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9.4.3 Austrian disaggregation

The Austrian perspective on Keynesianism and monetarism in the context of

the equation of exchange is revealing. Keynesianism adopts a level of aggregation

that suggests a potential problem – one of dividing resources

appropriately between consumption and investment – but without allowing

for a non-perverse market solution to that problem. Monetarism, as well as

most strands of new classicism, increases the level of aggregation, obscuring

this central issue and hence relegating the problem as well as its solution to

the realm of microeconomics. Pre-dating both monetarism and Keynesianism,

the Austrians were inclined to work at a lower level of aggregation than either

of these schools, one in which both the problem and a potentially viable

market solution could be identified.

Again, the equation of exchange can serve as the common denominator of

the different schools of thought. For the Austrians, the investment aggregate

in the Keynesian rendition must be disaggregated so as to bring the stages of

production into play. QC is consumable output, or goods of the first order – to

use Menger’s terminology. Investments distributed across the nine preceding

stages are identified as Q2 through Q10. The equation of exchange thus becomes:

MV = P(QC + Q2 + Q3 + Q4 + Q5 + Q6 + Q7 + Q8 + Q9 + Q10) (9.3)

Just as QI is reckoned as ‘final’ output in conventional macroeconomic theorizing,

the second- and higher-order goods (Q2 through Q10) in equation (9.3)

are similarly reckoned so as to maintain the integrity of the equation of

exchange. Double counting is thus avoided, and the sum of the output

magnitudes (in equations 9.2 and 9.3) is equal to total output and, equivalently,

to total income. But with the Austrian disaggregation, the focus of the

analysis is on the relative movements among the Qs as well as on their sum.

In the Keynesian construction, it might well seem implausible that an

increase in saving and a corresponding decrease in spending on QC could

cause QI to increase. If business firms are having problems selling out of their

current inventories, they are unlikely to be inspired to commit additional

resources to an expanded capacity and hence to the further overstocking of

these inventories. The doctrine of derived demand suggests that the demand

for productive capacity will mirror the demand for output. In the Austrian

construction, the doctrine of derived demand is tempered by considerations

of time discount. The multiple stages of production allow for enough degrees

of freedom for the consequences of a fall in consumer spending to be described

in terms of a change in the pattern of investment spending rather than

exclusively in terms of an opposing movement in an all-inclusive investment

aggregate. The story of how the market can plausibly work can be squared

with the doctrine of derived demand, but as told by the Austrians, the story is

not dominated by it. The analysis draws on microeconomics as well as

macroeconomics and, as indicated earlier, the main character is the entrepreneur.