Isn't that reasonable?

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    1. Anonymous10:01 AM

      Afraid? Of reality perhaps?

      I'm very controversial, I insult everyone, and I expect truth. Apparently you don't.

      You lost your change. And F U.

      I hate people that don't even respond.

      I'm sure that John Cochrane will like this.

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  31. Thanks for the link. Robert Waldmann stresses that I have Not read the Nick Rowe post. I put my thoughts at my personal blog which almost no one reads. Then Mark Thoma linked to it.

    Anyway thanks for the link. I am delighted.

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  32. Nick-your point is taken about the rest of the world being more leftist than the US. I think that this touches on the whole problem with the terms Right and Left. It's often a relative term.

    In US politics I'm probably pretty far on the Left spectrum though my positions would be on the Right in a country like France.

    I don't think that Galbraith was ever in any way a Marxist-if anyone can correct me on this go ahead.

    That being the case, Noah's point that looking at Marxism's demise is setting the bar too low.

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  33. 20th century was the century of social democracy -- left and right in a new synthesis. Oh, God, I'm channeling Hegel... perhaps I'm contracting Marxism... or at least Feuerbachism...

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  35. Opinion of a Portuguese leftist: Nick Rowe is right.

    Sometimes people forget that US is an outlier; outside US, in the 1970s it was very common:

    - almost all "natural monopolies" being nationalized

    - prices and wages controls being suggested to fight inflation (perhaps the "price controls" more from the left and the "wage controls" more from the right?)

    - Marxism being dominant in the economic departments of many universities)

    - sometimes, the strongest criticisms of USSR politics coming, not from the right-wing, but from the far-left (Maoists, Trotskyists, council communists, "autonomous", etc)

    - strong campaigns of Trotskyist infiltration in the big, centre-left, social-democratic parties (are you imagining a scenario where, instead of people speculating about an Elizabeth Warren challenge to Clinton, the chalange coming from Kshama Sawant?)

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  36. Anonymous5:29 PM

    know that when gold decouples from commodity and rise along with dollar, it means gold is becoming less like commodity, and more like money

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  37. Friedman was Keynesian.

    To understand Galbraith, look up Bill Buckley's Firing Line. For historically challenged, Buckley and Galbraith were best of the friends.

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