Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why Keynesian Model Doesn't Work for the U.S. Economy?

After the great depression, in 1936, John Maynard Keynes argued that should the government play a significant role to steer the economy out of recession through public spending, they would not have had a prolonged recession.

In Keynes' 1936 article, "The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money", he argued that the solution to the Great Depression was to stimulate the economy through public spending such as government investment in infrastructure. Investment by government injects income, which results in more spending in the general economy, which in turn stimulates more production and investment involving still more income and spending and so forth. The initial stimulation starts a series of chain reactions, whose total increase in economic activity is a multiple of the original investment.

This is a wonderful concept and many politician applied this economic model through "stimulus packages" during the recent financial crisis, Barrack Obama for one is a firm believer who has trashed trillion of dollars into the US economy, Malaysia - RM60b, Australia - A$42b and many more. The results? These economies have a V-shaped recovery but looks like it's only temporary and many economists are projecting a double-dip recession. So what went wrong with this wonderful Keynesian model?

After Keynes passed away in 1946, Milton Friedman (Monetarist theory) criticized vigorously that Keynesian model did not work well post World War 2 and that Keynesian policy led the country into stagflation (high inflation and high unemployment), which they did during the early 1970's and further deteriorated in 1973 the oil crisis.

In 1942, during the World War 2, Keynes published an article, titled "How to Pay for the War", he suggested that the war effort should be largely financed by higher taxes and compoulsory savings, rather than deficit spending in order to avoid inflation. However, the deficit as a percentage of GDP was as high as 30% per year during that time under the hands of President Roosevelt which planted the seeds for the major economic problems the Americans are facing now.

People may have twisted Keynesian theory a little by saying it's not working but they did not understand that Keynes advocate prudent spending. What is not working is the lack of disciplinary action by the country leaders who are afraid of losing popular votes by taking the easy way out.

In any economic models, there are strengths and weaknesses. Personally, I'm the the follower for Keynesian model. Despite the fact that this model violates Adam Smith "invisible hands" theory which is essential for any capitalist economic system, but if we look around those successful economies, they actually have a stint in socialism!

Finally, in answering the question whether Keynesian model works for the US? Well, Warren Buffett has mentioned about tax raise, but I think maybe some forced savings like our EPF system maybe a good start for them.

Happy investing,
Pauline Yong

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