While many countries throughout the world have faced severe financial crises over the last decades, and while the Japanese stagnation and the 1997 Asian financial crisis did induce some additional interest for the introduction of banking and finance in macroeconomic theory, it is only with the advent of the US subprime financial crisis that macroeconomic and monetary theories put forward by mainstream economists have started to be questioned.
Still, there are at least two views about the role played by economic theory in generating the Global Financial Crisis, which, depending on one’s opinion, can be ascertained to having started at any of the three following times: when real estate prices in the US started to decline in the summer of 2006, when interbank money markets first froze in Europe during the summer of 2007, or when it was announced that the Lehman Brothers investment bank declared bankruptcy on the 15 th of September 2008. If we take the earlier date, then we can say that the financial crisis and its aftermath have been going on for nearly ten years.
In this essay I discuss how the end of the Great Moderation – this 15-year period of low inflation and low variance in real growth rates in the Western world — has been interpreted by the advocates of mainstream economics and what changes the subprime financial crisis has or may have entailed with respect to macroeconomic theory. I review of a number of key issues in macroeconomic theory, examining what seems to have been changed or been questioned as a consequence of what has happened during and after the financial crisis. The third section is devoted to the concept of hysteresis, which seems to have been resurrected by mainstream economists. The fourth section deals with a number of miscellaneous issues, in particular the shape of the aggregate demand curve and the lack of a relationship between interest rates and public debt or deficit ratios. I conclude with broad brushes about what ought to disappear and what might disappear from macroeconomic theory. Many others, such as Stiglitz (2014) and Mendoza (2013) have done an excellent job in pursuing this kind of exercise. Here I offer my idiosyncratic thoughts, starting with the reaction of economists to the crisis.