[M]acroeconomic policy should not be based on a panicky attempt to avoid a 2008 recession at all costs but on a forward-looking strategy that achieves the needed reduction in consumption at the lowest cost in terms of the stable growth. This is not achieved by giving US households a $1,000 cheque by April, a trick that no macroeconomic textbook would argue is particularly effective. If there is fiscal room – a big if, given the weak structural position of the US government and its likely cyclical worsening – it would be better spent in accelerating investments in plant and equipment via accelerated depreciation schemes, to improve the capacity of the economy to keep on growing after the crisis.
The logic behind monetary easing is also suspect. Much of it is automatic, as central banks pump in money just to keep interest rates steady. It is understandable that politicians facing a November election and bankers with a lot of their money at stake should feel that this is the worst crisis ever and have an obvious interest in exaggerating the consequences for Main Street. …
The US should face its need for adjustment with courage and reason, not fear. It should stop behaving as the whiner of first resort, ready to waste all its dry powder on a short-sighted attempt to prevent a 2008 recession. Many poorer countries with weaker markets and institutions have survived and benefited from an adjustment that involves a year of negative growth. Faster bank recapitalisation, fiscal investment stimulus and international co-ordination should be first on the policy agenda.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, mainstream American economists tend not to buy the idea that “a year of negative growth” is ever a good thing–and can be downright dismissive of those who say that it is. Yet lots of perfectly respectable economists outside the U.S. have been arguing lately that a downturn could be healthy. Hausmann teaches at Harvard, but he’s Venezuelan who has served as his country’s minister of planning and as a member of the board of its central bank. Does he know something his less-well-traveled colleagues don’t?