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Should Sraffians be dropped out of PKE?. Marc Lavoie Paper initially presented in Rome in Dec. 2010. My immediate answer.

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should sraffians be dropped out of pke

Should Sraffians be dropped out of PKE?

Marc Lavoie

Paper initially presented in Rome in Dec. 2010

my immediate answer
My immediate answer
  • I argue that there are enough similarities in the theoretical beliefs of Sraffians and other post-Keynesians, and hence I answer that it would be a mistake not to consider Sraffians as being part of the post-Keynesian school seen as a broad tent approach.
  • I agree with Mongiovi (2012) that « the tensions are largely unnecessary, and at least some resistance to the Sraffian view is based on a misunderstanding of it ».

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

schools of thought in pke
Schools of thought in PKE
  • Hamouda and Harcourt (1988)
    • Fundamentalist Keynesians (the dominant or constituted strand)
    • Kaleckians
    • Sraffians
  • Possible additions
    • Kaldorians
    • Institutionalists à la Galbraith

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

but also schools of thought in sraffian economics according to roncaglia and arena
But also schools of thought in Sraffian economics (according to Roncaglia and Arena)
  • Marxian Sraffians (Garegnani, the dominant or constituted strand)
  • Ricardian Sraffians (Pasinetti)
  • Smithian Sraffians (Sylos Labini, Roncaglia himself)

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

why should we care
Why should we care?
  • There is a danger in the over-specialization of our profession and the tendency of some economists to over-emphasize their contribution and to differentiate their product.
  • It’s good to argue, but without losing sight of some broad agreements.
  • Broad-tent approach or small-tent approach?
  • Small-tent approach can lead to a dangerous path: first exclude the Sraffians from PKE, then next with be the Kaleckians because they don’t emphasize uncertainty or money enough, and then exclude some Fundamentalist Keynesians, like the Minskyans, because they don’t exactly carry the message intended by Keynes.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

the room of sraffian economics in pke
The room of Sraffian economics in PKE
  • Gary Mongiovi (2003):
  • “Sraffian economics was generally regarded not only as compatible with Post Keynesianism, but as an important branch of it.... By the end of the 1980s, however, this view had largely given way to the presumption that the two frameworks are distinct, and, in at least some key respects, incompatible”.
  • “It becomes doubtful as to whether much of neo-Ricardian analysis can be classified as Post Keynesianism” (Dow 1988).
  • The end of the 1980s was also the end of the Trieste Summer school.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

the trieste summer school 1981 1990 a failure
The Trieste summer school (1981-1990): A failure?
  • Its purpose was to bring together the Sraffian component and the Keynesian component of PKE: to find, as Mongiovi (2003) says, « a unified methodological and analytical foundation for the Post Keynesian project »
  • Several observers have claimed that it was a failure.
  • The standard story (Arena 1987) is that there was a growing antagonism between the two dominant strands: the Sraffian surplus approach (Garegnani) and the Fundamentalist PK school (Davidson). Conflict of personalities?
  • The more ecclectic strands, which were more likely to get along, were pushed aside.
  • The end of the Trieste project was followed by a period of relative indifference: people going their own way.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

the age of methodology in the 1990s
The Age of Methodology in the 1990s
  • The rift between Sraffians and other post-Keynesians was enlarged by the growing importance accorded to methodology within post-Keynesian economics starting in the late 1980s.
  • Methodologists, in general, tended to be more favourable to the point of view defended by Fundamentalist Keynesians.
  • As Fontana and Gerrard (2006, p. 63) rightfully pointed out, “the increasing concern with the methodological originality of Post Keynesian economics served to exacerbate the disputes between and within the different strands of Post Keynesian economics”.
  • PKE was defined as the economics of open systems, while Sraffian economics was said to be a closed system (Pratten, Downward, Dow, Holt, Gerrard) – despite the rate of profit being left up in the air.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

