Austrian business cycle theory

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The business cycle describes regularly occurring booms and busts observed in the economy and the Austrian business cycle theory (sometimes called the "hangover theory"[1] or simply ABCT) is an explanation of this phenomenon from the Austrian School. Originally developed by Ludwig von Mises in the 1912 Theory of Money and Credit it was elaborated on by Hayek and others.[2] In one classical rendition: Banks expand credit well beyond their own assets and by the funds of their clients, often supported or encouraged by the setting of low interest rates by a central bank. This additional credit flow into the economy from increased borrowing for capital projects stimulates economic activity. Projects which would not have been started before, seem now profitable, creating malinvestment. They increase demand for production materials and for labor and their prices rise, which, in turn, leads to an increase in prices of consumption goods. If the banks would stop the extension of credit, the boom would be rapidly over. To prevent the sudden halt of this boom (and the resulting collapse of prices), the banks must create more and more credit, and the prices will rise even more.

But this expansion of credit cannot continue forever. There is no additional capital or labor; there is only more money (and debt). The means of production and labor which have been diverted to the new enterprises have to be taken away from others. Society is not sufficiently rich to permit the creation of new enterprises without taking away from others. As long as the expansion of credit is continued this will not be noticed, but it can't be pushed indefinitely. The inflation and the boom can last only as long as the public thinks that the prices will stop rising in the near future. When the public becomes aware, that there the inflation will not end, and that prices will continue to rise, panic sets in. Eventually, people may give up the currency and rush to exchange money for goods, buying things they have no use for, just in order to get rid of the money (the so-called "flight into real values.")[3]


The regularly occurring booms and and busts were observed from approximately late eighteenth century, along with the start of the Industrial Revolution. Sudden economic crisis, when some king made war or confiscated the property of his subject were known; but there was no sign of the modern phenomena of general and fairly regular swings in business fortunes, of expansions and contractions.[2]

The Austrian cycle theory began with the eighteenth century Scottish philosopher and economist David Hume, and with the eminent early nineteenth century English classical economist David Ricardo. These theorists observed another crucial institution developing in the mid-eighteenth century, alongside the industrial system. It was the institution of banking, with its capacity to expand credit and the money supply (first, in the form of paper money, or bank notes, and later in the form of demand deposits, or checking accounts, that are instantly redeemable in cash at the banks). It was the operations of these commercial banks which held the key to the mysterious recurrent cycles of expansion and contraction, of boom and bust, that had puzzled observers since the mid-eighteenth century.

The English "Currency School" has tried to explain the boom by the extension of credit resulting from the issue of banknotes without metallic backing. But the school did not see that current accounts which could be drawn upon at any time via checks, play exactly the same role in the extension of credit as bank notes. Because of the legislation inspired by the Currency School (like the Peel's Bank Act of 1844 and similar laws in other countries), to prevent other economic crises, the issue of banknotes without metallic backing was restricted, but the expansion of credit through current accounts was unregulated. From this it was wrongly concluded that the English School's attempt to explain the trade cycle in monetary terms had been refuted by the facts.

The Currency School has also restricted its analysis to the case where credit is expanded in only one country while the banking policy of all the others remains conservative. The internal rise in prices would encourage imports and paralyse exports. Metallic money would drain away to foreign countries. As a result the banks would face increased demands for repayment of the instruments they have put into circulation (such as unbacked notes and current accounts), until they have to restrict credit. Ultimately the outflow of specie checks the rise in prices. The Currency School analyzed only this particular case; it did not consider credit expansion on an international scale by all the capitalist countries simultaneously. In the second half of the 19th century, this theory of the trade cycle fell into discredit, and the notion that the trade cycle had nothing to do with money and credit gained acceptance. The attempt of Wicksell (1898) to rehabilitate the Currency School was short-lived.[3]

Questions Addressed

The Austrian business cycle theory attempts to answer the following questions about things which Austrian theorists, notably Murray Rothbard, believe appear during the business cycle:[4]

  • Why is there a sudden general cluster of business errors?
  • Why do capital goods industries and asset market prices fluctuate more widely than do the consumer goods industries and consumer prices?
  • Why is there a general increase in the quantity of money in the economy during every boom, and why is there generally, though not universally, a fall in the money supply during the depression (or a sharp contraction in the growth of credit in a recession)?

