The Great Depression is considered one of the darkest times for the US economy, but some argue that the US economy experienced strong productivity growth over the period. This column reassesses this performance using improved measures of total factor productivity that allow for comparisons of productivity growth in the Depression era and in later decades. Contrary to Alvin Hansen’s gloomy prognosis of secular stagnation, the US economy was in a very strong position during the 1930s by today’s standards.
Gerben Bakker, Nicholas Crafts, Pieter Woltjer, 05 February 2016
Richard Baldwin, 25 December 2015
Team Vox wishes to thanks all its readers and contributors for making 2015 a great year for the site. Vox will post no new columns between 25 December 2015 and 2 January 2016. There is, however, plenty to catch up on. This column presents a list of topical columns written by leading economists in 2015. It also presents a few statistics on Vox’s popularity.
Minouche Shafik, 25 June 2015
UK long-term yields are extraordinarily low. This could be interpreted as financial markets expecting prolonged low growth or low inflation, or both. This column argues that this view is overly gloomy. Factors pulling down today’s inflation are unlikely to be permanent, and the economic headwinds should ease gradually. Additionally, a return to productivity growth should facilitate faster potential output growth over the long term. A more likely interpretation is that low yields reflect precautionary actions by public and private financial-market participants to reduce vulnerabilities to adverse outcomes.
Willem Buiter, Ebrahim Rahbari, Joe Seydl, 05 June 2015
Stagnation is gripping several of the world’s largest economies and many view this as secular, not transient. This column argues that many economies need both demand-side stimulus and supply-side reform to close the output gap and restore potential-output growth. A combined monetary-fiscal stimulus – i.e. helicopter money – is needed to close the output gap, and this should be accompanied with extensive debt restructuring, policies to halt rising inequality, and additional public infrastructure investment.
Roger Backhouse, Mauro Boianovsky, 19 May 2015
The notion of secular stagnation – a state of negligible or zero economic growth – is back in the headlines. Questions naturally arise about its intellectual antecedents. This column discusses how the concept rose and fell with the economic fortunes of advanced industrialised nations. Political trends and trends in economic theory played a part in its trajectory, with the notion closely connected to the idea that the level of government debt should be allowed to rise.
Robert E. Hall, 22 April 2015
The disappointing post-Crisis performance of the US economy and even more disappointing performance of continental Europe and Japan have revived interest in the possibility of secular stagnation. This column argues that a consensus is forming that inadequate demand will no longer be a factor in whatever US stagnation occurs in coming years. In Japan and Europe, on the other hand, the case for boosting demand is strong and inadequate demand is almost surely a main cause of the stagnation.
Kenneth Rogoff, 22 April 2015
Weak, post-Crisis growth has been blamed on secular stagnation. This column argues that the debt super-cycle view provides a more accurate and useful framework for understanding what has transpired and what is likely to come next. The difference matters. Unlike secular stagnation, a debt super-cycle is not forever. After deleveraging and borrowing headwinds subside, expected growth trends might prove higher than simple extrapolations of recent performance might suggest.
Juan Antolin-Diaz, Thomas Drechsel, Ivan Petrella, 17 February 2015
Evidence of a decline in long-run growth is accumulating. However, many important questions remain unanswered. The analysis in column employs recent econometric techniques to provide an answer to some of the pertinent questions. The findings indicate that the weakness of the current recovery in the G7 is associated with a decline in the long-run growth rate of labour productivity.
Simon Wren-Lewis, 30 January 2015
The anaemic recovery from the Global Crisis and the downward trend in real interest rates since 1980 have revived interest in the idea of secular stagnation. This column argues that if the US, UK, and Eurozone had not pursued contractionary fiscal policies from 2010 onwards, the recovery would not have been so slow and nominal interest rates would no longer be at the zero lower bound. Expanding the stock of government debt would have ameliorated, not worsened, the shortage of safe assets.
Paul De Grauwe, 30 January 2015
Nowhere in the developed world is secular stagnation more visible than in the Eurozone. This column explains this phenomenon with asymmetric external balances within the Eurozone. Southern countries had accumulated current-account deficits and became debtors when the Crisis hit, whereas the northern ones became creditors. The burden of the adjustments has been borne almost exclusively by the debtor countries creating a deflationary bias. Suggested fiscal policy prescriptions are government investment programmes, to be implemented by northern countries (and in particular, Germany).
