The silver lining of hurrican-omics

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The recession could be cured by unorthodox monetary policy or by fiscal policy measures, but it hasn’t been. So you’re left hoping that the marginal product of capital will increase, thus bringing savings and investment back into equilibrium. An exciting new technological discovery could make that happen. And so could a hurricane, argues Matthew Yglesias.

If there are already a bunch of perfectly good cranes in town, then nobody wants to invest in new cranes, and the crane factory sits idle. But if a hurricane wrecks a bunch of cranes, then the marginal value of a new hurricane goes up, and people want to invest in new cranes.

This is a terrible solution to unemployment. By reducing society’s stock of capital goods and consumer durables, the hurricane spurs new production into being. But it’s also making us poorer… The important point is that suffering through a downturn without adequate fiscal and monetary stimulus amounts to rebalancing the economy through a slow-motion hurricane. We will, eventually, return to full employment. But we’re getting there by allowing the per capita stock of capital goods (as it happens, mostly houses) and durables to deteriorate year after year. Eventually this will lead us to a rebalancing, but it’s a form of rebalancing via impoverishment. Stimulus is much better.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.