Someone in the Austrian camp said that large-scale inflation could be in our future, so now every Austrian is predicting hyperinflation all of the time. And since we don't have hyperinflation, why then every aspect of Austrian Economics must be totally wrong.
Today, Krugman is claiming that an error in an influential paper written by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard is responsible for "destroy(ing) the economies of the Western world." According to the paper, if a government's debt exceeds 90 percent of a nation's GDP, then economic growth will tail off "sharply." However, some researchers looking at the data have concluded that the paper's methodology was fatally flawed and that there was no real 90 percent threshold, although higher levels of debt did correlate with lower growth rates.
According to Krugman, this paper was the deciding factor in "austerity" plans for governments in the West, and since "austerity" is bad, the paper played an important role in economic destruction. However, there is only one problem with that thesis: Krugman's commentary itself undercuts the paper's influence. He writes:
For the truth is that Reinhart-Rogoff faced substantial criticism from the start, and the controversy grew over time. As soon as the paper was released, many economists pointed out that a negative correlation between debt and economic performance need not mean that high debt causes low growth. It could just as easily be the other way around, with poor economic performance leading to high debt. Indeed, that’s obviously the case for Japan, which went deep into debt only after its growth collapsed in the early 1990s.OK, here is the problem. If economists from the start doubted its accuracy, then how can one also say that this paper -- THIS paper -- had such a powerful impact that most of the political leaders of the western world fully embraced everything these economists claimed and then designed their economic plans accordingly. This just does not make sense.
Over time, another problem emerged: Other researchers, using seemingly comparable data on debt and growth, couldn’t replicate the Reinhart-Rogoff results. They typically found some correlation between high debt and slow growth — but nothing that looked like a tipping point at 90 percent or, indeed, any particular level of debt.
The U.S. Government continues to borrow at an astounding rate, Japan is openly attempting to print jillions of yen, and the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve System are flooding the world with euros and dollars. Furthermore, as Bob Murphy already has pointed out, the only thing Krugman and other Keynesians deem to be acceptable as economic recovery is another boom, yet it was the unsustainable boom that got us into trouble in the first place.
Does Krugman think that this time governments will be better able to manage future financial bubbles or that booms won't run aground if Krugmanites are calling the shots? Somehow, I doubt seriously that another unsustainable boom is the answer.
So, we have Krugman claiming that what the world economies needed was more debt and, thus, also more printing of money. To put it another way, what Paul Krugman is claiming is that an Inflation Fairy is not enough. No, we also need a visit from the friendly Debt Fairy.