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Bubbles Everywhere: Krugman Wrong Again; Austrians and the BIS Are Correct

July 11, 2014 in Economics

By John P. Cochran

Paul Krugman is at it again – distorting or misinterpreting work by other economists to attack critics of  today’s central bank driven low interest rate environment and to defend policy status quo or to push for even more stimulus. This time the economist is Knut Wicksell whose work in both monetary theory and capital theory was part of foundation for Mises’s development of Austrian business cycle theory (ABCT). Krugman’s rant is in response to Neil Irwin’s  commentary on booms and bubbles in asset prices driven by central bank policy and his target is Austrian influenced economists and Wall Street analysts and pundits with a pointed jab at recent work from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS).  From Krugman:

The proximate cause is obvious: policy interest rates are very low, and expected to remain low, so money is pouring into alternative assets, driving their yields down too. The question is what you think about this situation.

Quite a few people — including a lot of people on Wall Street, at the BIS, and so on — look at this and say that it’s terrible: the Fed is keeping interest rates “artificially low” and thereby distorting asset prices across the board, and it will all end in grief.

But for Krugman there is no reason to panic, rates are not too low and there are no asset price bubbles:

Mainly, though, there simply isn’t any macroeconomic case for claiming that interest rates are wildly depressed relative to fundamentals, and not much reason to believe that assets in general are overvalued.

Robert Murphy at Mises Canada exposes the fallacy of Krugman’s argument:

Krugman is supposed to be a technical wizard who throws up an impressive array of mathematical models to justify his policy conclusions. Well, in this case he tries to get his readers to accept first derivatives in place of levels. Nope: However you slice it, central banks have pushed interest rates artificially low. That’s why their balance sheets have exploded. It is astonishing that Krugman is trying to justify this outcome as “natural.”

What I find interesting here is Krugman’s explicit attempt to discredit the recent BIS warning, based on the work of Mises and Hayek, of Central bank excesses. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, (“Stop Us before We Kill Again”):

The Bank for International Settlements issued a report warning that global monetary policies are reaching their useful limit and may be contributing to …read more


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