A theme of my blog, as of my book "A Failure of Capitalism: The crisis of '08 and the Descent into Depression," which gives its name to the blog, is the failure of economists to anticipate or even imagine the possibility of the financial collapse of last September, or to agree on how to deal with the collapse. Government officials (many of them economists), business economists, economic journalists, and academic economists alike were, with rare exceptions, taken by surprise by the bursting of the housing bubble (they didn't know it was a bubble), the ensuing banking collapse, the stock market crash, the sharp decline in output and employment, the global scope of the crisis, and the onset of deflation in the late fall of 2008 that created fears of a depression comparable to the Great Depression of the 1930s. The reason for the surprise was that leading macroeconomists and financial economists had believed until last September that there could never be another depression, that asset bubbles are a myth, that a recession can be more or less effortlessly averted by the Fed's reducing the federal funds rate, that the international banking industry was robust, and that our huge national debt was nothing to worry about, nor our very low personal savings rate. All these beliefs have turned out to be mistaken, along with extreme versions of the rational expectations hypothesis, the efficient-markets theory, and real business cycle theory.
One of the most distinguished of these economists, Robert Lucas of the University of Chicago, a Nobel prize winner, has just published a short piece in the Economist magazine entitled "In Defence of the Dismal Science" (that is, of economics--dubbed the "dismal science" because of the pessimistic though insightful economic theory of Thomas Malthus).