Quote of the Day: Don't junk the car

>> Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Andrew Leonard, who writes the "How the World Works" blog at Salon, was able to get a recent email interview with Paul Krugman on the the financial crisis. I particularly enjoyed this question and answer:

Andrew Leonard: You write that some economists (and this certainly goes for many Salon readers) believe that recessions and even depressions are necessary mechanisms for purging economies that have gotten out of control. There's even a moralistic aspect to it: In the U.S., all those greedy investment bankers and housing speculators and overconsuming Americans are getting their comeuppance. But you seem to be suggesting something different: that the government can kick-start the economic machine back into motion, that we don't have to be subjected to the torture of a severe recession. What do you say to those critics who claim that stimulating the economy out of this recession will just lead to bigger problems down the road?
Paul Krugman: My favorite Keynes essay is "The Great Slump of 1930," in which he says "We have magneto [alternator] trouble." If you've got electrical problems with your engine, that doesn't mean you should junk the whole car. If part of your financial system has gone haywire, that doesn't mean that millions of workers have to be unemployed.

There's kind of a weird double-think involved in arguments that the slump should be allowed to follow its natural course. It's true that classical economics says that we should let market forces do their work; but classical economics also says that severe recessions can't happen. This idea that we must not intervene is based on a worldview that is refuted by the very fact that the economy is in the mess it's in.

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