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Randall W. Forsyth, writing for Barron's early spring 2009, wrote about Austrian economists, "Their ideas warned us of the bubble; their prescription for the bust is too harsh, however." Now that the NBER has announced that the current "Great Recession" ended in June 2009, after 18 months, let's reexamine this claim. First, the end date clearly indicates that the 2009 stimulus had no discernable impact on either the timing or the depth of the trough. Subsequent economic activity clearly should cause one to question whether the $800 billion package sped recovery at all.
In fact a better question is the one raised by the Wall Street Journal, in "A Tale of Two Recoveries": Did Keynesian policies do more harm than good? The Journal, sounding much like Robert Higgs, answers in the affirmative. "Our view is that hyperkinetic government policies have done more harm than good, leading to uncertainty and higher costs that have undermined business and consumer confidence and slowed the economy's otherwise natural recuperative powers."
The Journal, then, granting NBER's chronology, contrasts the current recession and "recovery" with the almost equally long (16 months) and severe (unemployment peaked above 11 percent) recession of July 1981–November 1982 and subsequent recovery. Their conclusion is that the different policy circumstances significantly explain the drastically different recovery paths: following the trough in late 1982, the economy rapidly surpassed the prerecession levels of output. But currently, nearly 15 months past the trough, our economy is still significantly below prerecession levels.