Larry Summers responds to Ben Bernanke:
On Secular Stagnation: A Response to Bernanke, by Larry Summers: Ben Bernanke has inaugurated his blog with a set of thoughtful observations on the determinants of real interest rates (see his post here) and the secular stagnation hypothesis that I have invoked in an effort to understand recent macroeconomic developments. I agree with much of what Ben writes and would highlight in particular his recognition that the Fed is in a sense a follower rather than a leader with respect to real interest rates – since they are determined by broad factors bearing on the supply and demand for capital – and his recognition that equilibrium real rates appear to have been trending downward for quite some time. His challenges to the secular stagnation hypothesis have helped me clarify my thinking and provide an opportunity to address a number of points where I think there has been some confusion in the public debate. ...
I would like nothing better than to be wrong as Alvin Hansen was with respect to secular stagnation. It may be that growth will soon take hold in the industrial world and allow interest rates and financial conditions to normalize. If so, those like Ben who judged slow recovery to be a reflection of temporary headwinds and misguided fiscal contractions will be vindicated and fears of secular stagnation will have been misplaced.
But throughout the industrial world the vast majority of the revisions in growth forecasts have been downwards for many years now. So, I continue to urge that it is worth taking seriously the possibility that we face a chronic problem of an excess of desired saving relative to investment. If this is the case, monetary policy will not be able to normalize, there will be a continuing need for expanded public and private investment, and there will be a need for global coordination to assure an adequate level of demand and its appropriate distribution. Macroeconomists can contribute by moving beyond their traditional models of business cycles to contemplate the possibility of secular stagnation.