Karl Marx, Real Business Cycle Theorist

Kudos to Benjamin Kunkel for trying to present an accessible Marxist account of the current financial crisis. I was struck reading the piece, though, by how similar the Kunkel/Harvery/Marx account of the crisis is to linguistically and ideologically quite different accounts from the right.

Essentially the Marxist and the real business cycle theorist are united in the view that these things happen and mass unemployment and prolonged periods of immiseration are just what happens in a market economy. The RBC stops there while the Marxist looks forward to the construction of an entirely new system along entirely new lines. The range of views associated with John Maynard Keynes and his followers or Milton Friedman and his followers says, essentially, no. A transient period of somewhat elevated unemployment could reflect a change in tastes—people decide they want fewer apples and more pears and various elements of the economic system need time to reshape themselves to fit the new conditions. But a prolonged period of widespread mass unemployment paired with a collapse in overall spending reflects something else. People haven’t decided they want fewer apples and more pears, they’ve decided they want fewer goods and services and more safe liquid financial instruments. What has to happen in response is that governments need to create more safe liquid financial instruments—more dollars, more euros, more Swiss & British sovereign debt—until people decide they’ve had enough and want to increase their demand for goods and services.