On Matters Of Macroeconomics, Even A Beautiful Mind Can Go Astray

John Nash died on Saturday in New Jersey.

Via the blog Econospeak, I came across a 2005 talk titled Ideal Money and Asymptotically Ideal Money by John Nash about money and macroeconomics. pdf here and a news report here. Nash starts his lecture straightaway by dismissing Keynesian economics:

The special commodity or medium that we call money has a long and interesting history. And since we are so dependent on our use of it and so much controlled and motivated by the wish to have more of it or not to lose what we have we may become irrational in thinking about it and fail to be able to reason about it like about a technology, such as radio, to be used more or less efficiently.

So I wish to present the argument that various interests and groups, notably including “Keynesian” economists, have sold to the public a “quasi-doctrine” which teaches, in effect, that “less is more” or that (in other words) “bad money is better than good money”. Here we can remember the classic ancient economics saying called “Gresham’s law” which was “The bad money drives out the good”. The saying of Gresham’s is mostly of interest here because it illustrates the “old” or “classical” concept of “bad money” and this can be contrasted with more recent attitudes which have been very much influenced by the Keynesians and by the results of their influence on government policies since the 30s.

This is beyond belief. My post will not defend Keynesianism here because it requires a separate defense and there is a lot of literature on it. My only purpose is to quote how wrong a renowned economist can be on matters of money and macroeconomics. Further in the essay, there’s also a defense of a common currency for various nations, such as the Euro (without any political union) and a proposal for other nations:

In the near future there may be a smaller number of major currencies used in the world and these may stand in competitive relations among themselves. There is now the “euro” and the old inflationary history of the Italian lira is past history now. And there COULD be introduced, for example, a similar international currency for the Islamic world or for South Asia, or for South America, or here or there.

All this is just the orthodox belief that governments are incompetent to have any influence on output, employment and so on or that any attempt is just counterproductive. We all know what has become of the Euro Area and many (Post-)Keynesians predicted the problem of forming a currency union without a political union. It sometimes surprises me that even brilliant minds are unable to accept the notion that governments around the world drive their economies via fiscal and monetary policies. Some concede that governments can and should get their economies out of depression if it happens but then assume that outside of recessions or depressions, fiscal policy becomes unimportant and only monetary policy has some role to play. The recent crisis has changed opinions of many but there is still a long way to go.

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