As we stand on the verge of the second round of Quantitative Easing (QE2), the twin questions of how it works and what it achieves remain to be answered. Some have attempted to answer the question in terms of orthodox economics. These answers have failed - mainly because the assumptions upon which QE is based are quite alien to orthodox economics. In orthodox economics, if you flood an economy with liquidity, then inflation will follow. That has happened to a minor extent, but nowhere near as much as has been previously suggested. Instead, we are experiencing a relatively mild recession (for now). This is explained in QE terms by the output gap - the difference between what we can produce and what we are actually producing. With an output gap in excess of 10%, monetary easing can still go quite some way before conditions in the real economy start to become inflationary.
QE is also being used to fine tune the economy. I rather suapect this to be something of a blunt instrument. The policy of fiscal tightening and monetary loosening is novel, but I do fear that the tightening might be overdone. For example, for Mr Osborne's plans to work, the private sector needs to generate something like a million jobs in the next four years in order to soak up that half million recently unemployed during the recession and the half million displaced public sector workers created in the recent spending review. This seems like a tall order at a time when GDP growth will be, at best, muted. A million jobs over the decade might be a more reasonable prospect.
Which brings us to Faisal Islam. His article for Prospect Magazine rather reflects conventional thinking. Stuck in the grip of a neo-classical base for his economics, he fails to grasp the key points of QE. In my view, this reflects the failure of economics more than anything else. Perhaps what we need is a new economics?
The Great Money Mystery – Prospect Magazine « Prospect Magazine
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