“Sraffallacies: A Misesian Defense of ABCT (II),” Econo-Mia [y Tuya], January 29, 2013.If I am not mistaken, Guillermo Sanchez already acknowledges that Sraffa’s critique of Hayek on the non-existence of the Wicksellian natural rate of interest is sound.
“Robert P. Murphy’s great paper “Multiple Interest Rates and Austrian Business Cycle Theory” (2010) takes the subject directly as Lachmann did. The enormous merit of this paper is that even if Sraffa was right, his critique does not refute ABCT. In other words he was able (after criticizes Lachmann’s solution) to ensure the validity of ABCT in Sraffa’s own terms (a multiple rates environment). ABCT is still valid even in the circumstances in which Sraffa said it would not be valid. He managed to do it using a Dynamic Equilibrium simple model. Maybe the best refutation is not to demonstrate that Sraffa was wrong, but to demonstrate that even if he was right, the theory still holds logically”What Sanchez is trying to argue here is that ABCT can be reformulated by purging it of its use of the natural rate of interest, and that such a reformulated ABCT can be defended against Sraffa’s critique on the basis of the mythical natural rate.
That is perfectly true, of course, and I have never denied this. The problem is that such a theory is not a Hayekian theory, it requires real world tendency to a general equilibrium state, and it is still subject to a host of other problems, such as subjective expectations, uncertainty, capital theory, unrealistic assumptions about use of resources, and so on.
But let me turn to the specific criticisms Sanchez has of my arguments:
(1) First, Sanchez points out a red herring:Critics of my posts on the ABCT have simply misunderstood my critique. The non-existence of the natural rate of interest is one of the reasons why Hayek’s early business cycle theory is wrong. That critique applies to all Hayekian forms of the theory that use the natural rate, and even these Austrian critics are admitting this point.“Lord Keynes” does not mention the fact that Mises was not the only one whose theory relied on the [W]icksellian natural interest rate concept. Keynes himself confessed that he also relied on it on the same time (early 30s) that Sraffa accused Hayek of using that unique rate concept …. As everybody knows, in the early 30s (and before that) Keynes was a [W]icksellian and a quantitative [= “quantity” – LK] theorist.Yes, before the General Theory Keynes was indeed a quantity theorist and used the natural rate. But so what? Keynes was wrong.
Let me repeat that: Keynes was as wrong and misguided as any neoclassical in these years in his use of these concepts.
But, in the end, Keynes abandoned the natural rate idea between the Treatise on Money and his writing of the General Theory. Keynes came to see that the “natural rate” does not equate investment with savings, that savings can be much higher than investment, and that subjective expectations can shatter business confidence.
(2) Next, Sanchez asks me this:“Why did ‘Lord Keynes’ accuse Mises (or Hayek) of using Wicksell’s natural rate and did not say anything about Keynes who was using it too two years after Mises and at the same time that Sraffa was accusing Hayek of using that [W]icksellian concept? Has he the guts to refute his ‘master’’s Treatise and his previous books because he was using the [W]icksellian natural rate concept? Can LK write ‘Keynes’s early theory is a complete nonsense because he relied on [W]icksellian theory of natural rate of interest’ or ‘All Keynes’s pre-GT writings on monetary and interest theory are worthless because he relied on [W]icksellian natural rate’? I doubt it. But let’s assume LK admits it and says “yes, all what Keynes wrote before GT is garbage because he relied on Wicksell natural rate. But obviously later on he did not used that faulty concept.”, however he himself has confessed that Mises in his later treatments abandoned that concept too. So in order to be intellectually honest he must say that Mises-ABCT is as immune to Sraffa’s criticism as it is the monetary and interest theory of Keynes in GT.”The answer is “yes.” A great deal of what Keynes wrote before the General Theory is wrong, because of his use of neoclassical theory. (Although not all of it is wrong, for Keynes was, for example, receptive to the Chartalist theory of money and wrote some quite insightful though things about the history and nature of money).
In fact, I am surprised that any knowledgeable Austrian really thinks he has scored any points here. And, as I have admitted above, yes, a version of the ABCT purged of the Wicksellian natural rate of interest can be defended against Sraffa.
(3) The third issue is that Mises’s originary interest rate is still a flawed, real theory of interest. Interest is a monetary phenomenon, not explained by time preference.
If Mises’s originary interest rate is false, it follows that his later version of the ABCT (without the natural rate) still has a severe flaw.
(4) The objection that an economy where factor inputs are relatively abundant still poses a serious problem to the Austrian business cycle theory, despite what Sanchez says.
Instead of dealing with this issue, he merely distorts the issue, by attributing a straw man to his opponents. Keynesians and even Marxists do not deny that insufficient resources are often a problem in the real world.
The word “scarce” can have two meanings: (1) finite, and (2) insufficient quantities available in relation to demand. When I say that something is “relatively abundant,” I mean that it is available in a quantity that exceeds the demand for it.
But relative scarcity and relative abundance in these senses exist, and an economy can have a relative abundance of certain goods in any time outside a boom. International trade also provides goods even when domestically there might be shortages.
Nor do I deny that as an economy expands and reaches a boom, inflationary pressures build up as resources become less available.
The other versions of ABCT are flawed for other reasons. One of these is the unrealistic assumption of a economy that converges to a general equilibrium state:
“Hayek’s Trade Cycle Theory, Equilibrium, Knowledge and Expectations,” January 4, 2012An unrealistic capital theory is yet another problem, as I have shown here:
“Hayek on his Simplified Capital Theory Assumptions in Prices and Production,” October 15, 2012.
“Why Isn’t the Boom of 1946-1948 a Problem for Austrians?,” June 2, 2012.