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Money in a Free Society: Keynes, Friedman, and the New Crisis in Capitalism [Hardcover]

Tim Congdon

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Book Description

10 Nov 2011 1594035245 978-1594035241
In the 15 years to mid-2007 the world economy enjoyed unparalleled stability (the so-called "Great Moderation"), with steady growth and low inflation. But the period since mid-2007 ("the Great Recession") has seen the worst macroeconomic turmoil since the 1930s. A dramatic plunge in trade, output and employment in late 2008 and 2009 has been followed by an unconvincing recovery. How is the lurch from stability to instability to be explained? What are the intellectual origins of the policy mistakes that led to the Great Recession? What theories motivated policies in the USA and other leading nations? Which ideas about economic policy have proved right? And which have been wrong? Money in a Free Society contains 18 provocative essays on these questions from Tim Congdon, an influential economic adviser to the Thatcher government in the UK and one of the world's leading monetary commentators. Congdon argues that academic economists and policy-makers have betrayed the intellectual legacy of both Keynes and Friedman. These two great economists believed -- if in somewhat different ways -- in the need for steady growth in the quantity of money. But Keynes has been misunderstood as advocating big rises in public spending and large budget deficits as the only way to defeat recession. That has led under President Obama to an unsustainable explosion in American public debt. Meanwhile the Fed has ignored extreme volatility in the rate of money growth, contrary to the central message of Friedman's analytical work. In his 1923 Tract on Monetary Reform Keynes said, "The Individualistic Capitalism of today, precisely because it entrusts saving to the individual investor and production to the individual employer, presumes a stable measuring-rod of value, and cannot be efficient--perhaps cannot survive--without one." In Money in a Free Society Congdon calls for a return to stable money growth and sound public finances, and argues that these remain the best answers to the problems facing modern capitalism.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Must read guide to our economy 14 Jan 2013
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This is an important book that corrects some prevalent myths about Keynes, Friedman, and how our economy works. He demonstrates, first, that Keynes' followers today, including big names like Paul Krugman, have misunderstood and distorted Keynes' legacy. Congdon shows that Keynes paid much more attention to monetary policy than his followers, and thus Keynes is much closer to Milton Friedman than most economists are aware of. It was Friedman's monetary policies that were responsible for the Great Moderation, the economic prosperity of the 80s and 90s.

He also shows that deficit spending doesn't work to stimulate the economy. What matters is monetary (Federal Reserve) policy, specifically the quantity of money. The recent Quantitative Easings (QE) are the correct response to the Great Recession, not jobs programs or even tax cuts.

Congdon argues convincingly that the US government was actually responsible for much of the Great Recession, by mistakenly trying to get banks to lend more (a policy that failed), and other misbegotten policies. Overall, this is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the sorry state of our current economic policies (both government and academic) and how the economy actually works, what is needed to stimulate the economy.

The basic recipe for economic growth is actually pretty simple. First of all, to prevent or correct a recession, the Federal Reserve needs to monitor the quantity of money (not just interest rates): buying and selling bonds in order to inject money into economy, and tighten money when inflation gets too high. Second, keep the budget deficit and government spending under control. Government spending does not create wealth, and monopolizes investment money that could go to more productive uses. Third, let the free market work. The Federal Government shouldn't play favorites. Special-interest groups currently dominate Federal spending. Government regulations and bureaucracy are an enormous drag on growth.
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