The Theory Explained

This article uses content from the Wikipedia article on Austrian business cycle theory under the terms of the CC-by-SA 3.0 license.

According to the theory, the boom-bust cycle of malinvestment is generated by excessive and unsustainable credit expansion to businesses and individual borrowers by the banks.[5] This credit creation makes it appear as if the supply of "saved funds" ready for investment has increased, for the effect is the same: the supply of funds for investment purposes increases, and the interest rate is lowered.[6] Borrowers, in short, are misled by the bank inflation into believing that the supply of saved funds (the pool of "deferred" funds ready to be invested) is greater than it really is. When the pool of "saved funds" increases, entrepreneurs invest in "longer process of production," i.e., the capital structure is lengthened, especially in the "higher orders", most remote from the consumer. Borrowers take their newly acquired funds and bid up the prices of capital and other producers' goods, which, in the theory, stimulates a shift of investment from consumer goods to capital goods industries. Austrians further contend that such a shift is unsustainable and must reverse itself in due course. Proponents of the theory conclude that the longer the unsustainable shift in capital goods industries continues, the more violent and disruptive the necessary re-adjustment process.

The preference by entrepreneurs for longer term investments can be shown graphically by using any discounted cash flow model. Essentially lower interest rates increase the relative value of cash flows that come in the future. When modelling an investment opportunity, if interest rates are artificially low, entrepreneurs are led to believe the income they will receive in the future is sufficient to cover their near term investment costs. In simple terms, investments that would not make sense with a 10% cost of funds become feasible with a prevailing interest rate of 5% (and may become compelling for many entrepreneurs with a prevailing interest rate of 2%).[7]

The proportion of consumption to saving or investment is determined by people's time preferences, which is the degree to which they prefer present to future satisfactions. In a stable money environment[8] the interest rate is the price signal reflecting the balance of consumption and saving. If the goods and services presently on offer encourage people to spend, interest rates will be higher, reflecting people's short-term time preferences. If the goods and services presently on offer do not encourage people to spend, interest rates will be lower, reflecting people's desire to save their money (and spend their money on goods and services in the future). Thus, interest rates in a stable money environment[9] are determined by the time preferences of depositors.[10]

In an environment where the money supply is continually expanding through the issuance of credit, interest rates no longer reflect people's time preferences, as interest rates are set by the central bank.[11] Because the debasement of the means of exchange in a low interest rate environment is universal, many entrepreneurs can make the same mistake at the same time (i.e. many believe investment funds are really available for long term projects when in fact the pool of available funds has come from credit creation - not real savings out of the existing money supply). As they are all competing for the same pool of capital and market share, some entrepreneurs begin to borrow simply to avoid being "overrun" by other entrepreneurs who may take advantage of the lower interest rates to invest in more up-to-date capital infrastructure. Mises suggests that a tendency towards over-investment and speculative borrowing in this "artificial" low interest rate environment is therefore almost inevitable.[5]

This new money then percolates downward from the business borrowers to the factors of production: to the landowners and capital owners who sold assets to the newly indebted entrepreneurs, and then to the other factors of production in wages, rent, and interest. Austrian economists conclude that, since time preferences have not changed, people will rush to reestablish the old proportions, and demand will shift back from the higher to the lower orders. In other words, depositors will tend to spend money on consumption items, capital investors will find their projects are unsustainable, banks will then ask their borrowers for payment and interest rates and credit conditions will deteriorate.[5]

Austrian economists theorize that capital goods industries will find that their investments have been in error; that what they thought profitable really fails for lack of demand by their entrepreneurial customers. Higher orders of production will have turned out to be wasteful, and the malinvestment must be liquidated.[12] In other words, the particular types of investments made during the monetary boom were inappropriate and "wrong" from the perspective of the long-term financial sustainability of the market because the price signals stimulating the investment were distorted by fractional reserve banking's recursive lending "ballooning" the pricing structure in various capital markets.

This concept is captured by the term "heterogeneity of capital", where Austrian economists emphasize that the mere macroeconomic "total" of investment does not adequately capture whether this investment is genuinely sustainable or productive, due to the inability of the raw numbers to reveal the particular investment activities being undertaken and the inherent inability of the numbers to reveal whether these particular investment activities were appropriate and economically sustainable given people's real preferences.

