I talked to Edward Prescott and Edmund Phelps the day Obama signed the stimulus into law and wrote about it in my latest column for The Week.
I’m persuaded that the general logic of Prescott and Kydland’s work on time inconsistency applies to the present situation (and I don’t think you need to accept the strict rational expectations framework to see how it applies), but I was especially taken by Phelps’ concerns about the potentially damaging effects of the stimulus on entrepreneurship and innovation. Please check it out.
Talking to these giants of macro has convinced me that we need to be talking about is how to get the institutions right and keep them stable. What the government is now doing amounts to a pretty radical restructuring of our scheme of economic institutions, but with shockingly little deliberation about or regard for the optimality or stability of the overall incentive structure. This mess was precipitated by what turned out to be a disastrously unstable alignment of incentives. That fact would seem to prescribe taking a lot of care in thinking through how various large interventions might ramify through the system before jumping in. But our government’s behavior increasingly looks a bit like a zealous small-town narcotics squad, excited by its slick new SWAT gear, that’s just kicked down the door to a meth house and has started shooting at anything that moves.