the obsession with open system theorizing
The obsession with open-system theorizing
  • Followers of Tony Lawson (1997, 2003) have argued that proper economics should be based on critical or transcendental realism and open systems (whatever that means!).
  • Various PK methodologists argue that:
    • « The coping stone of Post Keynesianism is its commitment to open systems reasoning.» (Dunn 2000)
    • « the commitment to open-system theorising is the methodological glue that binds Post Keynesians together » (Dunn 2008).
  • As a result, Sraffian pricing models « are inconsistent with an open-system perspective and a critical-realist-defined post-Keynesian economics » (Downward 2000).
  • The problem is that, by using the same standards, the pricing models of Asimakopulos, Eichner, Lee, Lavoie, as well as Godley and Lanzillotti, do not fit the bill either, because they are said to be imbedded in a closed-system framework!

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

flush the sraffians out of pke
Flush the Sraffians out of PKE!
  • « It is this dawning realization, that Sraffians are methodologically incompatible with other traditions within Post Keynesianism, that has led to the exclusion of the Sraffians from the core of the Post Keynesian program (see Walters and Young, 1999). The inclusion of the Sraffian School under the Post Keynesian umbrella is highly contentious, given its closed system methodology. The time has come for Post Keynesianism to formally part company with the Sraffians and to jettison the burdensome accusation of negative critique that is chiefly identified with their contribution.... » (Dunn 2000, p. 350)

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

and even ecclectic sraffians seem to have given up
And even ecclectic Sraffians seem to have given up!
  • Dunn (2000, p. 350) claims that: “Roncaglia (1995) has called for the abandonment of the project to integrate Sraffian and Post Keynesian analysis”.
  • Dow (2001, p. 18) makes an identical attribution, saying that “it has even been suggested that attempts to identify the Sraffian approach with Post Keynesianism should be discontinued”, citing the same Roncaglia (1995) paper in support of her claim.
  • The same Dow-Dunn claim has been recently repeated by David Dequech in the first version of a working paper.
  • We shall see that Roncaglia has been misunderstood by both Dunn and Dow.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

the case for keeping sraffian economics into pke
The case for keeping Sraffian economics into PKE
  • “The tensions are largely unnecessary, and at least some Post Keynesian resistance to the Sraffian view is based on a misunderstanding of it. There are of course genuine differences of perspective, but these do not render the two traditions incompatible with each other” (Mongiovi 2003, p. 320)
  • There are obvious historic links through the Cambridge capital controversies, and when an alternative to neoclassical economics was emerging (Tiego Mata 2004).
  • There are common theoretical positive positions, that go beyond “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.
  • There is one issue which, however, may be difficult to resolve.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

common theoretical elements
Common theoretical elements
  • The causality that runs from investment to saving
  • The role and importance of the principle of effective demand both in the short and the long run
  • The importance of money and credit in allowing effective demand to break the stranglehold of saving (Garegnani 1983, p. 78)
  • The endogeneity of the money supply and the possibility for the central bank to set short-term interest rates at levels of their choice – the rate of interest being essentially a convention enforced by the central bank
  • The crucial relevance of income distribution
  • The conception of capital as a produced commodity is coherent from Kaldor to Robinson, Harrod, Sraffa, Pasinetti (as shown by the late T.K.Rymes 1971)

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

common policy views
Common policy views
  • Fontana and Gerrard (2006, p. 51) present what they call the “three interconnected characteristic Keynesian propositions”:
    • there can be involuntary unemployment;
    • output and employment variations play the key role in macro adjustments;
    • economic policy is effective and will stabilize the economy.
  • Certainly, Sraffians agree on all three points.
  • There is nothing here about whether rates of utilization are or not brought back to their normal level

