A FINANCIAL ANALYSIS OF RESWITCHING
The classical Austrian Business Cycle Theory (ABCT) is based on an inverse relationship between the so-called Average Period of Production (APP) or ‘roundaboutness’ and the interest rate. According to Böhm-Bawerk (1884 ), the APP is the weighted average time that a unit of labor is locked up in the production process1; moreover, there is a positive relationship between savings (the ‘subsistence fund’) and the APP: the higher the latter the higher the former, which implies an inverse relationship between interest rates and the APP. Thus, a lower interest rate will lead to a higher APP ceteris paribus.
Hayek (2008) based his Hayekian triangles on Böhm-Bawerk’s work: a lower (higher) interest rate leads to a more (less) rounda- bout structure of production, increasing (decreasing) the APP. Including Mises’s (1921) business cycle theory into the analysis, whenever the interest rate is pushed lower than its ‘natural level’, either by the central bank or the banking system, there is an unsus- tainable extension of the APP that will generate an economic boom; the crisis will irremediably follow, as the APP will pull back towards its natural level.
From this brief characterization of the ABCT, it is easy to notice the key role of the inverse relationship between interest rates and roundaboutness; without it, there is no connection from changes in interest rates and roundaboutness, and the ABCT falls apart. The reswitching of techniques is precisely a counterexample to that relationship, as it claims there are situations in which lower interest rates do not lead to more roundabout productive struc- tures.
The organization of this paper is as follows: the next section describes the reswitching of techniques as stated by Samuelson (1966) and the implication for the classical ABCT, based on a phys- ical measure of roundaboutness; section 3 analyzes the alternative of applying corporate finance to the ABCT following Cachanosky and Lewin (2014). Section 4 is a financial analysis of Samuelson’s example, argues why modified duration should replace Böhm- Bawerk’s APP as a measure of roundaboutness, and shows why it does not represent a paradox to the ABCT when the financial approach is used. Sections 5 and 6 address the question from two additional perspectives: a neoclassical with fully flexible prices but fixed techniques and the Austrian related dynamic efficiency.
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