The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

An Elevator Story

03/08/2011

Yesterday, I was waiting for an elevator, when one of my favorite old economists walked up beside me. As the door opened, I asked him how he liked the conference so far. As we stepped inside, he answered “When I started attending this conference years ago, we were all Austrians.” By that, he meant all good economists obsessed over balanced annual budgets and maintaining our credit rating.

Continuing, he said “Then, we all became Keynesians.” By that, he meant we obsessed over the moral imperative to care for people who suffer during economic downturns by running budget deficits if necessary to increase economic growth.

Continuing again, he said “Then, we were all “Supply-Siders.” By that, he meant it was common wisdom that cutting taxes would stimulate the economy.

Shaking his head somewhat sadly as the door opened, and he headed toward the bar, the old professor concluded “Now, we are all Austrians again.”

I’m not sure what I stammered next, but I knew he was right. Suddenly, all economists find themselves preaching the virtues of good credit ratings.

At first, I thought this was a condemnation of economists, as being feckless, intellectual whores. Then, I realized he was agreeing with my long-held belief that no school of economics is right for all economic situations. There is a time and a place for Keynesian economics and another for Supply-Side economics, but it is not now.

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