Zijn economen ergens goed voor?

NEW HAVEN – Sinds de mondiale financiële crisis en recessie van 2007-2009 is de kritiek op het vak economie toegenomen. Het feit dat niemand, behalve een klein aantal professionele economen, erin slaagde om deze episode – waar de effecten nog steeds van na-ijlen  – te voorspellen, heeft velen zich doen afvragen of het economisch vakgebied überhaupt iets waardevols bijdraagt aan de maatschappij. Als economen al niet in staat waren om iets te voorspellen dat zo belangrijk is voor het menselijk welbevinden, wat kunnen ze dan wel?

Economen faalden inderdaad de meeste grote crises van afgelopen eeuw te voorspellen, waaronder de ernstige deflatiecrisis in 1920-1921, de elkaar opvolgende recessies van 1980-1982, en de ergste van allemaal, de grote crisis van de jaren dertig na de beurskrach van 1929. Tijdens onderzoek in de nieuwsarchieven naar het jaar voor het begin van deze recessies vond ik vrijwel geen enkele waarschuwing van economen dat er een ernstige crisis aan zat te komen. In plaats daarvan legden de kranten de nadruk op de over het algemeen zeer optimistische visies van zakenlieden en politici.

Wat het meeste op een echte waarschuwing leek kwam voor de crisis van ’80-’82. In 1979 vertelde de vicevoorzitter van de Federal Reserve Paul A. Volcker het Joint Economic Committee van het Amerikaanse Congres dat de VS te maken zou krijgen met ‘onaangename economische omstandigheden’ en behoefte had aan ‘harde beslissingen, soberheid, en zelfs offers.’ De waarschijnlijkheid dat de Fed drastische stappen zou moeten nemen om de gierende inflatie te beteugelen, samen met de gevolgen van de oliecrisis van 1979, maakten een ernstige recessie vrij aannemelijk.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in

  1. Television sets showing a news report on Xi Jinping's speech Anthony Wallace/Getty Images

    Empowering China’s New Miracle Workers

    China’s success in the next five years will depend largely on how well the government manages the tensions underlying its complex agenda. In particular, China’s leaders will need to balance a muscular Communist Party, setting standards and protecting the public interest, with an empowered market, driving the economy into the future.

  2. United States Supreme Court Hisham Ibrahim/Getty Images

    The Sovereignty that Really Matters

    The preference of some countries to isolate themselves within their borders is anachronistic and self-defeating, but it would be a serious mistake for others, fearing contagion, to respond by imposing strict isolation. Even in states that have succumbed to reductionist discourses, much of the population has not.

  3.  The price of Euro and US dollars Daniel Leal Olivas/Getty Images

    Resurrecting Creditor Adjustment

    When the Bretton Woods Agreement was hashed out in 1944, it was agreed that countries with current-account deficits should be able to limit temporarily purchases of goods from countries running surpluses. In the ensuing 73 years, the so-called "scarce-currency clause" has been largely forgotten; but it may be time to bring it back.

  4. Leaders of the Russian Revolution in Red Square Keystone France/Getty Images

    Trump’s Republican Collaborators

    Republican leaders have a choice: they can either continue to collaborate with President Donald Trump, thereby courting disaster, or they can renounce him, finally putting their country’s democracy ahead of loyalty to their party tribe. They are hardly the first politicians to face such a decision.

  5. Angela Merkel, Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron John Thys/Getty Images

    How Money Could Unblock the Brexit Talks

    With talks on the UK's withdrawal from the EU stalled, negotiators should shift to the temporary “transition” Prime Minister Theresa May officially requested last month. Above all, the negotiators should focus immediately on the British budget contributions that will be required to make an orderly transition possible.

  6. Ksenia Sobchak Mladlen Antonov/Getty Images

    Is Vladimir Putin Losing His Grip?

    In recent decades, as President Vladimir Putin has entrenched his authority, Russia has seemed to be moving backward socially and economically. But while the Kremlin knows that it must reverse this trajectory, genuine reform would be incompatible with the kleptocratic character of Putin’s regime.

  7. Right-wing parties hold conference Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

    Rage Against the Elites

    • With the advantage of hindsight, four recent books bring to bear diverse perspectives on the West’s current populist moment. 
    • Taken together, they help us to understand what that moment is and how it arrived, while reminding us that history is contingent, not inevitable

    Global Bookmark

    Distinguished thinkers review the world’s most important new books on politics, economics, and international affairs.

  8. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Bill Clark/Getty Images

    Don’t Bank on Bankruptcy for Banks

    As a part of their efforts to roll back the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, congressional Republicans have approved a measure that would have courts, rather than regulators, oversee megabank bankruptcies. It is now up to the Trump administration to decide if it wants to set the stage for a repeat of the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008.