financial crisis bailout protestors Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Myth of Secular Stagnation

Those responsible for managing the 2008 recovery found the idea of secular stagnation attractive, because it explained their failures to achieve a quick, robust recovery. So, as the economy languished, a concept born during the Great Depression of the 1930s was revived.

NEW YORK – In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, some economists argued that the United States, and perhaps the global economy, was suffering from “secular stagnation,” an idea first conceived in the aftermath of the Great Depression. Economies had always recovered from downturns. But the Great Depression had lasted an unprecedented length of time. Many believed that the economy recovered only because of government spending on World War II, and many feared that with the end of the war, the economy would return to its doldrums.

Something, it was believed, had happened, such that even with low or zero interest rates, the economy would languish. For reasons now well understood, these dire predictions fortunately turned out to be wrong.

Those responsible for managing the 2008 recovery (the same individuals bearing culpability for the under-regulation of the economy in its pre-crisis days, to whom President Barack Obama inexplicably turned to fix what they had helped break) found the idea of secular stagnation attractive, because it explained their failures to achieve a quick, robust recovery. So, as the economy languished, the idea was revived: Don’t blame us, its promoters implied, we’re doing what we can.

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