Yes, we miss the late Hy Minsky, especially those of us who knew him, although I cannot claim to be one who knew him very well. But I knew him well enough to have experienced his wry wit and unique perspective. Quite aside from that, it would have been great to have had him around these last few years to comment on what has gone on, with so many invoking his name, even as they have in the end largely ended up studiously ignoring him and relegating him back into an intellectual dustbin of history, or tried to.
So, Paul Krugman has a post entitled "The Case of the Missing Minsky," which in turn comments on comments by Mark Thoma on comments by Gavyn Davis on discussions at a recent IMF conference on macroeconomic policy in light of the events of recent years, with Mark linkhttp://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2015/06/the-case-of-the-missing-minsky.htmling to Krugman's post. He notes that there seem to be three periods of note: a Minsky period of increasing vulnerability of the financial system to crash before the crash, a Bagehot period during the crash, and a Keynes period after the crash. Krugman argues that, despite a lot of floundering by the IMF economists, we supposedly understand the second two, with his preferred neo-ISLM approach properly explaining the final Keynes period of insufficiently strong recovery due to insufficiently strong aggregate demand stimulus, especially relying on fiscal policy (and while I do not fully buy his neo-ISLM approach, I think he is mostly right about the policy bottom line on this, as would the missing Minsky, I think). He also says that looking at 1960s Diamond-Dybvig models of bank panics sufficiently explain the Bagehot period, and they probably do, given the application to the shadow banking system. However, he grants that existing official models do not sufficiently explain the Minsky period, the runup, how things got so fragile that they could collapse so badly.
Now I do not strongly disagree with most of this, but I shall make a few further points. The first is that in effect Minsky provided a model and discussion of all three stages, although his model of the Keynes stage is not really all that distinctive and is really just Keynes. But he probably did a better job of discussing the Bagehot stage than did Bagehot, and more detailed, if less formal, than Diamond and Dybvig. I suspect that Bagehot got dragged in by the IMF people because he is so respectable and influential regarding central bank policymaking, given his important 1873 Lombard Street, and I am certainly not going to dismiss the importance of that work. But the essentials of what go on in a panic and crash were well understood and discussed prior to 1873, with Minsky, and Kindlegerger drawing on Minsky in his 1978 Manias, Panics, and Crashes, quoting in particular a completely modern discussion from 1848 by John Stuart Mill (I am tempted to produce the quotation here, but it is rather long; I do so on p. 59 of my 1991 From Catastrophe to Chaos: A General Theory of Economic Discontinuities), which clearly delineates the mechanics and patterns of the crash, using the colorful language of "panic" and "revulsion" along the way. Others preceding Bagehot include the inimitable MacKay in 1852 in his Madness of Crowds book and Marx in Vol. III of Capital, although admittedly that was not published until well after Bagehot's book.
One can even find such discussions in Cantillon early in the 1700s discussing what went on in the Mississippi and South Sea bubbles, from which he made a lot of money, and then, good old Adam Smith in 1776 in WoN (pp. 703-704), who in regard to the South Sea bubble and the managers of the South Sea company declared, "They had an immense capital dividend among an immense number of proprietors. It was naturally to be expected, therefore, that folly, negligence, and profusion should prevail in the whole management of their affairs. The knavery and extravagance of their stock-jobbing operations are sufficiently known [as are] the negligence, profusion and malversation of the servants of the company."
It must be admitted that this quote from Smith does not have the sort of detailed analysis of the crash itself that one finds in Mill or Bagehot, much less Minsky or Diamond and Dybvig. But there is another reason of interest now to note these inflammatory remarks by Smith. David Warsh in his Economic Principals has posted in the last few days on "Just before the lights went up," also linked to by the inimitable Mark Thoma. Warsh discusses recent work on Smith's role in the bailout of the Ayr Bank of Scotland, whose crash in 1772 created macroeconomic instability and layoffs, with Smith apparently playing a role in getting the British parliament to bail out the bank, with its main owners, Lord Buccleuch and the Duke of Queensbury, paying Smith off with a job as Commissioner of Customs afterwards. I had always thought that it was ironic that free trader Smith ended his career in this position, but had not previously known how he got it. As it is, Warsh points out that the debate over bubbles and what the role of government should be in dealing with them was a difference between Smith and his fellow Scottish rival, Sir James Steuart, whose earlier book provided an alternative overview of political economy, now largely forgotten by most (An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Oeconomy, 1767).
I conclude this by noting that part of the problem for Krugman and also the IMF crowd with Minsky is that it is indeed hard to fit his view into a nice formal model, with various folks (including Mark Thoma) wishing it were to be done and noting that it probably involves invoking the dread behavioral economics that does not provide nice neat models. I also suspect that some of these folks, including Krugman, do not like some of the purveyors of formal models based on Minsky, notably Steve Keen, who has been very noisy in his criticism of these folks, leading even such observers as Noah Smith, who might be open to such things, to denounce Keen for his general naughtiness and to dismiss his work while slapping his hands. But, aside from what Keen has done, I note that there are other ways to model the missing Minsky more formally, including using agent-based models, if one really wants to, these do not involve putting financial frictions into DSGE models, which indeed do not successfully model the missing Minsky.
Update: Correction from comments is that the Ayr Bank was not bailed out. It failed. However, the two dukes who were its main owners were effectively bailed out, see comments or the original Warsh piece for details. It remains the case that Adam Smith helped out with that and was rewarded with the post of Commissioner of Customs in Scotland.