An issue with the paradox of thrift

An excellent article by Stephen Kirchner of Institutional Economics on why the paradox of thrift has to be taken in context.

Key quote for me:

But recessions are not made worse via increased saving, so long as the financial system continues to put that saving to work

As long as the financial system is working (eg credit constraints are not firing up) then there is little need for rising savings to be met with rising government spending. Even in the case where there are financial issues, government intervention should focus on the market failure – rather than arbitrary fiscal spending.

One thing I would note is that there is also a role for confidence here which has been missed – if consumers and businesses lose confidence savings increases and demand for investment falls. If this decline is sufficient, and if interest rates are bounded at zero (or are interest rates, or the price of investments are too sticky) there can then be a role for increases “public investment”.

However, the appropriate role of government in the current crisis needs to be identified and defined (and quickly) before policy is determined. Doing something for the sake of doing something is nonsense – and such policy is often defended by the term “the paradox of thrift”.