Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Die Widerlegung der Friedmans

BERKELEY: Auf meinem Schreibtisch habe ich gerade das neue Buch des Reporters Timothy Noah, The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do about It, liegen und dazu Milton und Rose Friedmans Klassiker Free to Choose: A Personal Statement (deutsch: Chancen, die ich meine. Ein persönliches Bekenntnis.). Gemeinsam betrachtet, ist meine primäre Reaktion darauf, wie viel schwerer es den Friedmans heute fallen würden, den durch einen schlanken Staat charakterisierten Libertarismus zu begründen und zu propagieren, als dies 1979 der Fall war.

Damals stellten die Friedmans drei einflussreiche Tatsachenbehauptungen über die Weise auf, wie die Welt funktioniert – Behauptungen, die damals wahr oder möglicherweise wahr oder von ihrem Wahrheitsgehalt her zumindest diskutabel schienen, die jedoch heute ziemlich eindeutig falsch erscheinen. Ihre Begründung eines von einem schlanken Staat geprägten Libertarismus beruhte im Wesentlichen auf diesen Behauptungen und ist inzwischen mehr oder weniger in sich zusammengefallen, weil die Welt, wie sich zeigte, eben anders funktioniert als die Friedmans dachten.

Die erste Behauptung war, dass makroökonomische Probleme vom Staat und nicht vom instabilen privaten Markt verursacht werden oder vielmehr, dass die Form makroökonomischer Regulierung, die erforderlich ist, um für wirtschaftliche Stabilität zu sorgen, unkompliziert und ohne Weiteres erreichbar ist.

Die Friedmans stellten diese Behauptung immer in ihrer erstgenannten Form auf: Sie sagten, dass der Staat die Große Depression „verursacht“ hätte. Aber wenn man etwas nachbohrte, ergab sich, dass sie in Wirklichkeit die zweite Form meinten: Wann immer Instabilität am privaten Markt eine Depression zu verursachen drohte, könne die Regierung diese vermeiden oder eine schnelle Konjunkturerholung herbeiführen, indem sie einfach genügend Staatsanleihen aufkaufte, um die Volkswirtschaft mit Liquidität zu überfluten.

Anders ausgedrückt: Die strategische staatliche Intervention, die erforderlich sei, um für makroökonomische Stabilität zu sorgen, sei nicht nur unkompliziert, sondern zugleich von minimaler Art – die Behörden müssten nichts anderes tun, als für ein stabiles Wachstum der Geldmenge zu sorgen. Die aggressive und umfassende Intervention, die laut den Keynesianern erforderlich ist, um die Gesamtnachfrage zu steuern, und die laut den Anhängern Minskys erforderlich ist, um das Finanzrisiko zu steuern, sei absolut unnötig.

Echte Libertaristen haben den Friedmans ihre Behauptung, dass sie eine marktwirtschaftliche, „neutrale“ Geldpolitik propagierten, nie abgekauft: Ludwig von Mises nannte Milton Friedman und seine monetaristischen Anhänger bekanntermaßen einen „Haufen Sozialisten“. Doch ganz gleich, wie man sie verpackt: Die Ansicht, dass makroökonomische Stabilität nur eine minimale staatliche Intervention erfordert, ist schlicht falsch. In den USA hat Notenbankchef Ben Bernanke in der aktuellen Rezession das Friedman’sche Textbuch fehlerfrei umgesetzt, und das hat nicht gereicht, um Vollbeschäftigung zu bewahren oder schnell wiederherzustellen.

Die zweite Behauptung war, dass externe Effekte relativ unbedeutend oder zumindest besser über das Vertrags- und Deliktrecht zu regeln seien als durch staatliche Regulierung, weil die Nachteile staatlicher Regulierung die durch jene Effekte, die das Rechtssystem nicht ordnungsgemäß handhaben könne, verursachten Schäden überwögen. Auch hier scheint die Realität Free to Choose zu wiedersprechen. In den USA wird dies besonders an der sich wandelnden Haltung zu Kunstfehlerprozessen deutlich, wo die Libertaristen die Gerichte inzwischen nicht mehr als bevorzugtes Forum für den Umgang mit medizinischen Risiken und Fehlern betrachten.

Die dritte und wichtigste Behauptung ist Gegenstand von Timothy Noahs The Great Divergence. Im Jahre 1979 konnten die Friedmans noch selbstbewusst behaupten, dass die Marktwirtschaft ohne staatlich verordnete Diskriminierung (wie z.B. die Jim-Crow-Gesetze zur Rassentrennung im Süden der USA) eine ausreichend egalitäre Einkommensverteilung gewährleisten würde. Schließlich hatte es während der gesamten Zeit nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg so ausgesehen – zumindest für jene, die nicht unter rechtlicher Diskriminierung oder ihren Folgen litten.

