The recovery from the Great Depression was weak despite rapid productivity growth, and was accompanied by significant increases in real wages and prices in several sectors of the economy. A successful theory of the recovery from the Depression should account for persistent low levels of consumption, investment, and employment, the high real wage, and the apparent lack of competition in the labor market. We developed a model with New Deal labor and industrial policies that can account for sectoral high wages, a distorted labor market, and depressed employment, consumption, and investment despite normal productivity.
Our results suggest that New Deal policies are an important contributing factor to the persistence of the Great Depression. The key depressing element behind these policies was not monopoly per se, but rather linking the ability of firms to collude with paying high wages. Our model indicates that these policies reduced consumption, and investment about 14 percent relative to their competitive balanced growth path levels. Thus, the model accounts for about half of the continuation of the Great Depression between 1934 and 1939.
New Deal labor and industrial policies did not lift the economy out of the Depression 51 as President Roosevelt and his economic planners had hoped. Instead, the joint policies of increasing labor’s bargaining power, and linking collusion with paying high wages, impeded the recovery by creating an inefficient insider-outsider friction that raised wages significantly and restricted employment. The recovery would have been stronger if wages in key sectors had been lower. 52
Thursday, February 05, 2009
New Deal Policies and the Persistence of the Great Depression
Earlier I posted an excellent editorial by professors Harold Cole and Lee Ohanian in which they argue that the New Deal made the Great Depression worse, or at least last longer. In it they discuss their academic research, which I fortunately was able to find. I haven't managed to read the whole thing, and it is quite technical at times, but rather interesting. From the conclusion: