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9.8 Saving-induced Capital Restructuring

Suppose that in circumstances of a no-growth economy and a natural rate of

interest of ieq, people become more thrifty. The increased saving is depicted in

Figure 9.8 as a rightward shift in the supply of loanable funds (from S to S).

With the resulting downward pressure on the interest rate, the loanable funds

market is brought back into equilibrium. The natural rate of interest falls from

ieq to ieq. The reduced cost of borrowing motivates the business community to

expand investment activities. Increased saving, of course, means reduced consumption.

But the reduced consumption is offset by the increased investment,

allowing the economy to stay on its production possibility frontier. The clockwise

movement along the frontier in the direction of increased investment is

consistent with the hypothesized change in intertemporal preferences.

The corresponding changes in the Hayekian triangle follow straightforwardly.

The currently reduced demand for consumable output (which

Figure 9.8 Saving-induced economic growth

S, I

ieq

Interest

rate

S

Investment

C

Stages of production I

S

S = I S= I

i eq

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depresses investment) is accompanied by reduced borrowing costs (which

stimulate investment). The effects of these changes in market conditions

were discussed in section 9.4.4 above in terms of ‘derived demand’ and

‘time discount’. The derived-demand effect dominates in the late stages; the

time-discount effect dominates in the early stages. Input prices are bid

down in the late stages (reflecting the low demand for current and near-term

output) and are bid up in the early stages (reflecting the low borrowing

costs). The changes in relative prices draw resources out of the late stages

and into the early stages. Further, stages of production temporally more

remote from final consumption than had existed before will have yields that

are attractive in the light of the low borrowing costs. In the absence of any

further changes in saving preferences or in any other data, the new

intertemporal equilibrium will entail a rate of return in the real sector

(consisting of all the stages) that matches the low rate of interest in the

financial sector. The general pattern of resource reallocation is depicted as a

shallower slope of the triangle’s hypotenuse.

In discussing in more concrete terms the nature of these saving-induced

reallocations, the relevant distinction is not between labour and capital but

rather between resources of both kinds that are (relatively) non-specific and

resources of both kinds that are (relatively) specific. Non-specific capital,

such as building materials that can be used for building either retail outlets or

research facilities, will move out of comparatively late stages and into early

ones in response to relatively small price differentials. Specific capital, such

as mining equipment or amusement park attractions, may enjoy a capital gain

(in the first instance) or suffer a capital loss (in the second). Similarly, nonspecific

labour will migrate in the direction of the early stages in response to

small wage-rate differentials, while workers who are wedded to particular

stages may experience increased – or reduced – wage rates. Note that the

focus on the allocation of resources among the stages of production in response

to changes in relative prices and wages warns against theorizing in

terms of the wage rate.

Once the capital restructuring is complete and the earliest saving-induced

investments work their way through the stages of production, the output of

consumables will increase, eventually exceeding the output that characterized

the initial no-growth economy. If we understand the saving that gave rise to

the capital restructuring not as a permanent reduction in consumption but

rather as an increased demand for future consumption, then we see that the

reallocations are consistent with the preference change that gave rise to them.

Further, we see that the clockwise movement along the production possibilities

frontier, followed by an outward expansion of the frontier itself, traces

out a temporal pattern of consumption that is wholly consistent with the

pattern depicted in Figure 9.2. By forgoing consumption in the near term,

people’s saving behaviour allows the economy to make the transition from a

no-growth economy to an economy experiencing secular growth.

Two qualifications will help to put in perspective this account of the

market’s reaction to an increase in saving. First, the assumption of an initial

no-growth economy was made purely for pedagogical reasons. In this setting

the changes brought about by an increase in saving are isolated from any

other ongoing changes, such as those associated with secular growth. The

demand for inputs falls in some stages and rises in others. Some stages lose

resources; others gain them. In application, however, where there is already

ongoing secular growth, these same relative effects are expressed not in terms

of absolute decreases and increases but rather in terms of increases at a

relatively slow rate and increases at a relative rapid rate. The market is simply

doing the same things it did before the increase in saving – except for its

doing them under conditions of moderated consumption demand marginally

more favourable credit conditions. As suggested earlier, the plausibility of the

market being able to accommodate itself to the increase in saving is about the

same as the plausibility that it could function reasonably well during the

period of secular growth.

Second, and relatedly, the substantial one-time shift in the supply of loanable

funds shown in Figure 9.8 is not intended to suggest that saving behaviour

sometimes changes that dramatically. Like adopting the assumption of nogrowth,

hypothesizing a dramatic change serves a purely pedagogical purpose.

In teaching the basics of supply and demand, professors draw a substantially

shifted curve on the blackboard so that students in the back row can see it.

There is no implication here that actual changes in saving preferences tend to

be dramatic ones or that saving is in some sense unstable. Quite the contrary:

in light of the complexities of the capital structure and the nature of the

market mechanisms that keep it in line with saving preferences, the message

should be that even small and gradual changes in saving preference need to

be accommodated by the appropriate movements of resources among the

stages of production. As in microeconomics, Austrian macroeconomics is

about marginal adjustments to parametric changes.

Because of the explicit temporal element in the capital structure, any interstage

misallocations can be cumulative. The avoidance of such misallocations

requires the interest rate to tell the truth about intertemporal preferences. The

consequences of a falsified interest rate (cumulative intertemporal misallocations

followed by a crisis) are the subject of section 9.10. But it the

following section we consider the Keynesian view of increased saving in the

context of our capital-based macroeconomic framework.

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