The boom then, is actually a period of wasteful malinvestment, a "false boom" where the particular kinds of investments undertaken during the period of fiat money expansion are revealed to lead nowhere but to insolvency and unsustainability. It is the time when errors are made, when speculative borrowing has driven up prices for assets and capital to unsustainable levels, due to low interest rates "artificially" increasing the money supply and triggering an unsustainable injection of fiat money "funds" available for investment into the system, thereby tampering with the complex pricing mechanism of the free market. "Real" savings would have required higher interest rates to encourage depositors to save their money in term deposits to invest in longer term projects under a stable money supply. According to von Mises's work, the artificial stimulus caused by bank-created credit causes a generalized speculative investment bubble, not justified by the long-term structure of the market.[5]

Ludwig von Mises stated that the "crisis" (or "credit crunch") arrives when the consumers come to reestablish their desired allocation of saving and consumption at prevailing interest rates.[12][13] The "recession" or "depression" is actually the process by which the economy adjusts to the wastes and errors of the monetary boom, and reestablishes efficient service of sustainable consumer desires.[12][13]

Since it takes very little time for the new credit-sourced money to filter down from the initial borrowers to the recipients of the borrowed funds (the various factors of production), why don't all booms come quickly to an end? Continually expanding bank credit can keep the borrowers one step ahead of consumer retribution (with the help of successively lower interest rates from the central bank). In the theory, this postpones the "day of reckoning" and defers the collapse of unsustainably inflated asset prices.[12][14] It can also be temporarily put off by price deflation or exogenous events such as the "cheap" or free acquisition of marketable resources by market participants and the banks funding the borrowing (such as the acquisition of land from local governments, or in extreme cases, the acquisition of foreign land through the waging of war).[15]

The "false" monetary boom ends when bank credit expansion finally stops - when no further investments can be found which provide adequate returns for speculative borrowers at prevailing interest rates. It is asserted that the longer the "false" monetary boom goes on, the bigger and more speculative the borrowing, the more wasteful the errors committed and the longer and more severe will be the necessary bankruptcies, foreclosures and depression readjustment.[12]. There is also a notion of capital consumption contributing negatively to the readjustment period, which has been discussed in works such as Human Action.[12]

Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek warned of a major economic crisis before the Great Depression. Hayek made his prediction of a coming business crisis in February 1929. He warned that a financial crisis was an unavoidable consequence of reckless monetary expansion.

The role of central banks

All Austrian theorists consider the unsustainable expansion of bank credit through fractional reserve banking as the driving feature of most business cycles. However, Murray Rothbard paid particular attention to the role of central banks in creating an environment of loose credit prior to the onset of the Great Depression, and the subsequent ineffectiveness of central bank policies, which simply delayed necessary price adjustments and prolonged market dysfunction.[16] Rothbard begins with the assertion that in a market with no centralized monetary authority, there would be no simultaneous cluster of malinvestments or entrepreneurial errors, since astute entrepreneurs would not all make errors at the same time and would quickly take advantage of any temporary, isolated mispricing. In addition, in an open, non-centralized (uninsured) capital market, astute bankers would shy away from speculative lending and uninsured depositors would carefully monitor the balance sheets of risky financial institutions, tempering any speculative excesses that arose sporadically in the finance markets. The cycle of generalized malinvestment is therefore caused solely by centralized monetary intervention in the money markets by the central bank.

Rothbard asserts that this over-encouragement to borrow and lend is initiated by the mispricing of credit via the central bank's centralized control over interest rates and its need to protect banks from periodic bank runs (which Austrian economists believe then causes interest rates to be set too low for too long when compared to the rates that would prevail in a genuine non-central bank dominated free market).[5][13]

The element of risk

Interest rates pushed below the natural rate can have another serious damaging effect. They can distort the appreciation of risk. Austrian economists have claimed that interest rates include a risk premium in addition to valuing future over present consumption. It follows that interest rates below the natural rate can create an unwarranted bullishness that leads to systemic "appraisal optimism." Error prone "marginal entrepreneurs" receive resources which would not have been available to them in ordinary circumstances.

This mistaken optimism leads to reductions in precautionary assets or "reserve assets", which businesses hold against untoward events. Businesses conclude that they are in a less risky business environment than they had thought. The resources released by the reduction in precautionary assets can be used to maintain the boom. It is important to note that the drawdown of precautionary assets can only continue for a limited period. At some stage, precautionary assets will be reduced to a minimum below which businessmen will be reluctant to let them fall. (As an example, in the period between the 1870s and the late 1930s, commodity stocks, which may constitute an important part of precautionary assets, were at their lowest point at the end of the boom and were at their highest just before the recovery.)

