by Alasdair MacLeod
It was Karl Marx who was among the first believers that cyclical behaviour was endemic to free markets.
He lived through a time when there was a regular cycle of boom and bust, with phases of economic expansion followed by contraction. Workers were employed and then unemployed, and the only way this could be stopped, in Marxian economics, was for the workers to acquire the means of production, or more correctly, the state to do so on their behalf.
Other economists, such as Jevons and Wicksell, recognised the possibility of long-term fluctuations in commodity prices, but they did not formalise them into cyclical behaviour. Since Marx’s vision, several cycles have been identified, some of which go in and out of fashion.