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Uncertainty and capacity constraints: Reconsidering the aggregate production function


  • Gracia, Eduard


The CobbDouglas function is today one of the most widely adopted assumptions in economic modeling, yet both its theoretical and empirical bases have long been under question. This paper builds an alternative function on very different (albeit also neoclassical) microfoundations aimed at both addressing those theoretical drawbacks and providing a better empirical fit than the CobbDouglas formula. The new model, unlike the CobbDouglas function, does not portray installed capacity as aggregate capital but as a sunk cost generating economic rents. An analysis of 1949-2008 annual U.S. growth data suggest this alternative model explains nearly 85 percent of GDP fluctuations and is empirically more robust than the CobbDouglas, whilst both contemporary and lagged aggregate capital are statistically rejected as explanatory variables. This lends support to the old Cambridge Critique”, according to which using value-weighted capital aggregates to explain production simply makes no sense. At face value, these results not only pose a question on any macroeconomic model assuming a CobbDouglas function but also point towards an alternative interpretation of phenomena such as the way monetary policy impacts productivity.

Suggested Citation

  • Gracia, Eduard, 2011. "Uncertainty and capacity constraints: Reconsidering the aggregate production function," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 5, pages 1-50.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:ifweej:201119

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Avi J. Cohen, 2003. "Retrospectives: Whatever Happened to the Cambridge Capital Theory Controversies?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 199-214, Winter.
    2. A. Cohen & G. Harcourt., 2009. "Whatever Happened to the Cambridge Capital Theory Controversies?," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 8.
    3. Mizon, Grayham E & Richard, Jean-Francois, 1986. "The Encompassing Principle and Its Application to Testing Non-nested Hypotheses," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 657-678, May.
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    More about this item


    production function; CobbDouglas; capital controversy;

    JEL classification:

    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production


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