Silas Barta and I have a long ongoing debate (part 1, 2,3 part 2 actually comes before part 1) about monetary economics, 2008 recession policy and the views of mainstream macro-economists. This post summarizes the progress of the debate:

Theoretical issues

I think I’ve convinced Silas of a couple of things: I’ve clarified the mechanism by which monetary disequilibrium works. I’ve convinced Silas that the non-monetary impacts of conducting monetary policy, meaning buying and selling financial assets with newly created money, are not large. I have convinced Silas that having the Fed try to adjust the quantity of money to accommodate changes in the demand for money is not a terrible policy, though I don’t think I’ve convinced him it’s a good policy.

Silas has convinced me that the possibility of a decrease in the demand for money due to a decrease in market activity (for example, a shift towards consuming leisure instead of consumer goods) should be taken seriously. I think the evidence strongly indicates that’s not what’s going on right now, but a good monetary system should be able to handle such a change. I am not sure what kind of rule would deal well with this case as well as more conventional cases.

2008 recession policy

Silas and I still disagree about whether the evidence suggests that a high demand for money relative to the quantity of money has been a major problem over the last ~2 years. I haven’t convinced Silas that TARP and similar policies are basically independent of monetary policy, meaning not recommended (or disrecommended) by standard macro as well as implementable independently of monetary policy. Silas and I also disagree about how bad TARP and similar policies were. I claim that they were not terrible but not great. Silas seems to think they were terrible, but I am not clear on why.

Mainstream macro-economist’s view of the world

Silas and I still disagree about whether mainstream macro-economists see surface level economic statistics (inflation, GDP, spending, loans, interest rates, unemployment etc.) as ends in themselves, rather than being indicative of the state of the economy. I say it is obvious that mainstream macro-economists understand this distinction, while Silas maintains he doesn’t see any evidence they do. Silas and I do agree that many mainstream macro-economists have a poor understanding of monetary economics, so that even if they do understand the surface level statistics/ actual welfare distinction much of their advice will be bad.