Should policymakers listen to business leaders?:
Business vs. Economics, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: The Bank of Japan ... has lately been making a big effort to end deflation, which has afflicted Japan’s economy for almost two decades. At first its efforts — which involve printing a lot of money and, even more important, trying to assure investors that it will keep printing money until inflation reaches 2 percent — seemed to be going well. But more recently the economy has lost momentum, and last week the bank announced new, even more aggressive monetary measures. ...
While the bank did the right thing, however,... the new stimulus was approved by only five of the bank board’s nine members, with those closest to business voting against. Which brings me to the subject of this column: the economic wisdom, or lack thereof, of business leaders.
Some of the people I’ve spoken to here argue that the opposition of many Japanese business leaders to the Bank of Japan’s actions shows that it’s on the wrong track. ... Actually,..., business leaders often give remarkably bad economic advice... Why? ...
National economic policy, even in small countries, needs to take into account kinds of feedback that rarely matter in business life. For example, even the biggest corporations sell only a small fraction of what they make to their own workers, whereas even very small countries mostly sell goods and services to themselves.
So think of what happens when a successful businessperson looks at a troubled economy and tries to apply the lessons of business experience. He or (rarely) she sees the troubled economy as something like a troubled company, which needs to cut costs and become competitive. To create jobs, the businessperson thinks, wages must come down, expenses must be reduced; in general, belts must be tightened. And surely gimmicks like deficit spending or printing more money can’t solve what must be a fundamental problem.
In reality, however, cutting wages and spending in a depressed economy just aggravates the real problem, which is inadequate demand. Deficit spending and aggressive money-printing, on the other hand, can help a lot.
But how can this kind of logic be sold to business leaders, especially when it comes from pointy-headed academic types? The fate of the world economy may hinge on the answer.
Here in Japan, the fight against deflation is all too likely to fail if conventional notions of prudence prevail. But can unconventionality triumph over the instincts of business leaders? Stay tuned.