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April 12, 2017

Macro in a state of denial

The debate about the future of macroeconomics remind us a little about the debate about the German current account surplus. Various people or institutions criticise the surpluses. But Germany thinks of itself not as the defendant but as the judge. Not guilty, says Berlin, let’s move on and talk about Greece. Donald Trump has been the first person willing and able to mount a challenge to that position.

Similarly, economists have reacted to criticism of their profession by simply dismissing it. A good example is the long paper by Ricardo Reis, which is very defensive in tone and only concedes that there is a problem with a lack of good graduate level textbooks. He bases his defence of the profession on the assertion that young economists produce a lot of novel and exciting research - which is true -  and that even macro is now gradually introducing notions of finance into its models (which misses the point of the criticism - it is not that there is no finance in them, but that there is no relevant finance in them). We cannot do justice to all points in this short review, but it strikes us that he, too, is playing both accused and judge. 

One of the sections that struck us was his defence of economic forecasts. He acknowledges that their performance has not been great, but then asks in relation to what? We can answer that question. The forecasts that showed persistent upswings in the post-crisis years were not only wrong in absolute terms, but they underperformed against a random number generator, or a monkey with a dartboard. The criticism is not that the forecasts are wrong, but that they were biased. His response gives a good flavour for the defensiveness of the macro profession:

“Moreover, the supposedly most embarrassing forecast errors come with regards to large crises. Yet, these crises are rare events that happen once every many decades. Since typical economic time series only extend over a little more than one hundred years, statistically forecasting the eruption of a crisis will always come with large imprecision.”

That's a very strange defence, given that economic analysis is needed the most during those crisis. If economists say that their toolkit does not work, then they should not be surprised by the reactions they are getting. Nor should they be surprised that the public and the media are ignoring economists' views in political debates, as happened during Brexit.

We prefer Olivier Blanchard’s more constructive approach, which at least recognise the problems though it still strikes us that he tries to combine truth-telling with an attempt to cause the least amount of offence possible. This is what he had to say about the overuse of the DSGE models:

“We need different models for different tasks. The attempts of some of these models to do more than what they were designed for seem to be overambitious. I am not optimistic that DSGEs will be good policy models unless they become much looser about constraints from theory. I am willing to see them used for forecasting, but I am again skeptical that they will win that game.”

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April 12, 2017

Where Schulz is vulnerable

Majid Sattar offers a good analysis about the strengths and weaknesses of Martin Schulz as a candidate. He notes that the SPD would not have seen the 10pp rise in the polls without him. His experience in Brussels counts as a plus in the kind of world we live in - faced with Brexit and Trump. But Schulz’ tactics of not committing himself politically cannot hold until the end of the campaign. He is going after the left-liberal voters, many of whom the SPD has lost to the CDU. These voters do not want anything to do with the Left Party, which favours exit from Nato and the eurozone, and a military alliance with Russia. At the same time, the Left Party will be effective by reminding SPD voters that the party has been helping Angela Merkel twice to become chancellor, so that by voting SPD this could happen again. Merkel has one advantage: she has categorically rejected an alliance with the AfD. But Schulz has not done the same in respect of the Left Party.

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April 12, 2017

Schäuble’s three party tricks

This is the first time we came across this blog, Lost in Europe, written by a German journalist, who in his latest entry casts a critical eye on how Wolfgang Schäuble is playing his game at EU level. The author notes what he calls three ticks. We have reported on two of those separately, but it is still useful to list Schäuble’s EU diplomatic tactics all together, and to ask what the ultimate purpose behind them might be. The blog quotes a newspaper reporting that the details of the Greek agreement last week were written in the German finance ministry the night before, and were handed over to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who was then allowed to announce it. Schäuble’s second party trick is the constant assertion that the IMF will participate in the Greek loan, which as everybody knows is not going to happen until the EU agrees to debt relief which Schäuble himself rejects. And, finally, Schäuble is rejecting the European Commission's proposals for eurozone reform well before the Commission even announces them. This is an old EU political trick. The idea is to put the other side on the defensive. Instead Schäuble wants a strengthened ESM, with the goal to put even France under its wing. The impression people get in Germany is that there is progress over Greece, on the IMF, and on the eurozone, when in reality the opposite is the case.

