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Alan Harvey takes on the reigning ideology of Economics with clarity and eloquence through several of the great prophetic voices of the field, from Keynes to Galbraith, Stiglitz, Minsky, Keen, and Roubini. The theme is that capitalism always requires sufficient “demand”, guided by wise public policy, to produce a good, full employment economy. Left alone, capitalism is prone to destructive booms and busts, creating ever more inequality and dysfunction.
Harvey’s basic axiom is that “output is determined by effective demand” (p. 12). For a modern, growing economy, this seems to make sense. But what about the stagnant economies that predominated throughout most of human history? Or our current global economy as it encounters its limits to growth? The reality is that demand only works its miracles when the economy has the capacity to satisfy the requested demand. Otherwise we just get inflation or a shift in production and income from one part of the economy to another. So it would be good for Harvey to take a broader look at economies as they have existed historically.
The imminent peaking of net energy from fossil fuels is already stunting economic growth. When long term contraction ensues, the challenge will be the efficient management of limited resources. The role of government will be even more important, but it will require strong sticks (taxes on wealth and consumption) as well as carrots (projects focused on critical infrastructure) to be effective. Or factional conflict or warfare will lead to collapse.