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The Phillips Curve and the Tyranny of an Assumed Unique Macro Equilibrium

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Abstract

To make the argument that the behaviour of modern industrial economies since the 1990s is inconsistent with theories in which there is a unique ergodic macro equilibrium, the paper starts by reviewing both the early Keynesian theory in which there was no unique level of income to which the economy was inevitably drawn and the debate about the amount of demand pressure at which it was best of maintain the economy: high aggregate demand and some inflationary pressure or lower aggregate demand and a stable price level. It then covers the rise of the simple Phillips curve and its expectations-augmented version, which introduced into current macro theory a natural rate of unemployment (and its associated equilibrium level of national income). This rate was also a NAIRU, the only rate consistent with stable inflation. It is then argued that the current behaviour of many modern economies in which there is a credible policy to maintain a low and steady inflation rate is inconsistent with the existence of either a unique natural rate or a NAIRU but is consistent with evolutionary theory in which there is perpetual change driven by endogenous technological advance. Instead of a NAIRU evolutionary economies have a noninflationary band of unemployment (a NAIBU) indicating a range of unemployment and income over with the inflation rate is stable. The paper concludes with the observation that the great pre- Phillips curve debates of the 1950s that assumed that there was a range within which the economy could be run with varying pressures of demand, and varying amounts of unemployment and inflationary pressure, were not as silly as they were made to seem when both Keynesian and New Classical economists accepted the assumption of a perfectly

Suggested Citation

  • Richard G. Lipsey, 2013. "The Phillips Curve and the Tyranny of an Assumed Unique Macro Equilibrium," Discussion Papers dp13-12, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
  • Handle: RePEc:sfu:sfudps:dp13-12
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    File URL: http://www.sfu.ca/econ-research/RePEc/sfu/sfudps/dp13-12.pdf
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    1. Freeman, Chris & Louca, Francisco, 2002. "As Time Goes By: From the Industrial Revolutions to the Information Revolution," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199251056.
    2. Kenneth Carlaw & Richard Lipsey, 2012. "Does history matter?: Empirical analysis of evolutionary versus stationary equilibrium views of the economy," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 22(4), pages 735-766, September.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Natural rate of unemployment; NAIRU; NAIBU; inflation targeting; Phillips curve; evolutionary theory; equilibrium theory;

    JEL classification:

    • B22 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Macroeconomics
    • E12 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Keynes; Keynesian; Post-Keynesian
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies
    • E61 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Policy Objectives; Policy Designs and Consistency; Policy Coordination

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