Economists Finally Have a Good Excuse for Being Wrong

It is possible, contrary to the predictions of most economists, that the US will get through this disinflationary period and make the proverbial “soft landing.” This should prompt a more general reconsideration of macroeconomic forecasts.

The lesson is that they have a disturbing tendency to go wrong. It is striking that Larry Summers was right two years ago to warn about pending inflationary pressures in the US economy, when most of his colleagues were wrong. Yet Summers may yet prove to be wrong about his current warning about the looming threat of a recession. The point is that both his inflation and recession predictions stem from the same underlying aggregate demand model.

It is understandable when a model is wrong because of some big and unexpected shock, such as the war in Ukraine. But that is not the case here. The US might sidestep a recession for mysterious reasons specific to the aggregate demand model. The Federal Reserve’s monetary policy has indeed been tighter, and disinflations usually bring high economic costs.

It gets more curious yet. Maybe Summers will turn out to be right about a recession. When recessions arrive, it is often quite suddenly. Consulting every possible macroeconomic theory may be of no help.