When economists all agree

There was a new survey out last week from the European IGM panel of economics experts, about the recent proposal from the UK Labour Party to give the Bank of England an economywide productivity objective.  These were the results:

IGM productivity

Not a single economist in the panel seemed to think this was a good idea. Not one thought that central banks can make any material difference to productivity growth, except by promoting or maintaining macroeconomic stability.  Note that the question wasn’t just about monetary policy, and the Labour Party policy talks of the use of regulatory tools as well.

I share the view of the panellists, but it is interesting to see the answers coming through so strongly when the Bank of England itself (notably the chief economist Andy Haldane) has at times been quite vocal in arguing (drawing from this speech) that the costs of financial crises are large, and are either permanent or semi-permanent.    I’ve long been rather sceptical of that proposition (some arguments developed at the first link in the previous sentence).   Whether the respondents to the IGM survey connected the two stories I don’t know –  many would probably just have been running the conventional macro story that monetary policy is more or less neutral in the longer-run –  but the results are a useful reminder of just how limited monetary policy and banking regulation are in doing good, once one gets beyond the relatively short-term (perhaps three to five years).

It being school holidays, I’m taking a break and will resume late next week.   There are many things I haven’t got round to writing about so far this year, and I hope to put some of them high on the priority list in the coming weeks, including taxation.  For example, there are the officials’ papers for the Tax Working Group, in which it is recommended that rates of taxation on business incomes should not be lowered.    With such weak long-term rates of business investment, and low rates of productivity growth, you might have thought this was an obvious place to look.  But not, apparently, to the Treasury and IRD officials.  The bacillus of Treasury’s wellbeing approach has reached even into these background papers: lower rates of business taxation would, it is asserted, damage “social capital”.