Some links worth reading on fiscal stimulus

There really is a pile of excellent economic discussion flooding out the the Economics blogsphere over recent months. If the collapse of Lehman brother did nothing else – it got economists arguing!

On the issue of a US “fiscal stimulus” there have been two main posts that I have found as convincing arguments against the “large stimulus” school of thought that is being sold by Paul Krugman and Mark Thoma. These posts were by Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution and David Henderson at Econlog (and part 2).

Ultimately, the static Keynesian analysis being sold by Krugman and Thoma misses the impact of relative prices – a factor that is important given that some of the shocks hitting the macroeconomy are structural.

Now, given the way confidence (especially business confidence) has turned south I think we can sell some scope for a stimulus. Furthermore, government CAN help improve outcomes during a structural shift in the face of asymmetric information. However, Krugman and Thoma are both ignoring any supply side shift – and treating all the decline in activity as a decline in “demand”. Such an extreme position would only lead to excessive government involvement in my mind.

The most important question in my mind is “what is potential”? I’m sorry, but we have an observable, large, permanent, negative supply side shock – but many forecasters are still assuming that “natural” growth will be unchanged. How am I supposed to trust those forecasts in these extreme circumstances?