Non-economists might expect professional economists to pay great heed to these indicators—after all, surely private debt affects the economy? However, the dominant approach to economics—known as “Neoclassical Economics” —ignores them completely, on the a priori grounds that the aggregate level of private debt doesn’t matter: only its distribution can have macroeconomic impacts.
The argument is that a rise in debt merely indicates a transfer of spending power from a saver to a borrower. The debtor’s spending power rises, but saver’s spending power also falls, so in the aggregate there will only be a macroeconomic effect if there is a very large difference in behaviour between the saver and borrower.
Therefore only the distribution of debt matters, not its level or rate of change.
US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke provided precisely this rationale to explain why neoclassical economists ignored Irving Fisher’s “debt-deflation” explanation of the Great Depression (Fisher 1933), and he also asserted that the differences in behaviour between saver and borrower could not be large enough to explain the Great Depression....Not only New Classicals think this, but also New Keynesians.
Similarly, Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman argued recently that the aggregate level of private debt was not a factor in the GFC: only its distribution could be. He therefore developed a model in which the distribution of debt, rather than its level, was the causal factor...Steve shows goes on to show why this is wrong thinking.
Read it at DebtWatch