‘Sec­u­lar stag­na­tion’ is a phrase coined in 1938

Financial Times Middle East - - Letters -

Sir, Although he may be the most prom­i­nent pro­po­nent of the no­tion that we may now be suf­fer­ing from it, it is not true that the dis­tin­guished econ­o­mist Lawrence Sum­mers “coined” the phrase “sec­u­lar stag­na­tion”, as claimed by Gillian Tett in “A blind spot masks the cri­sis dan­ger signs” (March 17). The phrase was coined in 1938 by the Key­ne­sian econ­o­mist Alvin Hansen, who feared that sec­u­lar stag­na­tion, rather than re­cov­ery, would fol­low the Great De­pres­sion, and who be­lieved that per­ma­nent stim­u­lus may be needed to re­spond to this.

Pro­fes­sor Sum­mers, in his dis­cus­sions of this topic, read­ily ac­knowl­edges that the phrase dates back to Hansen. An­tic­i­pa­tion of the con­cept of sec­u­lar stag­na­tion (for ex­am­ple some the­o­ries of un­der­con­sump­tion) may be found in the writ­ings of ear­lier econ­o­mists, in­clud­ing mer­can­tilists, Malthus and Marx. Dr Don­ald Mark­well Bris­bane, QLD, Aus­tralia

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