Statistical games

Jun 28, 2014

It’s fair to say that among those of us buried deep in the paranoid depths of the alt-finance community, a certain suspicion exists when it comes to government economic statistics. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to claim that among the broader population, cynicism about such stats is also increasing. We have after all seen a senior policeman testify in parliament to the corruption of official crime stats, just as rigorous studies have shown grade inflation in school exam results. Why should economics be immune from this malign trend?
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Niall Ferguson and Andreas Schaab (Harvard) and Moritz Schularick (The Bonn Institute of Macroeconomics and Econometrics) have an interesting new study out detailing the history of central bank balance sheet expansions and contractions in “12 advanced economies since 1900.”


Mainstream economists tend to belittle the significance of this subject. Monetarists and Keynesians regard an elastic money supply, manipulated by central banks, as a desirable weapon to be used in smoothing out the business cycle. Some economists even go so far as to argue that with interest rates at record lows and inflation tepid, central banks should be directly monetising government infrastructure projects.

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