Die Friedmans argumentierten daher, dass ein minimales Sicherheitsnetz für jene, die durch Unglück oder einen Mangel an Vorsorge in Not geraten seien, sowie die Beseitigung aller rechtlichen Barrieren für Chancengleichheit zu den gerechtesten möglichen Ergebnissen führen würden. Gewinnorientierte Arbeitgeber, die talentierte Arbeitnehmer nützten und förderten, würden uns so nahe an eine freie Gesellschaft assoziierter Produzenten heranbringen, wie dies in dieser gefallenen, sublunaren Sphäre möglich sei.

Auch hier wurden die Hoffnungen der Friedmans enttäuscht. Das Ende der amerikanischen Überlegenheit im Bildungsbereich, der Zusammenbruch der Gewerkschaften im Privatsektor, die Entstehung einer informationszeitalterlichen Wirtschaftsordnung, in der der Gewinner alles kriegt und der Verlierer nichts, sowie die Rückkehr einer Hochfinanz wie im Gilded Age haben für eine außerordentlich ungleiche Einkommensverteilung gesorgt, die die kommende Generation belasten und der Chancengleichheit Hohn sprechen wird.

Es wäre schön gewesen, wenn das vor einer Generation in Free to Choose vorgelegte politische Programm den Versprechungen der Friedmans gerecht geworden wäre. Es wäre schön gewesen, wenn staatliche Nichteinmischung in die Wirtschaft unter Bereitstellung lediglich eines minimalen Sicherheitsnetzes, der Gerichte und einer stetig wachsenden Geldmenge zu einer relativ gleichen und wohlhabenden Gesellschaft mit Vollbeschäftigung und Chancengleichheit geführt hätte.

Doch leider scheint dies nicht die Welt zu sein, in der wir leben.

Aus dem Englischen von Jan Doolan

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  1. CommentedLudwig van den Hauwe

    But note that Milton Friedman (with Anna Schartz) in 1986 published a paper "Has Government Any Role in Money?" in the Journal of Monetary Economics in which he came perhaps as close as he ever did to the viewpoint of the "real libertarians", as you call them, by concluding that "leaving monetary and banking arrangements to the market would have produced a more satisfactory outcome than was actually achieved through governmental involvement." The view of these "real libertarians" is that we are experiencing the present troubles because of credit expansion and interest rate manipulation engineered by the central banks (among other forms of intervention) and that the true solution is to be found not at the level of monetary policy, but at the level of institutional reform, in particular the abolishment of central banks and the establishment of free banking. It is quite understandable that academics at leading universities cannot afford to risk their reputations by discussing such revolutionary proposals, given that these are poltiically totally infeasable in the forseeable future anyway, but I haven´t heard any one good theoretical argument refuting the views of the free bankers. The free banking argument is a particular application of Mises´ more general argument tending to demonstrate the impossibility of socialism; prices are bottom-up social phenomena and when you start manipulating them (or trying to do so) in a top-down fashion, the result can only be chaos and economic discoordination.

  2. CommentedDarko Oracic

    Milton Friedman criticized central banks for creating economic instablity by overreacting. Central bankers tend to overreact because they lack both knowledge and patience. No other theory describes better what has happened in recent years. Both the Fed and the ECB overreacted to high inlation (caused by previous overly expansionary policy), raised interest rates too high and caused the Great Recession. The fact that leading economists don't see the obvious reflects the sorry state of today's macroeconomics. We miss Milton Friedman dearly.

    1. CommentedCraig Hardt

      Actually, Darko, the great recession happened because of artificially high prices in the U.S. housing market stemming from the financial innovation known as mortgage-backed-securities (MBS). As interest rates were low, investors looked for higher yields both in emerging markets and in bond-like securities created to satisfy demand for these supposedly less risky (relative to equities) assets. Unfortunately, as ratings agencies continued to offer high credit ratings on these MBS, most failed to realize that mortgages were being handed out like candy to home buyers completely incapable of staying on top of their overpriced mortgages. When the inevitable crash in housing prices happened, investors were suddenly left with huge amounts of valueless MBS. Due to another financial innovation (credit-default swaps) they were usually highly leveraged in these untenable investment positions. The result was the collapse of the financial markets around the world, and subsequently, the great recession.

      Central banks raising interest rates had nothing to do with causing the great recession. In fact, had the raised interest rates earlier on during the housing boom, it may have limited exposure in the financial markets to MBS as more investors would have put their money in traditional bonds.

  3. CommentedJonathan Lam

    Gamesmith94134: Re-Capturing the Friedmans

    “Alas, that did not happen. And it did not happen because the world described by the Friedmans is not the world in which we live.”

    Friedman did give credits in the monetarism that small-government libertarianism in stimulating the economy in selling bonds to produce growth and stabilize the social development. The theory on liquidity and sustainability came across the margin of affordability made the resources finite and perpetuity on growth should aligned with its modifications like inflation and deflation to adjust the pace of growth. However, our government sees monetarism as the tool to eliminate inflation and deflation; and the recent social safety net like education and medical shifted to commercialism that broke line; since then, the government attempt to shift its cost to the public. Later, the sub-prime rate lending to house laid a heavy load on the government when the economy was overly stimulated with lesser employment or out-sourced from the factories, which caused the stagnated labor cost and created a downward spiral in the margin of affordability that the most middle class supports and grows on.

    At first, the suppression of recession by cutting interest rate and reality of the support of the margin of affordability, our government lied about the reality of the sub-prime housing debtors which relied on the inflated price of their house to sustain its margin of affordability. The capitalization of the real estate market collapsed after the halt of inflation and stagnated labor cost and job positions were out-sourced.

    Secondly, the cut of the support from the middle class in the financial make most capital market search on the short term investment and commodity market, it made the capital market worse that it went to the emerging market nations for a short term investment and lesser for the local development after the local real estate market turned sour.

    Thirdly, Americans, the consumers of the world, were heavy in debts after the credit exhausted. Then the flight of cash flow toward the emerging market nations took the credits with them when the banks are insoluble and bankrupted. Our government bailed them out with trillions of bonds that FED loaned with low interest. Then, the argument on the sustainability and liquidity is greatly disrupted by the margin of affordability that our government took its liberty to marketing the capitals of social goods like education and medication to fit its budgets.

    Perhaps, what we talk about undercutting the recession or depression, government participates in shifting the cost of social goods to its publics and deforming the nature of the business cycles like inflation, recession that made monetarism works on its own merits. I certainly said we deserve a depression locally and globally if we subjectively let monetarism works to adjust to all claims including government’s too.

    May the Buddha bless you?

  4. Commented Elizabeth Pula

    Here's a link to a super little interview that adds a bit of aspects and in depth perspective to DeLong's super little article:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/how-economists-have-misunderstood-inequality/2012/05/03/gIQAOZf5yT_blog.html

  5. Commented Elizabeth Pula

    Absolutely excellent analytical report, and methodology report on EPI.org.Written by Lawrence Mishel and Natalie Sabadish-05/02/2012
    http://www.epi.org/publication/ib331-ceo-pay-top-1-percent/
    The report is comparison of top 350 CEO salaries and options etc. to production workforce since the 1970's and through 2011- As factual as can be available from as reliable sources as possible.

  6. Commented Elizabeth Pula

    The only problem today is that we are no longer dealing with market economies. There is no egalitarian distribution of income because we are dealing with various systems of organizational rotating exploitation. Economies are only one activity of the systems.

  7. CommentedLanny Arvan

    "But, whatever its packaging, the belief that macroeconomic stability requires only minimal government intervention is simply wrong. In the United States, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has executed the Friedmanite playbook flawlessly in the current downturn, and it has not been enough to preserve or rapidly restore full employment."

    The above seems to be a closed economy analysis. Don't we need as well an open economy perspective and consider what European (and Asian) central bankers have done? Perhaps in the 1930s, a closed economy analysis was sufficient. How can one believe that now? I'm no fan of Milton Friedman, but were he alive today wouldn't he be talking about global monetary policy?

    He would then lose on the point that the right stabilization was straightforward and minimal, but he could still win on the idea that if the central bankers coordinated in the right way they could restore things.

  8. CommentedPaul A. Myers

    What now seems desirable is that government through fiscal and other policy techniques maintain a constant level of growth of demand that would result in a steadily growing employment base. Monetary policy should be a subordinate tool used to attain the overall goal.

    A very overlooked aspect of government regulation and programs is that government is the big instrument of risk reduction. Risk reduction is crucial to stable growth and provides the social framework in which private capital can earn its best rate of return. The striking example of government's role in risk reduction was the great success of postwar government-sponsored mortgage finance, which was possibly the single biggest contributing factor to sustainable, stable economic growth.

    That the Bush administration so recklessly supported the undermining of this pillar of stability still does not get the level of opprobrium that it so richly deserves, probably because so many other failures have crowded this failure to the sidelines.

    The policy architects of the modern Republican party have used Friedmanism as a pretext to undermine the effectiveness of government in what too often is just a cheap arbitrage against public policy and public welfare.

    Everything around us in the economic sphere says that Keynesian demand management works and that over-reliance on monetary policy as a silver bullet doesn't. And way too many Democrats in Washington DC simply don't grasp the Keynesian framework; they think the chairman of the Federal Reserve is the sole official responsible for the prosperity of the American economy. Then of course we could start talking about Europe....

  9. CommentedKonrad Kerridge

    The Author understates his points. Perhaps because he is a product of and immersed in US-based economic thinking and perhaps is targeting US readers. I believe there are few non US educated serious economists (perhaps a few, say in the UK) who would still argue that the points that Friedman made provide the most useful economic framework. To most, this is an old discredited paradigm of economics. To many economists outside of the US, I suspect that the importance and omnipresence of market failures means that they are central to any new paradigm of economics. Additionally, I suspect that the dominant non-US view is that 'laissez faire' economics CREATES inequality and can also create poverty when and where growth is inadequate, which is frequently. Finally I suggest that Freidman's view that economics and politics can be separated and that only minimal government involvement is required in markets is anachronistic. Government failures are acknowledged as are market failures but it perhaps is not useful to think of them as such separate entities in such an interwoven system.

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