Wednesday , August 21 2019
Home / Lars P. Syll / Axel Leijonhufvud — the road not taken

Axel Leijonhufvud — the road not taken

Summary:
Axel Leijonhufvud — the road not taken The orthodox Keynesianism of the time did have a theoretical explanation for recessions and depressions. Proponents saw the economy as a self-regulating machine in which individual decisions typically lead to a situation of full employment and healthy growth. The primary reason for periods of recession and depression was because wages did not fall quickly enough. If wages could fall rapidly and extensively enough, then the economy would absorb the unemployed. Orthodox Keynesians also took Keynes’ approach to monetary economics to be similar to the classical economists. Leijonhufvud got something entirely different from reading the General Theory. The more he looked at his footnotes, originally written in puzzlement

Topics:
Lars Pålsson Syll considers the following as important:

This could be interesting, too:

Bill Mitchell writes Inverted yield curves signalling a total failure of the dominant mainstream macroeconomics

Lars Pålsson Syll writes Marginal productivity theory — a dangerous thought virus

Lars Pålsson Syll writes The ‘practical’ theory of the future

Lars Pålsson Syll writes Wren-Lewis trying to cope with ideology

Axel Leijonhufvud — the road not taken

The orthodox Keynesianism of the time did have a theoretical explanation for recessions and depressions. Proponents saw the economy as a self-regulating machine in which individual decisions typically lead to a situation of full employment and healthy growth. The primary reason for periods of recession and depression was because wages did not fall quickly enough. If wages could fall rapidly and extensively enough, then the economy would absorb the unemployed. Orthodox Keynesians also took Keynes’ approach to monetary economics to be similar to the classical economists.

Axel Leijonhufvud — the road not takenLeijonhufvud got something entirely different from reading the General Theory. The more he looked at his footnotes, originally written in puzzlement at the disparity between what he took to be the Keynesian message and the orthodox Keynesianism of his time, the more confident​ he felt. The implications were amazing. Had the whole discipline catastrophically misunderstood Keynes’ deeply revolutionary ideas? Was the dominant economics paradigm deeply flawed and a fatally wrong turn in macroeconomic thinking? And if this was the case, what was Keynes actually proposing?

Leijonhufvud’s “Keynesian Economics and the Economics of Keynes” exploded onto the academic stage the following year; no mean feat for an economics book that did not contain a single equation. The book took no prisoners and aimed squarely at the prevailing metaphor about the self-regulating economy and the economics of the orthodoxy. He forcefully argued that the free movement of wages and prices can sometimes be destabilizing and could move the economy away from full employment.

Arjun Jayadev

A must-read (not least because of the interview videos where Leijonhufvud gets the opportunity to comment on the ‘madness’ of modern mainstream macroeconomics)!

If macroeconomic models — no matter of what ilk — build on microfoundational assumptions of representative actors, rational expectations, market clearing and equilibrium, and we know that real people and markets cannot be expected to obey these assumptions, the warrants for supposing that conclusions or hypothesis of causally relevant mechanisms or regularities can be bridged, are obviously non-justifiable. Trying to represent real-world target systems with models flagrantly at odds with reality is futile. And if those models are New Classical or ‘New Keynesian’ makes very little difference.

So, indeed, there really is something about the way macroeconomists construct their models nowadays that obviously doesn’t sit right.

Fortunately — when you’ve got tired of the kind of macroeconomic apologetics produced by ‘New Keynesian’ macroeconomists — there are still some real Keynesian macroeconomists to read. One of them is Axel Leijonhufvud.

Lars Pålsson Syll
Professor at Malmö University. Primary research interest - the philosophy, history and methodology of economics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *