Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. US Housing Market Real Estate Crash The Next Shoe To Drop – Part II - Chris_Vermeulen
2.The Coronavirus Greatest Economic Depression in History? - Nadeem_Walayat
3.US Real Estate Housing Market Crash Is The Next Shoe To Drop - Chris_Vermeulen
4.Coronavirus Stock Market Trend Implications and AI Mega-trend Stocks Buying Levels - Nadeem_Walayat
5. Are Coronavirus Death Statistics Exaggerated? Worse than Seasonal Flu or Not?- Nadeem_Walayat
6.Coronavirus Stock Market Trend Implications, Global Recession and AI Stocks Buying Levels - Nadeem_Walayat
7.US Fourth Turning Accelerating Towards Debt Climax - James_Quinn
8.Dow Stock Market Trend Analysis and Forecast - Nadeem_Walayat
9.Britain's FAKE Coronavirus Death Statistics Exposed - Nadeem_Walayat
10.Commodity Markets Crash Catastrophe Charts - Rambus_Chartology
Last 7 days
Silver Bull Market Update - 7th Aug 20
This Inflation-Adjusted Silver Chart Tells An Interesting Story - 7th Aug 20
The Great American Housing Boom Has Begun - 7th Aug 20
NATURAL GAS BEGINS UPSIDE BREAKOUT MOVE - 7th Aug 20
Know About Lotteries With The Best Odds Of Winning - 7th Aug 20
Could Gold Price Reach $7,000 by 2030? - 6th Aug 20
Bananas for All! Keep Dancing… FOMC - 6th Aug 20
How to Do Bets During This Time - 6th Aug 20
How to develop your stock trading strategy - 6th Aug 20
Stock Investors What to do if Trump Bans TikTok - 5th Aug 20
Gold Trifecta of Key Signals for Gold Mining Stocks - 5th Aug 20
ARE YOU LOVING YOUR SERVITUDE? - 5th Aug 20
Stock Market Uptrend Continues? - 4th Aug 20
The Dimensions of Covid-19: The Hong Kong Flu Redux - 4th Aug 20
High Yield Junk Bonds Are Hot Again -- Despite Warning Signs - 4th Aug 20
Gold Stocks Autumn Rally - 4th Aug 20
“Government Sachs” Is Worried About the Federal Reserve Note - 4th Aug 20
Gold Miners Still Pushing That Cart of Rocks Up Hill - 4th Aug 20
UK Government to Cancel Christmas - Crazy Covid Eid 2020! - 4th Aug 20
Covid-19 Exposes NHS Institutional Racism Against Black and Asian Staff and Patients - 4th Aug 20
How Sony Is Fueling the Computer Vision Boom - 3rd Aug 20
Computer Gaming System Rig Top Tips For 6 Years Future Proofing Build Spec - 3rd Aug 20
Cornwwall Bude Caravan Park Holidays 2020 - Look Inside Holiday Resort Caravan - 3rd Aug 20
UK Caravan Park Holidays 2020 Review - Hoseasons Cayton Bay North East England - 3rd Aug 20
Best Travel Bags for 2020 Summer Holidays , Back Sling packs, water proof, money belt and tactical - 3rd Aug 20
Precious Metals Warn Of Increased Volatility Ahead - 2nd Aug 20
The Key USDX Sign for Gold and Silver - 2nd Aug 20
Corona Crisis Will Have Lasting Impact on Gold Market - 2nd Aug 20
Gold & Silver: Two Pictures - 1st Aug 20
The Bullish Case for Stocks Isn't Over Yet - 1st Aug 20
Is Gold Price Action Warning Of Imminent Monetary Collapse - Part 2? - 1st Aug 20
Will America Accept the World's Worst Pandemic Response Government - 1st Aug 20
Stock Market Technical Patterns, Future Expectations and More – Part II - 1st Aug 20
Trump White House Accelerating Toward a US Dollar Crisis - 31st Jul 20
Why US Commercial Real Estate is Set to Get Slammed - 31st Jul 20
Gold Price Blows Through Upside Resistance - The Chase Is On - 31st Jul 20
Is Crude Oil Price Setting Up for a Waterfall Decline? - 31st Jul 20
Stock Market Technical Patterns, Future Expectations and More - 30th Jul 20
Why Big Money Is Already Pouring Into Edge Computing Tech Stocks - 30th Jul 20
Economic and Geopolitical Worries Fuel Gold’s Rally - 30th Jul 20
How to Finance an Investment Property - 30th Jul 20
I Hate Banks - Including Goldman Sachs - 29th Jul 20
NASDAQ Stock Market Double Top & Price Channels Suggest Pending Price Correction - 29th Jul 20
Silver Price Surge Leaves Naysayers in the Dust - 29th Jul 20
UK Supermarket Covid-19 Shop - Few Masks, Lack of Social Distancing (Tesco) - 29th Jul 20
Budgie Clipped Wings, How Long Before it Can Fly Again? - 29th Jul 20
How To Take Advantage Of Tesla's 400% Stock Surge - 29th Jul 20
Gold Makes Record High and Targets $6,000 in New Bull Cycle - 28th Jul 20
Gold Strong Signal For A Secular Bull Market - 28th Jul 20
Anatomy of a Gold and Silver Precious Metals Bull Market - 28th Jul 20
Shopify Is Seizing an $80 Billion Pot of Gold - 28th Jul 20
Stock Market Minor Correction Underway - 28th Jul 20
Why College Is Never Coming Back - 27th Jul 20
Stocks Disconnect from Economy, Gold Responds - 27th Jul 20
Silver Begins Big Upside Rally Attempt - 27th Jul 20
The Gold and Silver Markets Have Changed… What About You? - 27th Jul 20
Google, Apple And Amazon Are Leading A $30 Trillion Assault On Wall Street - 27th Jul 20
This Stock Market Indicator Reaches "Lowest Level in Nearly 20 Years" - 26th Jul 20
New Wave of Economic Stimulus Lifts Gold Price - 26th Jul 20
Stock Market Slow Grind Higher Above the Early June Stock Highs - 26th Jul 20
How High Will Silver Go? - 25th Jul 20
If You Own Gold, Look Out Below - 25th Jul 20
Crude Oil and Energy Sets Up Near Major Resistance – Breakdown Pending - 25th Jul 20
FREE Access to Premium Market Forecasts by Elliott Wave International - 25th Jul 20
The Promise of Silver as August Approaches: Accumulation and Conversation - 25th Jul 20
The Silver Bull Gateway is at Hand - 24th Jul 20
The Prospects of S&P 500 Above the Early June Highs - 24th Jul 20
How Silver Could Surpass Its All-Time High - 24th Jul 20

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Get Rich Investing in Stocks by Riding the Electron Wave

Krugman’s Greek Temple of Keynesianism

Economics / Economic Theory Jun 20, 2012 - 07:24 AM GMT

By: William_Anderson

Economics

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleA lot of people have weighed in on the Greek Morality Play, better known as the collapse of Greece's economy, and there is no shortfall of "wisdom" and advice. (For that matter, I made comments myself on the Greek situation during an interview on the RT network last March.)

Not surprisingly, Paul Krugman has weighed in again, and this time he not only claims that the problem is not enough inflation, but also deliberately ignores the real problem behind much of the Greek collapse: Greece's notorious and "bloated" (to use a term from Krugman's employer, the New York Times) bureaucracies led by its militant public employee unions. Instead, Krugman sets up other straw men and then claims that if only – If Only! – the Germans would crank up the monetary printing presses, Greece could be saved.

Before going into specifics, I would like to point out that Krugman is correct when he notes that a single currency union of many states indeed does impose certain fiscal restrictions. The examples he uses for the United States are dishonest, and even when explaining the European currency union, he does not tell the whole story, lapsing, instead, into his usual spate of accusations coupled with his demands for more inflation. (And, yes, I will explain my point later in this piece.)


Before going into specifics, I would like to point out that Krugman is correct when he notes that a single currency union of many states indeed does impose certain fiscal restrictions. The examples he uses for the United States are dishonest, and even when explaining the European currency union, he does not tell the whole story, lapsing, instead, into his usual spate of accusations coupled with his demands for more inflation. (And, yes, I will explain my point later in this piece.)

Krugman writes:

So, about those Greek failings: Greece does indeed have a lot of corruption and a lot of tax evasion, and the Greek government has had a habit of living beyond its means. Beyond that, Greek labor productivity is low by European standards – about 25 percent below the European Union average. It’s worth noting, however, that labor productivity in, say, Mississippi is similarly low by American standards – and by about the same margin.

On the other hand, many things you hear about Greece just aren’t true. The Greeks aren’t lazy – on the contrary, they work longer hours than almost anyone else in Europe, and much longer hours than the Germans in particular. Nor does Greece have a runaway welfare state, as conservatives like to claim; social expenditure as a percentage of G.D.P., the standard measure of the size of the welfare state, is substantially lower in Greece than in, say, Sweden or Germany, countries that have so far weathered the European crisis pretty well. 

So how did Greece get into so much trouble? Blame the euro.

 His statement is more significant for what he ignores, not claims, and he has left out the role of Greece's legendary public employee unions. Interestingly, the paper for whom he writes, the NYT, has described the Greek government unions this way:

Stories of eye-popping waste and abuse of power among Greece’s bureaucrats are legion, including officials who hire their wives, and managers who submit $38,000 bills for office curtains.

The work force in Greece’s Parliament is so bloated, according to a local press investigation, that some employees do not even bother to come to work because there are not enough places for all of them to sit.

And there is more:

The government is in many ways an army of patronage appointments built up over decades. When election time rolls around, state workers become campaign workers, and their reach is enormous. There are so many of them that almost every family has one.

This puts the Socialist prime minister, George A. Papandreou, or any other Greek leader, in a tough spot: There can be little upside to cutting jobs precisely when the government most needs support for unpopular budget-cutting actions.

"There is a political cost to these reforms," said Nickolaos G. Travlos, an economist at the Alba Graduate Business School in Athens. "These workers are opinion leaders in their communities. And they are busy blaming the government, especially a Socialist government that is supposed to protect them."

They are also well organized. This week’s general strike follows weeks of smaller strikes, rallies, sit-ins and a blockade of the Athens landfill that has left piles of garbage rotting in the streets.

When auditors from the "troika" – the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission – arrived last month at the Finance Ministry, workers blocked their entry.

There obviously is a disconnect here, but one has to remember that Krugman considers government unions to be a source of wealth creation, and not something that destroys wealth. In fact, the more bloated and unproductive the Greek government unions become, the more wealth they create, because their non-productivity means that the government has to hire more people which means more jobs. This clearly is the proverbial "elephant in the living room" that Krugman refuses to acknowledge.

Most "conservative" and libertarian criticisms of Greece that I have read do not deal with Greece's welfare state, contra Krugman. Instead, they have been critical of the very thing Krugman pointedly ignores: government employee unions, and there is enough evidence on the table to demonstrate that the picture of the hard-working Greek citizen toiling long hours is not a government worker, but rather someone in the private economy working to support the bureaucrats that have become a huge burden. (Notice how Krugman lumps all Greek workers together instead of separating those who financially support the unions and those who consume the wealth that others produce.)

Now, if Greece were on the drachma, then I suppose the government could print a lot of money to pay for these workers, and the result would be inflation, lots of inflation. By being on the euro, the Greek government has not had that option, which meant that whatever extra money came into the system outside the private economy would come in via borrowing, and the Greek crisis precisely has been about the government's unmanageable debt service.

In Krugman's world, however, things are turned upside down. Private savings are bad, government spending and debt are good. Public sector unions create wealth and private enterprise destroys it.

His comparison of this country's state governments with Greece might have some bearing in the argument, but even there Krugman gets it backwards. Krugman's support of the government unions in Wisconsin and California and his recent claim that state government spending -- or the alleged lack, thereof -- is causing the current downturn ignores the simple fact that state government unions mostly consume, not create, wealth. Steven Greenhut writes:

Over the past decade, California governments have dramatically increased the pay and especially the benefit packages of public-sector workers. We have firefighters earning average total compensation packages of $175,000 a year in many jurisdictions, and majorities of police officers in some agencies retiring on questionable disabilities. The standard retirement package for the ever-expanding class of "public safety" officials allows them to retire at age 50 with 90 percent of their final year’s pay – and that’s before all the add-ons and scams. Miscellaneous members – the rest of public employees – aren’t far behind, and we’ve seen absurd enrichment schemes and salaries in one scandal after another.

I’ve watched a sea of proposals pass that give government employees special privileges that would never be allowed for mere private citizens, such as a recently passed California bill that allows many officials to shield their personal information from public property databases. These privileges encourage arrogance and misuses of power. Pensions are now consuming 16 percent of California’s discretionary budget, and in cities such as San Jose, pension costs escalated an eye-opening 350 percent in a decade.

In Krugman's world, all of this is justified not only under the guise of "democracy" and "fairness," but also because such measures mean more "spending" by government employees, and such spending in Wonderland creates wealth. But a column by Paul Krugman, unfortunately, does not contain just bad economic analysis, but also encompasses some outright howlers, and we see them in his comparison of the Greek situation to this country:

Ask yourself, why does the dollar area – also known as the United States of America – more or less work, without the kind of severe regional crises now afflicting Europe? The answer is that we have a strong central government, and the activities of this government in effect provide automatic bailouts to states that get in trouble.

Consider, for example, what would be happening to Florida right now, in the aftermath of its huge housing bubble, if the state had to come up with the money for Social Security and Medicare out of its own suddenly reduced revenues. Luckily for Florida, Washington rather than Tallahassee is picking up the tab, which means that Florida is in effect receiving a bailout on a scale no European nation could dream of.

Or consider an older example, the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, which was largely a Texas affair. Taxpayers ended up paying a huge sum to clean up the mess – but the vast majority of those taxpayers were in states other than Texas. Again, the state received an automatic bailout on a scale inconceivable in modern Europe.

None of these situations involved state spending; in fact, the housing bubble and the S&L crisis involved federally-sponsored institutions which also had crises in other states. Furthermore, his examples of Social Security and Medicare fall into the non sequitur category, given that both are federal programs and paid not by state taxes and spending, but rather through a nation-wide taxation system. In other words, Krugman gives us a dishonest apples-and-oranges comparison.

However, if the states, such as California, were to have fiscal problems because government employee unions have plundered everyone else, that is a different matter altogether. Krugman has argued that the federal government should borrow in near-unlimited amounts in order to prop up the budget deficits in the states, and he essentially argues that Europe should do the same for Greece and other countries.

Yes, this will mean more inflation, but in Wonderland, more inflation means more spending and more spending means a better economy. And, yes, Krugman has argued many times that increased inflation is good for us, almost as good as an invasion of "space aliens."

As Lew Rockwell has noted in this appearance on RT, many of the "austerity" measures imposed upon Greece have been done in the name of bailing out the European banks that were foolish and craven enough to go along with Greece's spending schemes. Instead of bailouts, Rockwell has recommended that Greece simply default, which actually would better serve both Greece and Europe.

Why? Greece would be forced to put its own fiscal house in order by being realistic about government spending, and the European banks in the future would have to lend money for productive measures, not unsustainable government foolishness. Indeed, as he notes, Greek workers have been victimized by governments and banks, but his sympathies are aimed toward the real Greek taxpayer: the private sector worker who has to work long hours to support those who don't have to work at all.

Paul Krugman, on the other hand, claims that the only way to have real economic recovery and growth is for governments to borrow, print money, and continue with excessive government employee union activities. This is not economics in any authentic sense; it is just more Keynesian misrepresentation of reality.

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit his blog.

    http://www.lewrockwell.com

    © 2012 Copyright LewRockwell.com - All Rights Reserved
    Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

6 Critical Money Making Rules