Monday, July 07, 2008

End of a Kondratiev cycle?

Driving home from work I listened to an interview on ABC Counterpoint with Professor Wolfgang Kasper suggesting that the world might be coming to the end of the latest Kondratiev cycle. This really took me back.

All those years ago when I was doing undergraduate economics at the University of New England we looked at Kondratiev cycles as part of our studies on trade cycles. I have rarely heard the term mentioned since.

Now for the benefit of non-economists, much of macro economics focuses on short term fluctuations. By contrast, the term Kondratiev cycles is used to refer to long term growth waves - 30-70 years - associated with major technological change. Kondratiev supporters suggest that we are coming to end of the latest wave, the IT and communications wave.

Kondratiev waves are followed by Kondratiev winters, five plus years of economic stagnation, before the next wave gets underway. If Kondratiev supporters are right, and I think that they may well be, the global recession that we are now entering may prove to be a longish term economic winter.

The problem for the modern generation of economists in dealing with this type of problem is, I think, their very denial that it might exist. Most do not remember the seventies, the end of the last wave, when all our established nostrums failed to work.

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