Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Keynesian Economics has not been practiced

Frequently you hear that the government is practicing Keynesian economics because it is running a deficit budget.

Named for John Maynard Keynes, a British economist of the mid 20th century, Keynesian economics was popular in the Depression era, when it indeed led to budget deficits.

But that was not the whole of Keynesian economics. Keynes was preoccupied with stabilizing the economy -- keeping the value of money from going up or down excessively. His approach to doing this was to make government spending counter cyclical. When the economy was good the government should run a surplus, and when it was bad the government should run a deficit. In this way, at least in theory, the government would build up a "rainy day" fund during good times to tide it over during bad times.

Unfortunately, our leaders in Washington have almost never practiced Keynesian economics. They have run deficit budgets year in and year out, leading to today's 13 Trillion accumulated debt (and if the off-budget debt due to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlements is included it's much larger)

Should the government practice true Keynesian economics? Well, it would be better than the current situation, but the potential for abuse is great. Economic projections are notoriously inaccurate, giving politicians excuses to pour out benefits in the hope that it will lead to more votes for their reelection. Better to have expenditures in line with the budget Congress adopts.

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