Following on from Philip’s recent post on domestic demand, I dug out this paper I wrote in 2000 with Rodney Thom to see what I was saying at the time. Philip suggested I post the link as part of our ‘nostalgia series’, so here it is.
I’d say about 5 people read the paper. We got some things right and some things wrong.
The context was the incipient inflationary pressures already building up in the economy. Some thought inflation was due to one-off supply side shocks. Rodney and I argued that the inflation was due to excess demand, and that the correct response (given that the first best policy — raising interest rates — was no longer available to us) was restrictive fiscal policy. We did recognise the political difficulties of cutting demand through restrictive fiscal policies at a time when the economy was booming. Sadly, that proved all too correct, but I don’t suppose that either of us anticipated the extent of McCreevy’s pro-cyclical folly.
We identified the risk of overshooting, followed by a hard landing, and I seem to recall that a few people at the time were worried about that — cf. the brief snippet of Krugman on this evening’s Prime Time. That wasn’t prescience, just basic macroeconomics.
One thing we got badly wrong was our assumption that if overshooting occured, and a hard landing ensued, social partnership would provide the means for reducing wages and other costs right across the economy in a coordinated manner. (This was based on the late 80s/early 90s experience. It hasn’t happened. Rather than all jumping together, we have jumped or been pushed one group at a time, which is economically ineffective and politically corrosive.) Worse, social partnership would soon become an important driver of pro-cyclical fiscal policy.
My conclusions from having gone down memory lane in this way is I guess a pretty obvious one: we don’t have either the fiscal or the labour market institutions that are required given EMU membership.