I am amazed by how many proponents of fiscal policy don’t understand that it’s symmetrical. Fiscal policy doesn’t mean more government; it means more government during recessions and less government during booms, with no overall change in the average level of government. Anyone who doesn’t even get to that level of understanding, who doesn’t think in terms of policy regimes, is simply not part of the serious conversation.
I agree with the first two sentences, but not with the last.
Yes, in theory, there should be economists who, as they argued for more stimulus in 2009, should at the same time have been arguing for entitlement reform or other reductions in future spending. Other things equal, the bigger debt that we have accumulated over the past five years would make a non-ideological macroeconomist want to propose tighter fiscal policy somewhere down the road.
But “nonideological” and macroeconomics are nearly oxymorons. Name a prominent economist who believes that fiscal expansion is important during recessions and who also is to the right of the median economist on issues like school choice or taxing the rich or the usefulness of regulation. Or try to name a prominent economist who is to the left of the median economist on those issues and who does not believe that fiscal expansion is important.
I know that I was more to the left generally 30 years ago, and I was a confirmed Keynesian. I am more to the right today, and I am a skeptic of Keynesianism.
I do not think that being on the left (right) on other issues necessarily causes you to be a supporter (skeptic) of Keynesianism. However, I do think that people try to avoid affiliative dissonance and cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is an issue because if your general view is that market failures are small and difficult for government to correct, then it is hard to fit Keynesianism in with that belief. If your general view is that market failures are significant and require government intervention, then it is hard to fit the skepticism toward Keynesianism in with that belief.
Affiliative dissonance is my own expression. It just means that if the people with whom you feel an affinity on issues W, X, and Y take a position on issue Z with which you disagree, that makes you uncomfortable. Other things equal, this will make it easier to get you to change your mind on issue Z.
We know from Daniel Kahneman (and others) that we are good at rationalizing opinions that may be arrived at on the basis of intuition. I am not saying that therefore we will never find truth in macroeconomics. What I am saying is that if you close your ears every time you detect someone’s ideology embedded in what they say about macroeconomics, then you will not hear anything.