Summary
Real business-cycle theory (RBC theory) is a class of new classical macroeconomics models in which business-cycle fluctuations are accounted for by real (in contrast to nominal) shocks. Unlike other leading theories of the business cycle, RBC theory sees business cycle fluctuations as the efficient response to exogenous changes in the real economic environment. That is, the level of national output necessarily maximizes expected utility, and governments should therefore concentrate on long-run structural policy changes and not intervene through discretionary fiscal or monetary policy designed to actively smooth out economic short-term fluctuations. According to RBC theory, business cycles are therefore "real" in that they do not represent a failure of markets to clear but rather reflect the most efficient possible operation of the economy, given the structure of the economy. RBC theory is associated with freshwater economics (the Chicago School of Economics in the neoclassical tradition). If we were to take snapshots of an economy at different points in time, no two photos would look alike. This occurs for two reasons: Many advanced economies exhibit sustained growth over time. That is, snapshots taken many years apart will most likely depict higher levels of economic activity in the later period. There exist seemingly random fluctuations around this growth trend. Thus given two snapshots in time, predicting the latter with the earlier is nearly impossible. A common way to observe such behavior is by looking at a time series of an economy's output, more specifically gross national product (GNP). This is just the value of the goods and services produced by a country's businesses and workers. Figure 1 shows the time series of real GNP for the United States from 1954–2005. While we see continuous growth of output, it is not a steady increase. There are times of faster growth and times of slower growth. Figure 2 transforms these levels into growth rates of real GNP and extracts a smoother growth trend.
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