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

the 4 element caricature of sraffian garegnani economics which is false
The 4-element caricature of Sraffian (Garegnani) economics which is false
  • Long-period analysis is important, while short-period problems are not;
  • The core of economic analysis is the study of relative prices and the distribution of the social product; the other fields are not capable of precise analysis and hence have little importance;
  • Long-period positions are situations with normal prices at normal output, or with rates of capacity utilization equal to their normal level: these are also called fully-adjusted positions;
  • Long-period positions are based on a trend which is determined ex ante, and which is independent of the short-period and of any short-run variable such as finance.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

the corrected dominant sraffian view
The corrected (dominant ?) Sraffian view
  • Both long-period and short period analyses are important (Garegnani 1988, p. 252);
  • Elements outside of the core of relative prices are just as important, perhaps even more important for economics (Garegnani 1990, p. 151);
  • Long-period positions are situations with normal prices, computed on the basis of some normal output; in general, actual output will not be equal to normal output, or rates of capacity utilization will not be equal to their normal level; fully-adjusted positions will not necessarily be achieved (Garegnani 1992, Vianello 1990, Kurz 1993, Palumbo and Trezzini 2003);
  • The trend that describes long-period positions is determined ex post, and is dependent on actual short-run sales and actual rates of capacity utilization; in other words, there is path dependence (Garegnani 1983, p. 80; 1988, p. 258)

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

strong elements of convergence
Strong elements of convergence
  • Sraffians were ultimately influenced by the arguments of the Kaleckians, but Asimakopulos and other PK authors of his generation, as well as several younger PK authors did not seem to be aware of this.
  • There is no fundamental disagreement between most Sraffians and most post-Keynesians on path-dependence and the impact of short-run effects on long-run variables, especially the output variable.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

more problematic positions of the dominant sraffian strand
More problematic positions of the dominant Sraffian strand
  • Prices of production are normal prices, that is, prices that incorporate a normal profit rate, which is uniform throughout;
  • Market prices, or actual prices, gravitate towards prices of production through some demand and supply mechanism;
  • Persistent forces will push the economy towards long-period positions; these are long-period centres of gravity;
  • King (1995, p. 246) says there is “little enthusiasm for any notion of long-period ‘prices of production’ as centres of gravity towards which short-period or market prices are supposed to tend. The unreconstructed ‘neo-Ricardians’, of whom Pierangelo Garegnani is the most resolute example, are increasingly isolated on this question”.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

inside sraffian critique of convergence
Inside Sraffian critique of convergence
  • Bertram Schefold (1984, p. 1) argues that “classical economists sometimes adopt neoclassical conceptual tools for the analysis of supply and demand in individual markets (e.g. in the analysis of the gravitation of market prices towards prices of production) and are then led towards models of at least superficial similarity with neo-classical general equilibrium in consequence of the attempt to analyse the interdependence of the various markets”.
  • It follows that “some of the work by modern classical economists on the convergence of market prices towards prices of production tends to undermine its own foundations by generating systems in which supply and demand are dominating forces” (ibid, p. 2).
  • Indeed, models of convergence often require high substitution in consumption goods, another neoclassical feature.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

another similar critique of the gravitation process
Another similar critique of the gravitation process
  • Boggio (1990) has argued that classical convergence models are « dominated by price reactions to excess demand and by consumption reaction to price changes », thus relying on substitution effects, as it would in the mainstream.
  • Also these convergence models often assume that the long-run equilibrium values of prices and quantities are already known by the agents, a rather un-Keynesian assumption.
  • Classical convergence is highly conditional.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

actual prices are prices of production
Actual prices are prices of production
  • “The mark-up on unit costs will have to be such that normal profits corresponding to the prevailing rate of profit are obtained at the normal level of capacity utilisation. This approach allows to give a rationale for the rule of full cost pricing, but only in a very simple case. The merit of this application is to clarify the conditions under which full cost pricing is consistent with a given rate of profit in a classical long period position (Or, in an obvious extension, there may be a hierarchy of such rates of profit ...). One may say that normal prices are here calculated on the basis of a given normal utilization of capacity, and that changes of capacity are used to adapt supply to demand at unchanged prices .... Actual prices are therefore equal to prices of production but utilization fluctuates around a normal level” (Schefold 1984, p. 4).

