Real Business Cycles: A Reader

By James E. Hartley; Kevin D. Hoover et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 28

Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 3, Number 3—Summer 1989—Pages 79-90

Real Business Cycles: A New Keynesian Perspective

N. Gregory Mankiw

The debate over the source and propagation of economic fluctuations rages as fiercely today as it did 50 years ago in the aftermath of Keynes’s The General Theory and in the midst of the Great Depression. Today, as then, there are two schools of thought. The classical school emphasizes the optimization of private economic actors, the adjustment of relative prices to equate supply and demand, and the efficiency of unfettered markets. The Keynesian school believes that understanding economic fluctuations requires not just studying the intricacies of general equilibrium, but also appreciating the possibility of market failure on a grand scale.

Real business cycle theory is the latest incarnation of the classical view of economic fluctuations. It assumes that there are large random fluctuations in the rate of technological change. In response to these fluctuations, individuals rationally alter their levels of labor supply and consumption. The business cycle is, according to this theory, the natural and efficient response of the economy to changes in the available production technology.

My goal in this essay is to appraise this newly revived approach to the business cycle. I should admit in advance that I am not an advocate. In my view, real business cycle theory does not provide an empirically plausible explanation of economic fluctuations. Both its reliance on large technological disturbances as the primary source of economic fluctuations and its reliance on the intertemporal substitution of leisure to explain changes in employment are fundamental weaknesses. Moreover, to the extent that it trivializes the social cost of observed fluctuations, real business cycle theory is potentially dangerous. The danger is that those who advise policy-makers might attempt to use it to evaluate the effects of alternative macroeconomic policies or to conclude that macroeconomic policies are unnecessary.

N. Gregory Mankiw is Professor of Economics, Harvard University, and Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research, both in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Real Business Cycles: A Reader
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Part I - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Limits of Business Cycle Research 3
  • Notes 34
  • Chapter 2 - A User's Guide to Solving Real Business Cycle Models 43
  • Part II - The Foundations of Real Business Cycle Modeling 55
  • Chapter 3 57
  • Chapter 4 83
  • References 96
  • Chapter 5 97
  • Chapter 6 102
  • Chapter 7 108
  • Part III - Some Extensions 147
  • Chapter 8 149
  • Chapter 9 168
  • References 178
  • Chapter 10 - Current Real-Business-Cycle Theories and Aggregate Labor-Market Fluctuations 179
  • Chapter 11 - The Inflation Tax in a Real Business Cycle Model 200
  • Part IV - The Methodology of Equilibrium Business Cycle Models 217
  • Chapter 12 219
  • Chapter 13 237
  • Chapter 14 254
  • Chapter 15 272
  • Part V - The Critique of Calibration Methods 293
  • Chapter 16 295
  • Chapter 17 - Measures of Fit for Calibrated Models 302
  • Chapter 18 333
  • Chapter 19 355
  • Part VI - Testing the Real Business Cycle Model 381
  • Chapter 20 - Business Cycles: Real Facts and a Monetary Myth 383
  • References 398
  • Chapter 21 399
  • Chapter 22 - Evaluating a Real Business Cycle Model 431
  • Chapter 23 462
  • Chapter 24 496
  • Chapter 25 513
  • Chapter 26 - Did Technology Shocks Cause the 1990-1991 Recession? 533
  • Part VII - The Solow Residual 541
  • Chapter 27 - Technical Change and the Aggregate Production Function 543
  • Chapter 28 552
  • Chapter 29 564
  • Chapter 30 - Output Dynamics in Real-Business-Cycle Models 571
  • Part VIII - Filtering and Detrending 591
  • Chapter 31 - Postwar U. S. Business Cycles: an Empirical Investigation 593
  • Chapter 32 609
  • Chapter 33 626
  • Index 652
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