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The Simple Analytics of Debt-Driven Business Cycles


  • Thomas I. Palley


This paper explores the economics of debt-driven business cycles, distinguishing between Keynesian and new Keynesian approaches. Keynesians emphasize the impact of borrowing and debt on aggregate demand (AD), whereas new Keynesians emphasize the impact on aggregate supply (AS). A unique Keynesian feature is emphasis on debtor – creditor debt-service income transfers. Business cycles result from two mechanisms. One is the multiplier – accelerator AD mechanism. The second is a predator – prey mechanism whereby increased income feeds the level of debt, but the level of debt preys on the level of income. Both the Keynesian and new Keynesian approaches are logically coherent, but the latter is at odds with the stylized facts of business cycles.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas I. Palley, 2009. "The Simple Analytics of Debt-Driven Business Cycles," Working Papers wp200, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  • Handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp200

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bernanke, Ben & Gertler, Mark & Gilchrist, Simon, 1996. "The Financial Accelerator and the Flight to Quality," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 78(1), pages 1-15, February.
    2. Bernanke, Ben S. & Gertler, Mark & Gilchrist, Simon, 1999. "The financial accelerator in a quantitative business cycle framework," Handbook of Macroeconomics,in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 21, pages 1341-1393 Elsevier.
    3. Marc Jarsulic, 1989. "Endogenous Credit and Endogenous Business Cycles," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(1), pages 35-48, September.
    4. Peter Skott, 2012. "Theoretical And Empirical Shortcomings Of The Kaleckian Investment Function," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(1), pages 109-138, February.
    5. Amitava Krishna Dutt, 2006. "Maturity, Stagnation And Consumer Debt: A Steindlian Approach," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(3), pages 339-364, July.
    6. Palley, Thomas I, 1997. "Expected Aggregate Demand, the Production Period and the Keynesian Theory of Aggregate Supply," The Manchester School of Economic & Social Studies, University of Manchester, vol. 65(3), pages 295-309, June.
    7. Palley, Thomas I., 1999. "General disequilibrium analysis with inside debt," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 785-803.
    8. Palley, Thomas I, 1996. "Inside Debt, Aggregate Demand, and the Cambridge Theory of Distribution," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(4), pages 465-474, July.
    9. Caskey, John & Fazzari, Steven M, 1987. "Aggregate Demand Contractions with Nominal Debt Commitments: Is Wage Flexibility Stabilizing?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 25(4), pages 583-597, October.
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    More about this item


    debt; debt service burdens; business cycle; multiplier – accelerator; predator – prey model;

    JEL classification:

    • E3 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles
    • E5 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit

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