According to Ludwig von Mises’s Austrian Business Cycle Theory (ABCT), the artificial lowering of interest rates by the central bank leads to a misallocation of resources due to the fact that businesses undertake various capital projects that prior to the lowering of interest rates weren’t considered viable. This misallocation of resources is commonly described as an economic boom.
Once the central bank reverses its stance this sets in motion an economic bust. It follows then that the artificial lowering of interest rates sets a trap for businessmen by luring them into unsustainable business activities that are revealed as such once the central bank tightens its interest rate stance.
Critics of the ABCT maintain that there is no justification that businessmen should fall prey repeatedly to an artificial lowering of interest rates. Businessmen are likely to learn from experience, the critics argue, and not fall into the trap produced by an artificial lowering of interest rates. Consequently, correct expectations will undo or neutralize the whole process of the boom-bust cycle that is set in motion by the artificial lowering of interest rates. Hence critics are questioning the validity of the ABCT.
Even Mises himself had conceded that it is possible that some time in the future businessmen will stop responding to loose monetary policy thereby preventing the setting in motion of the boom-bust cycle. In his reply to Lachmann he wrote,
It may be that businessmen will in the future react to credit expansion in another manner than they did in the past. It may be that they will avoid using for an expansion of their operations the easy money available, because they will keep in mind the inevitable end of the boom. Some signs forebode such a change. But it is too early to make a positive statement.
Do Expectations Matter?
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