BERKELEY – Before 2008, I taught my students that the United States was a flexible economy. It had employers who were willing to gamble and hire when they saw unemployed workers who would be productive; and it had workers who were willing to move to opportunity, or to try something new in order to get a job. As bosses and entrepreneurial workers took a chance, supply would create its own demand.
Yes, I used to say, adverse shocks to spending could indeed create mass unemployment and idle capacity, but their effects would be limited to one, two, or at most three years. And each year after the initial downturn had ended, the US economy would recover roughly 40% of the ground between its current situation and its full employment potential.