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Economic Ideas for the New Millennium

Since the 1970s, Robert Barro's academic research has significantly influenced macroeconomic theory. For more than a decade, his writing has also enlivened the pages of publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Business Week. In Nothing Is Sacred, Barro applies his well-honed free market arguments to a remarkably diverse range of issues. These include global problems such as growth and debt, as well as social issues such as the predictive value of SAT scores, drug legalization, the economics of beauty, and the relationship between abortion rights and crime reduction.

A Dynamic General Equilibrium Approach

In this book, Jean-Pascal Benassy attempts to integrate into a single unified framework dynamic macroeconomic models reflecting such diverse lines of thought as general equilibrium theory, imperfect competition, Keynesian theory, and rational expectations. He begins with a simple microeconomic synthesis of imperfect competition and nonclearing markets in general equilibrium under rational expectations. He then applies this framework to a large number of dynamic macroeconomic models, covering such topics as persistent unemployment, endogenous growth, and optimal fiscal-monetary policies.

The 1990s saw the best economic performance in the United States in three decades. Strong economic growth and falling unemployment were accompanied by low inflation and rising budget surpluses. Although personal bankruptcies climbed, the personal saving rate fell, and the trade deficit expanded, overall, U.S. economic performance during the 1990s was outstanding.

Explaining Economic Policy

What determines the size and form of redistributive programs, the extent and type of public goods provision, the burden of taxation across alternative tax bases, the size of government deficits, and the stance of monetary policy during the course of business and electoral cycles? A large and rapidly growing literature in political economics attempts to answer these questions. But so far there is little consensus on the answers and disagreement on the appropriate mode of analysis.

An equilibrium theory of unemployment assumes that firms and workers maximize their payoffs under rational expectations and that wages are determined to exploit the private gains from trade.

For many years it was fashionable to treat macroeconomics and microeconomics as separate subjects without looking too deeply at the relationship between the two. But in the 1970s there occurred an episode of high inflation and high unemployment, which was inconsistent with orthodox theory. As a result, macroeconomists began to pay much greater attention to the microfoundations of their subject.

The connection between price inflation and real economic activity has been a focus of macroeconomic research—and debate—for much of the past century. Although this connection is crucial to our understanding of what monetary policy can and cannot accomplish, opinions about its basic properties have swung widely over the years.

An Integrated Approach

prepared by Debra Moore Patterson

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