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Real Business Cycle Theory and the Great Depression : The Abandonment of the Absentionist Viewpoint

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  • Michel, DE VROEY

    (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Department of Economics)

  • Luca, PENSIEROSO

    (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Department of Economics)

Abstract

Is the Great Depression amenable to real business cycle theory ? In the 1970s and 1980s Lucas and Prescott took an abstentionist stance. They admitted that, because of its exceptional character, an explanation of the Great Depression was beyond the grasp of the equilibrium approach to the business cycle. However while Lucas stuck to this view, we show that Prescott changed his mind at the end of the 1990s breaking his earlier self-imposed restraint. In this paper we document this evolution of opinion and produce a first assessment of real business cycle models of the Great Depression. We claim that the fact of having consctructed an equilibrium model of the Great Depression constitutes a methodological breakthrough. However, as far as substance is concerned, we argue that the contribution of real business cycle literature on the Great Depression is slim, and does not gain the upper hand over the works of economic historians. We conclude suggesting that historical episodes may exist for which the modelisation method of real business cycle theory is inferior to the ‘tick’ sort of analysis that is proper to econoic historians.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Université catholique de Louvain, Département des Sciences Economiques in its series Discussion Papers (ECON - Département des Sciences Economiques) with number 2005054.

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Length: 30
Date of creation: 01 Nov 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvec:2005054

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Keywords: Great Depression; New Classical Marcroeconomics; Real Business Cycle Theory; Equilibrium; Unemployment;

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References

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  1. Temin, Peter & Wigmore, Barrie A., 1990. "The end of one big deflation," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 483-502, October.
  2. Brian Snowdon & Howard Vane, 1998. "Transforming macroeconomics: an interview with Robert E. Lucas Jr," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(1), pages 115-146.
  3. Lee E. Ohanian, 2002. "Why did productivity fall so much during the Great Depression?," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr.
  4. Timothy J. Kehoe & Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Great Depressions of the Twentieth Century," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 5(1), pages 1-18, January.
  5. Edward C. Prescott, 1986. "Response to a skeptic," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Fall, pages 28-33.
  6. Edward C. Prescott, 1999. "Some observations on the Great Depression," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 25-29.
  7. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2004. "New Deal Policies and the Persistence of the Great Depression: A General Equilibrium Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(4), pages 779-816, August.
  8. Michel, DE VROEY, 2005. "Involuntary Unemployment : the Elusive Quest for a Theory," Discussion Papers (ECON - Département des Sciences Economiques) 2005004, Université catholique de Louvain, Département des Sciences Economiques.
  9. Luca Pensieroso, 2007. "Real Business Cycle Models Of The Great Depression: A Critical Survey," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 21(1), pages 110-142, 02.
  10. Romer, Christina D, 1990. "The Great Crash and the Onset of the Great Depression," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(3), pages 597-624, August.
  11. Yngve Abrahamsen & Roland Aeppli & Erdal Atukeren & Michael Graff & Christian Müller & Bernd Ships, 2005. "The Swiss Disease: Facts and Artefacts, A Reply to Kehoe and Prescott," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 8(3), pages 749-758, July.
  12. Bernanke, Ben S, 1995. "The Macroeconomics of the Great Depression: A Comparative Approach," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(1), pages 1-28, February.
  13. Rees, Albert, 1970. "On Equilibrium in Labor Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(2), pages 306-10, March-Apr.
  14. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2001. "Re-Examining the Contributions of Money and Banking Shocks to the U.S. Great Depression," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2000, Volume 15, pages 183-260 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Christina D. Romer, 1991. "What Ended the Great Depression?," NBER Working Papers 3829, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 1999. "The Great Depression in the United States from a neoclassical perspective," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 2-24.
  17. Edward C. Prescott, 1983. ""Can the cycle be reconciled with a consistent theory of expectations?" - or a progress report on business cycle theory," Working Papers 239, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  18. Lucas, Robert E, Jr & Rapping, Leonard A, 1969. "Real Wages, Employment, and Inflation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(5), pages 721-54, Sept./Oct.
  19. repec:cup:macdyn:v:3:y:1999:i:2:p:278-91 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. McCallum, Bennett T., 1999. "An Interview With Robert E. Lucas, Jr," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(02), pages 278-291, June.
  21. Lawrence H. Summers, 1986. "Some skeptical observations on real business cycle theory," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Fall, pages 23-27.
  22. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2002. "The U.S. and U.K. Great Depressions Through the Lens of Neoclassical Growth Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 28-32, May.
  23. Lucas, Robert E, Jr & Rapping, Leonard A, 1972. "Unemployment in the Great Depression: Is There a Full Explanation?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(1), pages 186-91, Jan.-Feb..
  24. Barry Eichengreen & Peter Temin, 1997. "The Gold Standard and the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 6060, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Lee Ohanian, 2000. "EconomicDynamics Interviews Lee Ohanian on the Great Depression," EconomicDynamics Newsletter, Review of Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(2), April.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Timothy J. Kehoe & Edward C. Prescott, 2008. "Using the general equilibrium growth model to study great depressions: a reply to Temin," Staff Report 418, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. Brian Snowdon, 2007. "The New Classical Counter-Revolution: False Path or Illuminating Complement?," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 541-562, Fall.
  3. Luca Pensieroso, 2012. "The Great Depression in Belgium: an Open-Economy Analysis," Working Papers 12-01, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC).
  4. Luca Pensieroso, 2011. "The Great Depression in Belgium from a Neoclassical Perspective," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 14(2), pages 389-402, Arpil.
  5. Eduardo Sanchez Astorino & Mauro Rodrigues Junior, 2014. "The Great Depression In Brazil," Anais do XL Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 40th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 035, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].

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