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One Post Keynesian View

Jeffrey Sachs writes that neither short term economic boosts nor panic cuts will work to rescue developed economies and argues for long term investment strategies. While we agree in principle, we wonder where the money will come from. Sachs says “tax the rich”, but that will not bring in that much considering how mobile their money is and how many accommodating nations states there are in which to hide their money. Sach’s solution is not new nor radical. We say, spend the money needed into existence earmarked for resilience building investments and tax it back by way of Pigouvian charges for use of natural resources and eco -systems. The need to redistribute from the rich to the poor might well be eliminated if an end is put to the free lunches the privileged enjoy i.e. the uncharged use of natural commons and the private enclosures of public money by the banks.

Mainstream Keynesian economics is facing its last hurrah. The global fiscal stimulus championed last year by the Obama administration is coming undone, repudiated by the same Group of 20 that endorsed it last year. Now, against a backdrop of a widening sovereign debt crisis, we need to abandon short-term thinking in favour of the long-term investments needed for sustained recovery.

Time to plan for post-Keynesian era

By Jeffrey Sachs

Published: June 7 2010 22:22 | Last updated: June 7 2010 22:22


First, governments should work within a medium-term budget framework of five years, and within a decade-long strategy on economic transformation. Deficit cutting should start now, not later, to achieve manageable debt-to-GDP ratios before 2015.

Second, governments should explain, and the public should learn, that there is little that economic policy can do to create high-quality jobs in the short term. Good jobs result from good education, cutting-edge technology, reliable infrastructure and adequate outlays of private capital, and thus are the outcome of years of sustained public and private investments. Governments need actively to promote post-secondary education.

Third, governments must of course also ensure social safety nets: income support for the poor, universal access to basic healthcare and education, a scaling up of job training programmes and promotion of higher education.

Fourth, governments should steer their economies towards needed long-term structural transformation. External-deficit countries such as the US and UK will need to promote exports over the next few years, while all countries must promote clean energy and new transport infrastructure.

Fifth, governments and the public should insist that the rich pay more in income and wealth taxes – indeed, a lot more. The upward re-distribution of the past 25 years has made our economies into extravagant playgrounds for the super-wealthy. Politicians of both the mainstream left and right in the US and UK have fawned over those who pay their campaign bills in return for low taxation. Even playgrounds should collect tolls – when it is billionaires in the sandpit.

We need, in sum, to reset our macroeconomic timetables. There are no short-term miracles, only the threat of more bubbles if we pursue economic illusions. To rebuild our economies, the watchword must be investment rather than stimulus.

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