Wynne Godley: The Keynes Of Flow Of Funds

Monetary and financial data, so far as they are based on institutional balance sheets and prices in organized markets, are abundant. Modern machines have made it possible to improve, refine and expand the compilation of these data, and also to seek empirical regularities in financial behavior in the magnitude of individual observations. On the aggregate level, the Federal Reserve Board has developed a financial accounting framework, the “flow of funds,” for systematic and consistent organization of the data, classified both by sector of the economy (households, nonfinancial business, governments, financial institutions and so on) and by type of asset or debt (currency, deposits, bonds, mortgages, and so on). Although many people hope that this organization of data will prove to be as powerful an aid to economic understanding as the national income accounts, this hope has not yet been fulfilled. Perhaps the deficiency is conceptual and theoretical; as some have said, the Keynes of “flow of funds” has yet to appear.

– James Tobin in Introduction (pp xii-xiii) in Essays In Economics, Volume 1: Macroeconomics, 1987.

[bolding: mine]

Paul Krugman writes in his blog responding to a recent Times article on Wynne Godley with a dismissive tone with mischaracterisation on saving etc. He writes:

But it is kind of funny to see a revival of old-fashioned macro hailed, at least by some, as the key to a reconstruction of the field.

Strange. First it is the story of a journalist from NYT who presented it the way it was. The NYT article was fine – what more can we ask from the journalists? But the funny thing is Krugman’s blog post itself which appeals to Friedmanism. Even funnier is the fact that Paul Krugman himself has turned to Keynesianism in recent times and talks about Michal Kalecki but when it suits his purpose, he dismisses Godley’s ideas as old fashioned!

Paul Krugman in his debates with heteredox economists has been exposed with his poor understanding of the nature of money. Wynne Godley’s approach on the other hand goes into a detailed look at the nature of money using the flow of funds among other things in a Keynesian way.

Now Krugman’s post is hardly a critique of any sort to deserve a response. But I thought quoting James Tobin is a good way to advertise Wynne Godley’s work because he has achieved what Tobin dreamed of and could not do it himself.

Also Wynne’s own idea about his work and aims can be seen from his writing in his article Keynes And The Management Of Real National Income And Expenditure, (in Keynes And The Modern World, ed. George David Norman Worswick and James Anthony Trevithick, Cambridge University Press, 1983):

… I have been forced to the conclusion that Keynes was a long way from achieving a coherent theoretical basis for maintaining them [correct ideas], and largely for this reason, his ideas have proved very vulnerable to the attacks from many different directions to which they have been subjected, particularly in the last fifteen years.

Wynne Godley’s work lays the foundation for Keynesian Economics. And Wynne Godley is the Keynes of flow of funds.

Correction: I am mistaken about Jonathan Schlefer’s background. He is in academics.

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