Limits of Policy Intervention in a World of Neoliberal Mechanism Designs: Paradoxes of the Global Crisis
The current global context poses several paradoxes: the recovery from the 2009 recession was not a recovery; investment, normally driven by profit rates, is lagging and not leading economic activity; the crisis is global but debate involves sub-global levels; and public safety-nets, which have helped to stabilize national income, are being cut. These paradoxes can be traced, in part, to the impact of the “truce” that followed the Keynesian-Monetarist controversy on economists’ ideas about policy activism. This implicit “truce” has removed activist macro policy from discussion, and shifted attention toward institutions as mechanisms for solving game-theoretic coordination problems. Policy activism then centers on how the “agents” (nations) can achieve optimal use of their available resources (or optimal access to resources) at the global level; and this involves creating and fine-tuning compacts – neoliberal mechanism designs – that can capture rents and attract globally mobile capital. This approach leads economists to see the key problem in the current global crisis as fixing broken neoliberal mechanisms. However, a global economy dominated by mechanisms that feed on aggregate demand without generating it faces the prospect of stagnation or collapse.
Key words: Neoliberal mechanism design, Policy activism, Keynesian-Monetarist controversy, Globalization, Capital mobility, Hyman Minsky, Bradford De Long.
JEL: B22, B52, C70, D62, E02, F53.