The U.K. is the poster child for Keynesian stupidity carried out to extreme levels. In an extremely well written article, Matthew Lynn, a Bloomberg columnist discusses the sorry state of British affairs in Deathbed of Keynesian Economics Will Be in U.K.
The U.K. has produced notable economists over the years, but John Maynard Keynes, the guru of government intervention, was one of truly global significance.
So it may be fitting that the U.K. will also become the deathbed of Keynesian economics.
Britain has been following the mainstream prescriptions of his followers more than any developed nation. It has cut interest rates, pumped up government spending, printed money like crazy, and nationalized almost half the banking industry.
Short of digging Karl Marx out of his London grave, and putting him in charge, it is hard to see how the state could get more involved in the economy.
The results will be dire. The economy is flat on its back, unemployment is rising, the pound is sinking, and the bond markets are bracketing the country with Greece and Portugal in the category marked “bankruptcy imminent.” At some point soon, even the most loyal disciples of Keynes will have to admit defeat, and accept that a radical change of direction is needed.
The U.K. has been in Keynes overdrive for the past 18 months. The budget deficit is already more than 12 percent of gross domestic product, on a par with Greece. And while the Greeks are cutting spending, the British deficit is widening. Figures for January showed another fiscal blowout. At the same time, interest rates have been slashed to 0.5 percent. And the pound has slumped in value, which is supposed to boost demand for British goods, and help close the trade gap.
Just about everything possible has been done to encourage consumption. The results have been miserable.
Retail sales excluding gasoline in January fell 1.2 percent from the previous month, twice as much as economists forecast. The number of people receiving unemployment benefits jumped to 1.64 million in January, the highest level since April 1997. The yield on U.K. government debt is now higher than on Spanish or Italian bonds, a sure sign that investors are losing faith in the country’s ability to pay its debts. The inflation rate has also accelerated to 3.5 percent.
In reality, Britain has the worst of all possible worlds: a stagnant economy, a crippling budget deficit and rising prices.
The Keynesian consensus is that things would have been far worse without the stimulus provided by government. And if the economy isn’t pumped up with inflated demand, it will collapse back into recession. If it’s not working, that just proves the stimulus should be even larger.
It is the argument quacks always push: If the medicine isn’t working, increase the dosage.
There is much more to see in the article, including a well deserved swat at Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Robert Solow who want the U.K. to spend still more.
Please check out the article. The only thing Matthew Lynn forgot to do was give Paul Krugman a much needed wakeup slap across the face.
Then again, history has proven that Keynesian economists are perpetually in a state of stupor, immune to reality, coffee, and even repeated wakeup slaps, no matter how forcefully administered, even by the economy itself.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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