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  • EU in self-destruction mode
  • The EU's fault lines
  • Fake News and Fake views
  • November 30, 2016
  • Is Russia behind a massive cyber attack in Germany?
  • Will Fillon move to the centre?
  • The Dutch left field is getting crowded
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • October 18, 2019
  • The horrifying implications of Merkel’s 5G decision
  • April 17, 2019
  • Why it is far from clear that the grand coalition will survive the year
  • Macron's chance and challenge
  • Eurozone firms' surprising response to sagging profits
  • The result of Spain's elections, a riddle wrapped in mystery
  • The MMT debate is coming to Europe - and Germany
  • Greek parliament seeks German war reparations
  • October 15, 2018
  • Black Brexit smoke
  • Bettel can relax and stay in office
  • Solving the crime vs solving the problem
  • April 16, 2018
  • Italy's and Germany's pained response to the Syria attacks
  • On the end of the eurozone's economic honeymoon
  • Why Bulgaria should stay out of the euro
  • Where shall we meet after Brexit?
  • October 16, 2017
  • What‘s the deep meaning of the elections in Lower Saxony?
  • Can Brexit be revoked?
  • Macron's grand narrative
  • April 19, 2017
  • Shadows of money
  • Breppe Grillo vs Eurointelligence
  • October 20, 2016
  • No games please, we are Europeans
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • July 04, 2019
  • What will the European Parliament do?
  • February 21, 2019
  • Sound and fury, but Brexit reality unchanged
  • Supertanker Deutschland moves to join internet age
  • October 12, 2018
  • A deal so close, and yet so far
  • AfD leaves Germans speachless and helpless
  • June 04, 2018
  • German discourse out of control
  • Wait for European disunity on US tariffs
  • January 24, 2018
  • AfD europhobe to chair of Bundestag's budget committee
  • Watch out for the Labour Party debate on the single market
  • On the productivity puzzle
  • September 18, 2017
  • Why Germany cannot lead Europe, let alone the free world
  • Will Macron help to build up Mélenchon?
  • Boris' Coup
  • May 12, 2017
  • What to do with Germany’s tax windfall
  • How Macron counts on building a majority
  • Options for the eurozone
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • August 30, 2016
  • Brexit facts on the ground
  • Burkinis and Republican primaries
  • The SPD and TTIP
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • October 07, 2019
  • What did Conte know?
  • August 27, 2019
  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • July 09, 2019
  • What the UK polls are telling us - and what not
  • May 31, 2019
  • Salvini’s frightening strength
  • The significance of Corbyn’s latest flipflop on the referendum
  • April 24, 2019
  • May's final and biggest gamble
  • Will the EP be Brexit's great parliamentary beneficiary?
  • Can Loiseau fight the far right given her past?
  • March 18, 2019
  • May's deal still on the table. Don't rule it out.
  • EPP decision on Fidesz still open
  • On the defeat of liberalism
  • February 08, 2019
  • Macron turns stand-off with Italy into a game changer
  • Is there a strategic intent behind Macron's decision?
  • January 04, 2019
  • Will the AfD become the Dexit party?
  • Romania's corruption problem in the spotlight of its EU presidency
  • November 26, 2018
  • Two German plus two Dutch makes four spitzenkandidaten
  • Yellow vest protests - radicalisation and new political alliances
  • October 22, 2018
  • A week of intense political tension in the UK
  • Poland's local elections reveal deeply-split country
  • September 19, 2018
  • Attacks weaken legitimacy of spitzenkandidat model
  • A very German farce
  • August 20, 2018
  • ... and a subtle shift in EU policies towards both Russia and Turkey
