It was a privilege to participate in the IMF conference devoted to rethinking policy frameworks in the wake of the crisis. Highly encouraging was the openness of the discussion, the range of views, the willingness to question orthodoxy, and the posture of humility. One gets the impression that the crisis triggered the response that it should. We have embarked on a path of rethinking conceptual frameworks and policy choices in a way that will contribute to the stability of the system. Returning to old patterns, while waiting for different or more complete models to be developed and tested, would be a risky mistake. Here, I offer five thoughts stimulated by the spirit of the conference, as a contribution to the broader discussion that we all hope might stimulate further research and policy analysis. And, ultimately, progress.
I had one major source of unhappiness with last week’s conference on macroeconomic policies in the wake of the financial crisis: the participants were largely silent about the dismal outlook in the advanced economies for the next several years. With the exception of that one critical omission, I was impressed by the discussion. One striking feature was the consensus that there is no consensus. The crisis has, appropriately, made macroeconomists and policymakers humble about what we know. There were, however, some specific issues on which there was, if not unanimity, considerable agreement.
The global economic crisis taught us to question our most cherished beliefs about the way we conduct macroeconomic policy. Earlier I had put forward some ideas to help guide conversations as we reexamine these beliefs. I was heartened by the wide online debate and the excellent discussions at a conference on post-crisis macroeconomic policy here in Washington last week. At the end of the conference, I organized my concluding thoughts around nine points. Let me go through them and see whether you agree or not.