Axel Gottfries, Coen Teulings, 30 January 2015
The secular stagnation hypothesis has gained traction in the aftermath of the Global Crisis. This column argues that demography has played an important role in reducing the interest rates. The increase in life expectancy, which has not been offset by an increase in the retirement age, has led to an increase in the stocks of savings. The latter will go into price increases for assets in fixed supply – such as housing – rather than in adding new capital. Potential remedies for absorbing the extra savings are increasing the retirement age and an extension of the pay-as-you-go benefit systems.
Coen Teulings, 30 January 2015
To many observers, the long-lasting, underwhelming performance of growth, employment and investment suggests that something fundamental has changed with the way advanced economies’ macroeconomies are working. One leading explanation – the notion of ‘Secular Stagnation’ – has gained traction among some economists and policymakers while being rejected by others. This column opens a Vox Debate on Secular Stagnations which will involve frequent, invited ‘Lead Commentaries’ on all issues surrounding concept and its implications for policy, analysis and research.
Brian Pinto, 17 December 2014
Since the Global Crisis, concerns have grown that advanced economies are suffering from secular stagnation. This column discusses the lessons that can be learnt from the economic transition of central and eastern Europe and the emerging-market crises of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Structural reform is particularly costly in the context of a debt overhang and an overvalued exchange rate. However, the crux is not debt restructuring per se, but whether economic governance changes credibly for the better following it.
Kristina Morkunaite, Felix Huefner, 27 November 2014
The post-Crisis G7 economies have suffered weak business investment despite record low interest rates and the favourable financial positions of corporates. Some consider this the ‘new normal’ arising from secular, supply-side forces that have contributed to declining potential growth rates. This column argues that structural factors alone are not sufficient to explain the current weakness in investment rates. There is thus room for positive surprise if companies realise the pent-up investment demand.
Lawrence H. Summers, 30 October 2014
The notion that Europe and other advanced economies are suffering secular stagnation is gaining traction. This column by Larry Summers – first published in the Vox eBook “Secular Stagnation: Facts, Causes and Cures” – explains the idea. It argues that a decline in the full-employment real interest rate coupled with low inflation could indefinitely prevent the attainment of full employment.
Mateusz Szczurek, 05 September 2014
The ‘lost decade’ is not a scenario for the EU, it’s the baseline forecast. In this column, Polish Finance Minister Mateusz Szczurek calls for an EU-wide public investment programme of 5.5% of GDP to overcome the constraints behind Europe’s ‘secular stagnation’. He calculates that €700 billion of capital expenditures could close the output gap in the short term while increasing long-term productivity growth. Funded by EU members and private leverage, it could operate as a special-purpose vehicle under the EIB.
Coen Teulings, Richard Baldwin, 10 September 2014
The CEPR Press eBook on secular stagnation has been viewed over 80,000 times since it was published on 15 August 2014. The PDF remains freely downloadable, but as the European debate on secular stagnation is moving into policy circles, we decided to also make it a Kindle book. This is available from Amazon; all proceeds will help defray VoxEU expenses.
Claudio Borio, Piti Disyatat, 25 June 2014
Real interest rates have fallen to historic lows, and some economists are concerned that an era of secular stagnation has begun. This column highlights the role of policy frameworks and financial factors – particularly debt – in linking low real interest rates and sluggish economic growth. Policies that do not lean against booms but ease aggressively and persistently in busts induce a downward bias in interest rates over time and an upward bias in debt levels – something akin to a debt trap. Low real interest rates may thus be self-reinforcing and not always ‘natural’.
Jan Willem van den End , Jakob de Haan, 28 March 2014
While many economists argue that demand stimulus is needed, this column argues that supply side measures are necessary to avoid secular stagnation. In the Eurozone, it is necessary to clean up and strengthen the balance sheets of banks, which can kick-start the flow of new lending. The comprehensive assessment by the ECB is an important step in this direction.