In This Review

The Return of Depression Economics
The Return of Depression Economics
By Paul R. Krugman
W.W. Norton, 1999, 176 pp.

A sober -- and sobering -- appraisal of the past two years of financial history. The book covers the unstable dynamics of financial crises, highly leveraged hedge funds, Japan's deflation and liquidity trap, and other economic pathologies. Krugman argues that deficient demand, which has not appeared on such a global scale since the 1930s, is again a potential problem. When appropriate, countries should pursue an expansionary monetary and fiscal policy -- to revive the "Keynesian compact," whereby they maintain free markets but provide government-assured adequate aggregate demand. Krugman also usefully reminds us that economics is a set of analytical tools applicable to diverse situations, not a rigid set of universal principles. He concludes that the Japanese government should generate inflationary expectations so that the real interest rate can decline further -- an unorthodox conclusion carefully derived from straightforward economic analysis. He tells his story in clear prose, without the diagrams economists love. Masterful at presenting complex ideas in simple and sometimes whimsical parables and analogies, Krugman makes serious analysis fun to read.