  • Nothing to celebrate about the end of the bailout programme
  • Support for Brexit holding up
  • July 09, 2018
  • German panic about Target2
  • AfD level with SPD
  • How the EU could fail
  • June 11, 2018
  • The end of the G7 - good riddance
  • Macron needs allies for his European agenda
  • Who is going to be the next director-general of the Italian treasury?
  • May 14, 2018
  • Catalonia: plus ça change...
  • Conveney says no to Brexit with border infrastructure
  • Why the noble Lords don't really matter
  • April 16, 2018
  • Italy's and Germany's pained response to the Syria attacks
  • On the end of the eurozone's economic honeymoon
  • Why Bulgaria should stay out of the euro
  • Where shall we meet after Brexit?
  • March 19, 2018
  • Waiting for Germany
  • Russia’s friends
  • Can the Commons force an extension of the Art 50 period?
  • February 22, 2018
  • Northern Ireland needs a structured dialogue
  • Something odd about the Italian discourse on Europe
  • January 29, 2018
  • Where is the opposition in France?
  • Scenarios and risks for Syriza over Macedonia
  • January 05, 2018
  • Catalonia's government by Skype
  • The case for EEA membership
  • December 11, 2017
  • A new era for the French right
  • Growing scepticism of a grand coalition
  • November 20, 2017
  • Showdown over Northern Ireland
  • Castaner and his list confirmed
  • Gennimata to lead the new left alliance
  • Brexit‘s ultimate irony
  • October 31, 2017
  • Puigdemont's flight of fancy
  • Hopeless but not serious
  • Serious but not hopeless
  • October 13, 2017
  • Why Austria’s vote matters
  • What a Paris diesel ban would mean for Europe's car industry
  • A Dutch referendum on the Dutch referendum?
  • September 25, 2017
  • Where does this leave eurozone governance reform?
  • Is Mélenchon losing his momentum?
  • Lost in Florence
  • September 06, 2017
  • On the failure of global policy coordination
  • The day Catalonia disobeyed?
  • Waiting for Varadkar
  • August 21, 2017
  • Soft, getting softer
  • Tsipras' chances of a boost
  • On the fallacy of a middle-ground option for the eurozone
  • July 31, 2017
  • Russia sanctions bill becomes US law
  • Spain's Guardia Civil in the eye of the Catalan storm
  • A grand bargain between France and Germany
  • July 17, 2017
  • What Tony Blair's Brexit confusion tells us
  • Schulz advocates compulsory investments
  • Italy’s government has effectively lost its majority
  • July 03, 2017
  • Can Greece exit its programme without a credit line?
  • The softening Brexit
  • Macron's state of the nation address
  • June 20, 2017
  • How to soften Brexit?
  • The deep roots of Brexit: Thatcher and the Germans
  • June 09, 2017
  • How about the Italian elections...
  • ...and the French?
  • May 30, 2017
  • Beer tent politics - Merkel edition
  • Brexit arrives in UK elections
  • Rajoy clears budget hurdle
  • May 18, 2017
  • German hard line on Brexit already cracking
  • Spanish parliament rebukes justice minister
  • Kenny's resignation and the likelihood of new elections
  • Getting real about fiscal union
  • May 11, 2017
  • Germany rejects IMF’s policy recommendations before they are issued
  • Why Labour is losing
  • May 05, 2017
  • Front National - thinking beyond Sunday
  • Tusk attacks Juncker over Brexit diplomacy
  • Extraordinarily ordinary
  • April 28, 2017
  • On the coming Tory landslide
  • How Grillo sees the markets
  • April 23, 2017
  • The demise of the AfD has accelerated dramatically
  • On how France will need to confront Germany
  • April 19, 2017
  • Shadows of money
  • Breppe Grillo vs Eurointelligence
  • April 15, 2017
  • Happy Easter
  • April 13, 2017
  • Did Russia influence the Brexit vote?
  • All good between Germany and the US now?
  • April 12, 2017
  • Macro in a state of denial
  • Where Schulz is vulnerable
  • Schäuble’s three party tricks