A Keynesian has an Austrian Moment

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 15th, 2012

Week in Review

There are a few schools of economics.  The Keynesian school gain prominence following World War I.  Governments like it because it justifies big government.  And government interventions into the free market to ‘fix’ market failures.  Using the power of central banking and monetary policy.  And fiscal tax and spend polices.  With such interventions they believe they can eliminate or at least lessen the impact of recessions.  Because the architects of these policies believe they are smarter than market forces.

Another prominent economic school is the Austrian school.  Which favors limited government.  Low taxes.  A sound currency.  And where the government doesn’t use the central bank and monetary policy to manipulate currency and interest rates to interfere with market forces.  For they believe, as history shows, such interventions into market forces results in worse and prolonged recessions.

So that’s just a very brief overview of these two schools.  John Maynard Keynes was a Brit.  And very influential in Europe.  Where his policies are still embraced in these social democracies.  But even these devout Keynesians can have a moment of doubt and waiver in their beliefs.  Even chief correspondents in the most esteemed newspapers (see ‘Strangely Austrian’ posted 1/10/2012 on the Ney York Sun).

In any event, Mr. Rachman notes that Dr. Paul has recalled dining with Hayek and being inspired by Ludwig von Mises, “another economist of the Austrian school.” He writes that this explains Dr. Paul’s “otherwise baffling remark” after the Iowa caucus, in which the Texan said: “I’m waiting for the day when we can say we’re all Austrians now.” He calls Dr. Paul the “purest advocate of a powerful conviction on the American right that the US is afflicted by an over-mighty state.” He notes that “Paulite suspicion of central banks that threaten to debase the currency is powerfully echoed in Germany — where the Hayekian right is horrified by the operation of the European Central Bank . . .”

Mr. Rachman doesn’t predict which trend will set the tone for the new age. But he offers this confession: “Under normal conditions I would probably sign up with the social democratic tendency. The Tea Party is not my cup of tea.* [* His erstwhile king, George III, wasn’t all that crazy about it either.]  But I spent the weekend reading newspaper accounts of the ever more incredible figures that may have to be poured into the bail-outs for banks and countries in Europe. Then I turned the page to read of demands for more protectionism and regulation in the EU. For light relief, I then went to see ‘The Iron Lady’ — the new film about Margaret Thatcher. The whole thing has left me feeling strangely Austrian.”

Strangely, indeed. The importance of the column lies in the fact that Mr. Rachman is not just any scrivener. He is the chief foreign affairs commentator for the leading Keynesian newspaper in England. Here he is kvelling over Ron Paul and the Austrians.

The “we’re all Austrians now” line is a play on what Richard Nixon reportedly said when he decoupled the U.S. dollar from gold in 1971, unleashing double-digit interest rates and inflation.  He said, “I am now a Keynesian in economics.”  Which was a play on what Milton Friedman wrote in 1965, “In one sense, we are all Keynesians now; in another, nobody is any longer a Keynesian.”  Dr. Paul is waiting for the day when those in government abandon the failed policies of Keynesian economics and adopt the policies of the Austrian school.

Margaret Thatcher was British prime minister during the Eighties when Ronald Reagan was the U.S. president.  Who were both adherents to the Austrian school of economics.  And who both saw incredible economic growth when they were in office.  By following those Austrian policies.

After listening to Dr. Paul in the U.S. Republican primary race, reading some articles on the financial problems of Europe and the cost of their bailouts, the European Union’s demand for protectionism and regulation to protect their markets and then seeing the film about the Great Margaret Thatcher Mr. Rachman was given pause for thought.  Which often happens when you actually learn Austrian economics.  Because it makes sense.  And there is a lot of economic history proving the success of these policies.  But will it last?  Probably not.  Because Keynesians just like Keynesian economics so much.  Like a religion.  They accept it on faith.  And want to believe.

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