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On business cycles and countercyclical policies


  • Marco A. Espinosa-Vega
  • Jang-Ting Guo


Since the third quarter of 2000, the U.S. economy began to experience a slowdown in its rate of growth. This slowdown serves as a reminder that the business cycle is still alive and raises the following questions: What do we know about the driving forces behind the business cycle? What should policymakers do in the face of economic fluctuations? ; The authors examine two explanations for business cycles that are well-known in academic circles: the animal spirits theory and the real business cycle theory. The former is closely connected with the Keynesian economic tradition and identifies market participants' mood swings as the key source of economic fluctuations. The second explanation is rooted in the classical economic tradition and views productivity shocks as the driving force behind economic fluctuations. The article then looks at what these theories suggest about countercyclical policies, which try to eliminate business cycle fluctuations or insulate market participants from their effects. The authors conclude that neither theory makes an unambiguous case supporting countercyclical policies. ; This conclusion may come as a surprise to government and business economists who have an ingrained belief in the benefits of such policies. It is important to remember, however, that attempts to understand business cycles and the effects and desirability of policies that may (or may not) moderate them are still at a very early stage.

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  • Marco A. Espinosa-Vega & Jang-Ting Guo, 2001. "On business cycles and countercyclical policies," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Q4, pages 1-11.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedaer:y:2001:i:q4:p:1-11:n:v.86no.4

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. N. Gregory Mankiw, 1985. "Small Menu Costs and Large Business Cycles: A Macroeconomic Model of Monopoly," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(2), pages 529-538.
    2. Caballero, Ricardo J. & Lyons, Richard K., 1992. "External effects in U.S. procyclical productivity," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 209-225, April.
    3. Guo, Jang-Ting & Lansing, Kevin J., 1998. "Indeterminacy and Stabilization Policy," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 481-490, October.
    4. Christiano, Lawrence J. & G. Harrison, Sharon, 1999. "Chaos, sunspots and automatic stabilizers," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 3-31, August.
    5. King, Robert G. & Rebelo, Sergio T., 1999. "Resuscitating real business cycles," Handbook of Macroeconomics,in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 14, pages 927-1007 Elsevier.
    6. Laurence Ball & David Romer, 1990. "Real Rigidities and the Non-Neutrality of Money," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(2), pages 183-203.
    7. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-1370, November.
    8. Long, John B, Jr & Plosser, Charles I, 1983. "Real Business Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(1), pages 39-69, February.
    9. Farmer Roger E. A. & Guo Jang-Ting, 1994. "Real Business Cycles and the Animal Spirits Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 42-72, June.
    10. Mankiw, N. Gregory, 1992. "The reincarnation of Keynesian economics," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(2-3), pages 559-565, April.
    11. Satyajit Chatterjee, 2000. "From cycles to shocks: progress in business-cycle theory," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Mar, pages 27-37.
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    Cited by:

    1. Noam, Eli M., 2006. "Fundamental instability: Why telecom is becoming a cyclical and oligopolistic industry," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 272-284, September.


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