Read part I: Fiscal and monetary policy in a liquidity trap
Might fiscal expansion be a free lunch? This is the question addressed in a thought-provoking paper “Fiscal Policy in a Depressed Economy”, March 2012, by Brad DeLong and Larry Summers, the most important conclusion of which is obvious, but largely ignored: the impact of fiscal expansion depends on the context. *
In normal times, with resources close to being fully utilised, the multiplier will end up very close to zero; in unusual times, such as the present, it could be large enough and the economic benefits of such expansion significant enough to pay for itself. In a liquidity trap fiscal retrenchment is penny wise, pound foolish. Indeed, relying on monetary policy alone is the foolish policy: if it worked, which it probably will not, it does so largely by expanding stretched private balance sheets even further.
As the authors note: “This paper examines the impact of fiscal policy in the context of a protracted period of high unemployment and output short of potential like that suffered by the United States and many other countries in recent years. We argue that, while the conventional wisdom rejecting discretionary fiscal policy is appropriate in normal times, discretionary fiscal policy where there is room to pursue it has a major role.”
There are three reasons for this. Read more