Risky investments will be concentrated at the beginning of the boom when stocks of precautionary assets are high. As holdings of precautionary assts are diverted into maintaining production in excess of the sustainable production frontier, businesses gradually realize that their resilience to adverse shocks has been reduced, and shift their attention to what they perceive to be less risky but more roundabout investments. It may also help explain how the boom could become self-reinforcing. As the boom progresses, precautionary assets are reduced as they are used to sustain the exuberance of the boom and businessmen’s confidence and optimism increases. Ten years after the start of a boom, businessmen may be more optimistic than they were five years earlier merely because the boom has lasted so long and fears of recession have faded.

Following the crisis, it is natural for businesses to rebuild their precautionary assets. Until these stocks are rebuilt, the economy will lack resilience and remain unduly vulnerable to untoward events.[17]

Other theories

Since the cycles appeared on the scene at about the same time as modern industry, Marx concluded that business cycles were an inherent feature of the capitalist market economy. Many current schools of economic thought, regardless of other differences and the different causes that they attribute to the cycle, agree on this vital point: That the business cycle originates somewhere deep within the free-market economy, and it can be only solved by some form of massive government intervention.[2]


It is sometimes held, that innovations cause the ups and downs of the business cycle. The most prominent defender of that view was probably Joseph Schumpeter. He stated that booms are due to technological or other innovations whose implementations at first seem to promise high profits. After a while, more and more entrepreneurs copy the strategy of the pioneer firms until competitive behavior forces profits to go down again and a depression begins, in which the market is cleaned of unprofitable firms. This is a brief description of the well-known process of "creative destruction" — a term made famous by Schumpeter himself. The new state of equilibrium is only maintained until a new innovation creates the foundation for another boom.

The industrial revolution, the appearance of railway tracks, or the rise of cheap automobiles can be interpreted as examples. Furthermore, the dotcom bubble at the end of the last decade could have been due to innovations like the internet. Even the current crisis can be regarded as the result of financial innovations.[18]

However, it is not technological innovation that generates the boom, but the general boom that makes it possible for more and more firms to implement their innovative ideas. In every moment there exist many ideas for possible innovations and improvements. The latest innovation has not yet been implemented in every business. If there are always many ideas whose only problem is to get enough funds, then it is not technology, but savings that limit development. To implement them, the companies need capital. Society has to save first and then grant credit.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with using credit for an innovative project. The problem only appears when these credits are created out of thin air, thus inducing malinvestments. In an environment of monetary expansion, many innovative projects can be started that are in fact not sustainable. The clusters of innovative activities that seem to be the cause of inevitable depressions are in fact a symptom of the distortion of the market process that is introduced by fractional-reserve banks.

From a policy point of view, using political means to push forward new innovations (like "renewable energy sources") will not suffice to get the economy out of the slump. Moreover, it can be highly dangerous for the aid for such innovations to be flanked by expansive monetary policy.[18]A recent study suggests that this was the case in Spain where a "green" bubble went boom and bust[19] — with all its destructive side effects, including unemployment.[20]

Mania theories

An alternative class of explanations for booms and busts, might be categorized as mania theories. In a mania, investors become entranced by some particular investment—tulip bulbs, French colonial trading ventures, Florida real estate, the "nifty fifty" stocks, or Internet companies—and begin a self-perpetuating process of bidding more for the asset, seeing its price rise, bidding even more for it, and so on. Like a manic-depressive who can only maintain his manic phase for so long before crashing, eventually investors begin to have doubts about the focus of their mania, at which point the bubble bursts.

There is nothing in most mania theories that contradicts an Austrian account of boom and bust. The two theories look at the same phenomenon from the vantage point of two different disciplines: social psychology and economics. They may, in fact, prove to be complementary. The Austrian theory offers a coherent explanation of the onset of the mania—a credit expansion—and the onset of the depression—the cessation of the expansion. After all, the mere fact that people are excited about French-Colonial North America or the Internet cannot create a speculative bubble by itself. The funds to speculate with must come from somewhere, and the Austrian theory identifies where. On the other hand, mania theories might help to explain the reason that booms often seem to be channeled into certain faddish investments.[21]


These are some of the more frequent or known criticisms of the theory.

