Robert P. Murphy*
Keynesian economists say the opposite. They argue that the aggregate demand from the private sector is far below the level needed to ensure full employment. Consequently, the government must borrow and spend many hundreds of billions of dollars in order to close the “output gap.” The Keynesians do concede that during normal times a government budget deficit tends to “crowd out” private investment. But they claim that the worry about tradeoffs is irrelevant during an economic slump, when many resources are idle.2
Rather than tackling the entire debate in this article, I focus on a crucial component of it: the so-called “paradox of thrift.” According to this idea, what is wise and prudent for an individual household yields disaster for the community as a whole. During times of uncertainty, individuals naturally react by slashing discretionary spending to bolster their savings. And yet, according to believers in the paradox of thrift, when everybody tries to save more at the same time, the result is less saving and more poverty.