[T] Niall Ferguson (2003) vs Niall Ferguson (2010)

Matt Yglesias puts together a Niall Ferguson vs Niall Ferguson debate, then and now. The 2003 Ferguson is in boldface, and the 2010 Ferguson is in italics:

Guns or butter: this is the choice historians conventionally say that governments face. The administration is currently engaged in an audacious — some would say reckless — experiment to disprove this theory. To judge by his actions, the President’s response to the question “Guns or butter?” is: “Thanks, I’ll take both.” This, in short, is the guns and butter presidency.

Are there precedents for such a combination? What’s to say this deficit-spending won’t work? Keynes would tell us that in the current environment we must boost aggregate demand.

Certainly. Long before Keynes was even born, weak governments in countries from Argentina to Venezuela used to experiment with large peace-time deficits to see if there were ways of avoiding hard choices. The experiments invariably ended in one of two ways. Either the foreign lenders got fleeced through default, or the domestic lenders got fleeced through inflation.

But the United States has broken the guns or butter rule before. Under President Ronald Reagan, substantial increases in military spending coincided with comparable increases, relative to gross domestic product, in personal consumption — that proportion of G.D.P. that the public, as opposed to the government, spends. The crucial point, of course, is that in the short term at least, fiscal policy is not a zero-sum game.

More here.

Related posts:

  1. Martin Wolf Spanks Niall Ferguson
  2. Robert Skidelsky on Niall Ferguson
  3. Niall Ferguson vs. Paul Krugman Again
  4. Niall Ferguson: "There Will Be Blood"
  5. Niall Ferguson: Solution to Debt Crisis Isn’t More Debt