Neoclassical economists emphasize Say’s law, which holds that supply creates its own demand. Keynesian economists emphasize Keynes’ law, which holds that demand creates its own supply. Many mainstream economists take a Keynesian perspective, emphasizing the importance of aggregate demand, for the short run, and a neoclassical perspective, emphasizing the importance of aggregate supply, for the long run.
The upward-sloping short run aggregate supply (SRAS) curve shows the positive relationship between the price level and the level of real GDP in the short run. Aggregate supply slopes up because when the price level for outputs increases, while the price level of inputs remains fixed, the opportunity for additional profits encourages more production. The aggregate supply curve is near-horizontal on the left and near-vertical on the right. In the long run, we show the aggregate supply by a vertical line at the level of potential output, which is the maximum level of output the economy can produce with its existing levels of workers, physical capital, technology, and economic institutions.
The downward-sloping aggregate demand (AD) curve shows the relationship between the price level for outputs and the quantity of total spending in the economy. It slopes down because of: (a) the wealth effect, which means that a higher price level leads to lower real wealth, which reduces the level of consumption; (b) the interest rate effect, which holds that a higher price level will mean a greater demand for money, which will tend to drive up interest rates and reduce investment spending; and (c) the foreign price effect, which holds that a rise in the price level will make domestic goods relatively more expensive, discouraging exports and encouraging imports.
The aggregate demand/aggregate supply (AD/AS) diagram shows how AD and AS interact. The intersection of the AD and AS curves shows the equilibrium output and price level in the economy. Movements of either AS or AD will result in a different equilibrium output and price level. The aggregate supply curve will shift out to the right as productivity increases. It will shift back to the left as the price of key inputs rises, and will shift out to the right if the price of key inputs falls. If the AS curve shifts back to the left, the combination of lower output, higher unemployment, and higher inflation, called stagflation, occurs. If AS shifts out to the right, a combination of lower inflation, higher output, and lower unemployment is possible.
The AD curve will shift out as the components of aggregate demand—C, I, G, and X–M—rise. It will shift back to the left as these components fall. These factors can change because of different personal choices, like those resulting from consumer or business confidence, or from policy choices like changes in government spending and taxes. If the AD curve shifts to the right, then the equilibrium quantity of output and the price level will rise. If the AD curve shifts to the left, then the equilibrium quantity of output and the price level will fall. Whether equilibrium output changes relatively more than the price level or whether the price level changes relatively more than output is determined by where the AD curve intersects with the AS curve.
The AD/AS diagram superficially resembles the microeconomic supply and demand diagram on the surface, but in reality, what is on the horizontal and vertical axes and the underlying economic reasons for the shapes of the curves are very different. We can illustrate long-term economic growth in the AD/AS framework by a gradual shift of the aggregate supply curve to the right. We illustrate a recession when the intersection of AD and AS is substantially below potential GDP, while we illustrate an expanding economy when the intersection of AS and AD is near potential GDP.
Cyclical unemployment is relatively large in the AD/AS framework when the equilibrium is substantially below potential GDP. Cyclical unemployment is small in the AD/AS framework when the equilibrium is near potential GDP. The natural rate of unemployment, as determined by the labor market institutions of the economy, is built into what economists mean by potential GDP, but does not otherwise appear in an AD/AS diagram. The AD/AS framework shows pressures for inflation to rise or fall when the movement from one equilibrium to another causes the price level to rise or to fall. The balance of trade does not appear directly in the AD/AS diagram, but it appears indirectly in several ways. Increases in exports or declines in imports can cause shifts in AD. Changes in the price of key imported inputs to production, like oil, can cause shifts in AS. The AD/AS model is the key model we use in this book to understand macroeconomic issues.
We can divide the SRAS curve into three zones. Keynes’ law says demand creates its own supply, so that changes in aggregate demand cause changes in real GDP and employment. We can show Keynes’ law on the horizontal Keynesian zone of the aggregate supply curve. The Keynesian zone occurs at the left of the SRAS curve where it is fairly flat, so movements in AD will affect output, but have little effect on the price level. Say’s law says supply creates its own demand. Changes in aggregate demand have no effect on real GDP and employment, only on the price level. We can show Say’s law on the vertical neoclassical zone of the aggregate supply curve. The neoclassical zone occurs at the right of the SRAS curve where it is fairly vertical, and so movements in AD will affect the price level, but have little impact on output. The intermediate zone in the middle of the SRAS curve is upward-sloping, so a rise in AD will cause higher output and price level, while a fall in AD will lead to a lower output and price level.