Boom and Bust

I just viewed what are probably the  two “smartest” videos I’ve ever seen on YouTube, both rap-based, no less.

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They illustrate two fundamentally-opposed prescriptions for government management of economic upheavals such as were recently endured; those of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek. Both men were important economist/philosophers, but their views could not have been more widely separated in approach, lending to a clever “prize fight” theme to the latter video.

Keynes, of course, is the name associated with all that “stimulus spending” talk and activity we’ve just lived through (and will soon start paying for). Hayek’s approach (would have been) distinctly non-interventionist. (For the reasons, argument and some surprisingly elegant subtleties, view the videos.)

As both videos unfold, it becomes obvious who has the most “sex appeal” in their respective arguments – Keynes has the crowds cheering; Hayek comes across as mildly curmudgeonly. Such is the real world fate of the policies and prescriptions of both men.

In (at least) developed countries, there’s no sin more unpardonable than to take NO action in times of economic downturn; whether or not the actions of government are based on sound economic theory or not – most folks don’t know enough economics to decide – and whether, in the case of stimulus spending orgies, lots and lots of money is demonstrably wasted.

The result is there’s NO politician within hailing distance of a microphone who doesn’t faithfully espouse Keynes’ earnest arguments for deficit spending in down times. While Hayek’s approach has been characterized as “heartless” in times like that, it’s interesting to note the philosophical implications of his approach over the longer haul.

I don’t for one minute think anyone’s approach but Keynes’ will inform the decisions of governments for my lifetime (and then some) but as a short course (of less than ten minutes total) the average person could not do better than to view these ingenious and well-presented characterizations.

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