Central banking

Some critics point out that simplistic versions of the theory blame the business cycle on central banks, but the cycle has been well known throughout 19th century, well before central banking in the modern sense and the 20th century growth of the state. One particular example are the United States and its wide range of monetary and banking systems.[22]

Many casual expositions of ABCT say things like, "The business cycle is not a feature of the free market, but instead is caused by the manipulations of the central bank." But it is more correct to say that ABCT blames the boom-bust cycle on fractional reserve banking, not central banking. Specifically, when banks are allowed to issue paper money (or increase customers' electronic bank deposits) without an actual act of saving by somebody in the economy, then the resulting drop in interest rates is artificial. The false interest rate sets in motion an unsustainable boom period, which leads people to erroneously consume capital and which creates the inevitable bust.

Government intervention and central banking can exacerbate or increase the problem as they may allow continuation of the practice of fractional reserve banking beyond what the free market would allow. Were it not for legal privileges granted to banks, the practice of fractional-reserve banking would "pop" and be automatically "regulated" by market competition. Even if banks were legally allowed to extend more loans than they had cash (or gold) in the vaults, they would be very cautious with their over-issue so long as a bank run could spell ruin. Yet time and again, even before the establishment of central banks, governments would allow the banks to "suspend specie payment" during panics. This practice of absolving privileged bankers of their legal obligations was simply institutionalized (in the United States) with the creation of the Federal Reserve. It is no coincidence that the worst boom-bust in US history occurred sixteen years after the formation of the modern American central bank. [23]

The argument that ABCT is false because panics occurred well before the existence of central banking is an example of a "straw man argument".

Rational Expectations

"If investors correctly anticipate that a decline in interest rates will be temporary, they won't evaluate long-term investments on the basis of current rates. So, the Austrian story requires either a failure of rational expectations, or a capital market failure that means that individuals rationally choose to make "bad" investments on the assumption that someone else will bear the cost. And if either of these conditions apply, there's no reason to think that market outcomes will be optimal in general."[22]

First off, free individuals often make mistakes — even systematic mistakes. But even perfectly rational entrepreneurs who know a boom is underway cannot prevent their more reckless competitors from taking cheap (or now free) government loans and bidding away scarce resources. Workers don't care whether their paychecks come from genuine saving or from the printing press, and every few years there is always a fresh crop of naïve employers willing to borrow money and start new projects.

Second, Austrians emphasize that interest rates communicate information to entrepreneurs. In some critiques it seems that "everybody knows" that the true interest rate ought to be 5 percent, and so the central bank's efforts to push it down to 3 percent should be easily corrected. Yet nobody knows what the truly free-market interest rate is. That's why market prices are important in the first place, and why government distortions of these prices lead to real imbalances in the economy.[23]

Entrepreneurs don't need to speculate about a change in consumers’ "rate of time preference", or about the "supply of capital goods". An individual entrepreneur is concerned only with a very small set of market prices, namely, the prices of the inputs she will need for her projects, and the prices for which these products will sell. That’s the whole point of relying on the market rates of interest and other prices — it eliminates the need for individuals to speculate about aggregates that are far too complex for any single mind to comprehend.

Also, some expositions of ABCT assume an initial free market state, and then analyze the impact of a one-shot intervention. But in reality the government of each major country intervene permanently in the credit market by the creation of a central bank (or a centralized system of banks). Actors in these economies have no idea what the free market rate of interest would be in the absence of such interference; even if the rates were raised, the new rate could still be below the "natural rate".[24]

Investment vs. Consumption

If booms are driven by mistaken beliefs that investments have become more profitable, and labor and other resources are channeled into projects not compatible with the overall level of real savings, then consumption should go down, say some critics. But booms are characterized by high, not low, consumption. If the government can't make the economy more productive by pushing down interest rates, how could businesses possibly produce more investment and consumption goods during the boom?[22][25]

The answer is in the Austrian approach to capital theory. The low interest rates of the boom period mislead entrepreneurs into borrowing too much, but they also mislead consumers into borrowing too much and saving too little. This is physically possible because resources that otherwise would have gone into replenishing the capital structure are instead devoted to new projects or additional consumption goods. This "eating of the seed corn" can take a while to manifest in a complex, modern economy.[23]

