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Stefan Karlsson

Estonian Austrianism

Building off of his previous posts on the recovery of Estonia's economy, Stefan Karlsson explains how one should strive for the GDP to be at least as high and unemployment at least as low as then. 

By Guest blogger / July 21, 2012

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy welcomes Estonia's Prime Minister Andrus Ansip (R) during the European Union leaders summit in Brussels June 28, 2012. EU leaders meet on Thursday for their 20th summit since Europe's debt crisis began.

Francois Lenoir/Reuters


One thing about the article that I linked to yesterday that I didn't mention was that it contained some Austrian, or at least semi-Austrian, insights, expressed by Urmas Varblane, professor of economics at the University of Tartu:

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Stefan is an economist currently working in Sweden.

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In the boom years, says Varblane, “GDP growth was not real. It was artificial,” fueled by cheap debt from abroad. The peak, Krugman’s point of comparison, was not “real,” he says. That Estonia has not reached it again is a good thing, Varblane and Ligi say. It never should have been there in the first place.

I can't speak for Varblane, but this shouldn't be interpreted that it would be wrong if GDP rose back and unemployment fell back to the levels of 2007. Quite to the contrary, one should strive for GDP to be at least as high and unemployment at least as low as then. What it means is instead first of all that it shouldn't be done in the unsound and unsustainable way as then. 

And secondly that because the 2007 level of production to such a high extent consisted of the production of malinvestments the level of genuine prosperity, production of things that were really wanted, was in fact much lower than GDP figures suggested. This in turn implies that using 2007 as a base year is misleading and that production of genuine prosperity has developed in a much stronger way.

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