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Blowing the Bubble Bigger

Here’s an excerpt from David Merkel’s

Blowing the Bubble Bigger

Maybe there is something different about the way that neoclassical economists and historians approach things. I am a bit of a generalist, so I try to look at things from many angles. The two books that I cited in my recent book review on bubbles were written by historians, not economists. Let me cite my summary of Kindleberger’s paradigm:

  • Loose monetary policy
  • People chase the performance of the speculative asset
  • Speculators make fixed commitments buying the speculative asset
  • The speculative asset’s price gets bid up to the point where it costs money to hold the positions
  • A shock hits the system, a default occurs, or monetary policy starts contracting
  • The system unwinds, and the price of the speculative asset falls leading to
  • Insolvencies of those that borrowed to finance the assets
  • A lender of last resort appears to end the cycle

That’s not the way a neoclassical economist views the world. Either men are rational, or, their errors tend to cancel each other out in the short run. Certainly there are never destabilizing feedback loops. Errors on the part of one person don’t lead others to make the same errors.

It is said that neoclassical economics cannot explain the existence of marketing and financial markets, without relaxing their rationality assumptions significantly. As an economist trained in the neoclassical school, I think we forget that these are assumptions that are made in order to get the math to work, not the way things actually work in the world. People are influenced by other people, and they do stupid things as a result, even when there is money on the line. (Maybe, especially when there is money on the line, due to the effects of fear and greed.)

Anyway, when I wrote my last post, I figured that someone would take issue with the concept of bubbles. …

Read more here.

 

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