Unemployment in the boom

In a similar vein, it is pointed out that there is generally no period of high unemployment when resources are transferred out of consumption-producing sectors into investment goods-producing sectors. There is no necessity that the transfer of resources out of investment goods-producing sectors be accompanied by high unemployment.[26]

Suppose we start in an original equilibrium position, where unemployment is at the "natural" rate, reflecting the normal turnover of workers as some businesses fail, etc. Then a $100 billion in crisp new bills is printed, and handed out to bankers. The banks lend the new money to employers, who enter the labor market with the fresh wads of cash in their pockets. Armed with the money that was just created out of thin air, the employers bid up wage rates. Seeing the higher pay, many workers quit their current jobs and take new positions in the expanding sectors. Also, some previously unemployed workers end their job search and take positions with the employers who got their hands on the new $100 billion. There is no reason for unemployment to go up in the scenario just described.

But when the influx of new money is cut off, the underlying economic fundamentals will reassert themselves. The workers who had been drawn into the expanding sectors by new money weren't supposed to move to those sectors. The employers in the boom sectors will lose their advantage over their competitors in other sectors. Without being propped up artificially by cheap money, the bloated boom sectors will realize their unprofitability. They will cut back on operations and lay off workers.

And why don't the laid-off workers move seamlessly back into the original niches from which they came? Why does a massive reservoir of unemployed workers build up after the bust, when no such reservoir built up during the boom? The answer is pretty simple: Workers are more eager to quit and take a better job than to be laid off and take a worse job. During the boom, workers are drawn into the expanding sectors by the promise of higher wages. They aren't forced into the expanding sectors by getting let go from their original position; instead they voluntarily leave. No less important is the capital consumption during the boom period. Society "eats the seed corn" through malinvestment.[27]

There was no inflation as measured by the CPI

Some critics point out, that if prices did not rise (the CPI did not rise excessively) there was really no inflation. There was no wave of rising consumer price inflation in the 2000s.[26]

However, as the CPI is an arbitrary index of prices, it does not necessarily capture the "true" inflation picture.[28] For example, in the 2000s, there was an unprecedented spike in house price inflation fuelled by credit growth. This is a form of inflation, but was not fully picked up in the inflation figures, which focus more on consumer goods.

Expansionary monetary policy makes prices higher than they otherwise would have been. For example, the extraordinary interventions in late 2008 — in which the M1 measure of the monetary stock rose 12 percent over a three-month period — went hand-in-hand with falling prices. Prices should have fallen in response to the bursting bubble. Prices would have fallen more, were it not for a floor under them with an aggressive influx of new money. At the same time, house prices rose at unusual rates during the boom years.[29][27]

Murray Rothbard stressed that the stock-market bubble of the late 1920s — fueled by the Fed's policies — did not coincide with rampant consumer-price inflation - but did produce "inflation" if the term is used to describe a situation in which the money supply is expanding and the dollar is losing value.[30]

Magnitude of a depression

Some critics and adherents of the ABCT misunderstand it if they think it is some sort of comprehensive theory of the boom, breaking point, and length/depth of the bust. It isn't. The theory by itself is a theory of the unsustainable boom. It is a theory that explains why driving the market rate of interest below the natural rate through expansionary monetary policy produces a boom that contains endogenous processes that will cause that boom to turn to a bust.

ABCT tells us nothing about exactly when the boom will break and the precise factors that will cause it. The theory claims that eventually costs will rise in such a way that make it clear that the longer-term production processes falsely induced by the boom will not be profitable, leading to their abandonment. But it says nothing about which projects will be undertaken in which markets and which costs (other than perhaps the loan rate) will rise, and it tells us nothing about the timing of those events. We know it has to happen, but the where and when are unique, not typical, features of business cycles.

Once the turning point is reached, ABCT tells us little to nothing about how the bust will play out. Yes, we know that further inflation and interventionist attempts to prevent the necessary reallocation of resources will make matters worse, but the theory by itself doesn't tell us a priori how this will play out in any given historical circumstance. The ABCT is not a theory of the causes of the length and depth of recessions/depressions, but a theory of the unsustainable boom.

