By David Simpson
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Extra info for Rethinking Economic Behaviour: How the Economy Really Works
Yet his warnings, like those of Marshall thirty years earlier, were completely ignored. Instead, academic economists after the Second World War ﬂocked to embrace the new ‘scientiﬁc’ economics. Not only did it give them apparent parity of esteem with their colleagues in the natural sciences, it satisﬁed their emotional needs. Like doctors or engineers, they could actually do something to better the lot of everyone in society. They could enter government, and improve the management of the nation’s affairs, in particular by eliminating unemployment.
And economists, using their mechanical models of the economy, could not only work out how much spending was needed, but could show the politicians how and when to do it, by raising or lowering tax rates or by altering the level of government spending. That was known as macroeconomic management or demand management. At ﬁrst, the policy of demand management appeared to work, at least so far as the principal objective of full employment was concerned. For some thirty years after 1945, unemployment rates throughout the Western world remained at historically low levels, and downturns in economic activity were so mild and infrequent that they came to be known as recessions rather than depressions.
Not only did it give them apparent parity of esteem with their colleagues in the natural sciences, it satisﬁed their emotional needs. Like doctors or engineers, they could actually do something to better the lot of everyone in society. They could enter government, and improve the management of the nation’s affairs, in particular by eliminating unemployment. As a result, lavish research funds ﬂowed in from grateful politicians; Nobel prizes were established and distributed; and the stage was set for the spectacular failure of equilibrium economics in the postwar world.