The Policy Implications of the Neoclassical Perspective

Self-Check Questions

Legislation proposes that the government should use macroeconomic policy to achieve an unemployment rate of zero percent, by increasing aggregate demand for as much and as long as necessary to accomplish this goal. From a neoclassical perspective, how will this policy affect output and the price level in the short run and in the long run? Sketch an aggregate demand/aggregate supply diagram to illustrate your answer. Hint: revisit .


An unemployment rate of zero percent is presumably well below the rate that is consistent with potential GDP and with the natural rate of unemployment. As a result, this policy would be attempting to push AD out to the right.

In the short run, it is possible to have unemployment slightly below the natural rate for a time, at a price of higher inflation, as shown by the movement from E0 to E1 along the short-run AS curve. However, over time the extremely low unemployment rates will tend to cause wages to be bid up, and shift the short-run AS curve back to the left. The result would be a higher price level, but an economy still at potential GDP and the natural rate of unemployment, as determined by the long-run AS curve. If the government continues this policy, it will continually be pushing the price level higher and higher, but it will not be able to achieve its goal of zero percent unemployment, because that goal is inconsistent with market forces.

Would it make sense to argue that rational expectations economics is an extreme version of neoclassical economics? Explain.


The statement is accurate. Rational expectations can be thought of as a version of neoclassical economics because it argues that potential GDP and the rate of unemployment are shaped by market forces as wages and prices adjust. However, it is an “extreme” version because it argues that this adjustment takes place very quickly. Other theories, like adaptive expectations, suggest that adjustment to the neoclassical outcome takes a few years.