For one example, the ABCT cannot explain the entirety of the Great Depression. What ABCT can explain (at least potentially) is why there was a recession at all in 1929. It argues that it was the result of an unsustainable boom initiated by an excess supply of money at some point in the 1920s. The bigger the boom, ceteris paribus, the worse the bust, but even that doesn't tell us much. Once the turning point is reached, there's not a lot that ABCT can say other than to let the healing process unfold unimpeded.

The same can be said of the most recent boom and bust, where ABCT can help us explain why the boom was unsustainable and necessitated a bust, but it cannot, by itself, explain why the housing market was front and center and why it turned into a financial crisis as well. Nor can it explain the lingering slow recovery in and of itself. Note that if the ABCT is a theory of the unsustainable boom, then a recession caused by other factors would not invalidate the ABCT.[31]


  1. John P. Cochran. "The Hangover Theory?", Mises Daily, Friday, March 16, 2001, referenced 2009-11-14.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Murray N. Rothbard. "The Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle and other essays" (pdf), "Economic Depressions: Their Cause and Cure", p.58-81, referenced 2009-10-27.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ludwig von Mises. "The Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle and other essays" (pdf), "The Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle", p.23-32, referenced 2009-10-27.
  4. America's Great Depression, Murray Rothbard
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Theory of Money and Credit, Ludwig von Mises, Part III, Part IV
  6. The Mystery of Banking. Murray Rothbard
  7. Manipulating the Interest Rate: a Recipe for Disaster, Thorsten Polleit, 13 December 2007.
  8. Sound Money and the Business Cyle, John Cochran, March 19, 2003
  9. Sound Money and the Business Cyle, John Cochran, March 19, 2003
  10. Theory of Money and Credit, Ludwig von Mises, Part II
  11. Sound Money and the Business Cyle, John Cochran, March 19, 2003
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 Human Action, Ludwig von Mises, p.572 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Human_Action" defined multiple times with different content
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Manipulating the Interest Rate: a Recipe for Disaster, Thorsten Polleit, 13 December 2007
  14. Saving the System, Robert K. Landis, 21 August 2004
  15. War and Inflation, Lew Rockwell
  16. America's Great Depression, Murray Rothbard
  17. Robert C. B. Miller. "Systemic Appraisal Optimism and Austrian Business Cycle Theory" (pdf), The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Vol. 15, No. 4, Winter 2012. Referenced 2013-01-21.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Malte Tobias Kahler. "Do Innovations Cause Business Cycles?", Mises Daily, January 07, 2010, referenced 2010-01-07.
  19. Instituto Juan de Mariana. "Study of the Effects of Public Aid to Renewable Energy Sources" (pdf), pp. 19–20. March 2009, referenced 2010-01-08.
  20. Nelson D. Schwartz. "In Spain, a Soaring Jobless Rate for Young Workers", published December 31, 2009, referenced 2010-01-08.
  21. Gene Callahan and Roger W. Garrison. "Does Austrian Business Cycle Theory Help Explain the Dot-Com Boom and Bust?", The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Summer 2003). Referenced 2010-01-10.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 John Quiggin. "Austrian Business Cycle Theory", posted on May 3rd, 2009, referenced 2009-11-11.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Robert P. Murphy. "Correcting Quiggin on Austrian Business-Cycle Theory", Mises Daily: Monday, May 25, 2009, referenced 2009-11-11.
  24. Robert P. Murphy. "The Rational Expectations Objection to Austrian Business Cycle Theory: Prisoner’s Dilemma or Noisy Signal?" (pdf), last updated May 25, 2005, referenced 2009-11-12.
  25. Tyler Cowen. "Paul Krugman on Austrian trade cycle theory", posted on October 14, 2008, referenced 2009-11-14.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Brad DeLong. "What Is Austrian Economics?", April 2010, referenced 2010-04-27.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Robert P. Murphy. "Austrians Can Explain the Boom and the Bust", Mises Daily, March 2009, referenced 2010-04-27.
  28. You shouldn't trust the CPI numbers
  29. Robert P. Murphy. "Evidence that the Fed Caused the Housing Boom", Mises Daily, December 2008, referenced 2010-04-27.
  30. Robert P. Murphy. "The Fed: The Chicago School's Achilles Heel", see also graphic. Mises Daily, December 13, 2010. Referenced 2010-12-14.
  31. Steven Horwitz. "What the Austrian Business Cycle Theory Can and Cannot Explain", Coordination Problem, February 11, 2012. Referenced 2013-01-04.

See also