My friend Steve Keen recently presented a “primer” on Hyman Minsky; you can read it here.
In his piece, Steve criticized the methodology used by Paul Krugman and argued that Krugman could learn a lot from Minsky. In particular, Krugman’s equilibrium approach and primitive dynamics were contrasted to Minsky’s rich analysis. Finally, Krugman’s model of debt deflation dynamics left out banks—while banks always played an important role in Minsky’s approach. Krugman responded here.
I found two things of interest in this exchange.
First, Krugman argued: “So, first of all, my basic reaction to discussions about What Minsky Really Meant — and, similarly, to discussions about What Keynes Really Meant — is, I Don’t Care.” This is not the first time Krugman has mentioned Minsky—see, for example, here, which previewed a talk he was to give titled “The night they reread Minsky.”
Amazingly, Minsky only appears in the title of the talk. It is pretty clear that Krugman has not cared enough to try to find out what Minsky wrote, much less “what Minsky really meant.” Minsky always argued that he stood “on the shoulders of giants”—and he took the time to find out what they had said. So while Minsky probably would have agreed with Krugman that arguing about what the “master” really meant was less interesting, he did believe it was worthwhile to try to understand the writings of those whose shoulders you stand on.
Second, at the end of his most recent blog it is pretty clear that Krugman leaves banks out of his model because he doesn’t understand “what banks do.” He starts by saying ”If I decide to cut back on my spending and stash the funds in a bank, which lends them out to someone else…” Well, if he had actually read Minsky, he would understand that this is the description of a loan shark, not a bank.
So what I want to do today is to quickly summarize Minsky’s main areas of research. Then next week I will post more on Minsky’s view of “money and banking.” For those who want to read ahead, you can see the more “wonkish” piece at the Levy Institute, where I summarize Minsky’s later (mostly unknown) work on banks.
So, who was this Minsky guy and what was he all about? continue reading…