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

target return pricing
Target-return pricing?
  • Sraffians need to move towards target-return pricing à la Lanzillotti (1958) or towards Boggio’s full cost prices (1989, 1986, 1990, 1992).
  • He assumes that firms set prices on the basis of wage costs and the commodity prices of the previous period, with a markup designed to achieve an exogenously given target rate of return (the normal profit rate).
  • These models are highly robust, in the sense that they converge to a steady set of relative prices without the need to impose any restrictions.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

prices based on normal rates of utilization
Prices based on normal rates of utilization
  • Boggio’s full cost prices are cousins of Roncaglia’s interpretation of Sraffa’s prices.
  • For Roncaglia (1995, p. 114), “Sraffa’s ‘outputs’ should not be identified with those actually observed at any point in the historical development of the economy”. Instead, costs ought to be computed, “not for current output levels, but for a ‘normal’ degree of capacity utilisation” (ibid, p. 115).
  • This is consistent with statement of Joan Robinson (1978, p. 16) when she says that “each firm is assumed to reckon its costs on the basis of a standard ratio of utilization of its plant”.
  • This is also the understanding of Hicks (1985), and Ajit Sinha (2010).

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

integration is possible and is already on its way
Integration is possible and is already on its way
  • In contrast to what Dunn and Dow have claimed, Roncaglia (1995, p. 120) has actually said that:
  • “The interpretation of Sraffa’s outputs as ‘long-period centres of gravitation’ ... is therefore an obstacle to the integration of Sraffian and Keynesian analyses, and should be abandoned. However ... a different interpretation of the conceptual framework underlying Sraffa’s analysis is possible.... A solid stream of non-neoclassical economics is already available, integrating not only Keynes’s and Sraffa’s analyses, but also the contributions of a wide group of economists....”.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

a few words about actual rates of capacity utilization in the long run
A few words about actual rates of capacity utilization in the long run
  • There is a controversy between various authors about whether actual rates of utilization do converge towards their normal level in the long run.
  • I don’t see this as a breaking point.
  • Authors from the same tradition do not all take the same side (Serrano, White, Cesaratto, Shaikh, Skott vs Trezzini, Kurz, Nell, Kaleckians)
  • We can build models with long-run unemployment even if rates of capacity are at their normal levels.
  • There is nothing wrong, from my perspective, in building long-run models with actual utilization rates at their normal level, as long as some coherent and credible dynamic adjustment process – a traverse – from actual short-run rates towards such normal rates is being provided.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

a few words about the super multiplier
A few words about the super-multiplier
  • The super-multiplier, as presented by Serrano, Dejuan and Bortis, is not accepted by all Sraffians.
  • It should be pointed out that there is some similarity between the super-multiplier equation, at least as presented by Bortis, and the steady-state equilibria obtained by Godley.
  • The main point of issue has been precisely whether it can be shown that there is a credible traverse from any short-run position to the presumed long-run equilibrium (the issue of stability), that does not have perfect foresight.
  • The main stabilizing factor, as far as I understand it, is to introduce a component that has an exogenous trend, such as pure government expenditures.
  • This is also what Godley and Lavoie (2007) do in the chapter with a growth model. Both models underline the crucial importance of the exogenous government expenditure component.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

conclusion
Conclusion
  • Sraffian economics has much in common with the rest of PKE.
  • The main issue of serious controversy is how prices gravitate to their normal levels.
  • There are differences due to the fact that the two streams tend to specialize in different fields, as Tony Lawson would argue.
  • There are differences due to specific theories. But these differences also exist inside Sraffian economics, as they do inside Marxist economics or other PK economics.

Jornada de Economia Politica, UNQ, Argentina, 2012

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