The advent of "stagflation" in the 1970s - the previously unknown combination of high inflation with high unemployment - led to a loss of confidence in Keynesian policies, with primary responsibility for management of the macro economy being shifted to monetary policy and with fiscal policy taking a lesser role.
Four decades later, the wheel may be turning again. The two hot stories in the world of macro management are the decline in effectiveness of monetary policy and a consequent resurgence of interest in active fiscal policy.
Last week Dr Philip Lowe, deputy governor of the Reserve Bank, gave a speech explaining the monetary policy story, so let's look at that today and leave the fiscal story for another day. (Monetary policy refers to the central bank's manipulation of interest rates - and, these days, its creation of money - and fiscal policy refers to the government's manipulation of taxation and government spending in the budget.)
In the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, the big developed countries' central banks cut their official interest rates virtually to zero in their efforts to stimulate demand, avert a depression and get their economies moving again.
When this didn't seem to be having much effect, but being unable to cut their official rates below what economists pompously call "the zero lower bound", first the US and Britain, then Japan, then the euro zone resorted to an unorthodox practice known as "quantitative easing": central banks buying bonds from the commercial banks and paying for them by creating money out of thin air.
The main way this stimulated their economies was by pushing down their exchange rates relative to the currencies of those countries that didn't resort to QE - us, for example.
The Europeans got so desperate to get their economies moving their next step was to do something formerly believed impossible: they cut their official interest rate below zero - meaning the central bank charges its commercial banks a tiny percentage for allowing them to deposit money in their central-bank accounts. In a few cases, the commercial banks have passed on this "negative interest rate" to their business depositors.
As Lowe says, the present global monetary environment is "quite extraordinary". There's been unprecedented money creation by major central banks, official interest rates are negative across much of Europe, long-term government bond yields (interest rates) in most advance countries are the lowest in history and lending rates for many private-sector borrowers are the lowest ever.
Had anything like this much stimulus been applied in earlier decades, economies would be booming and inflation would have taken off. Instead, though the US and British economies are now growing moderately, Japan and the rest of Europe remain mired, with considerable idle capacity. Inflation rates are low almost everywhere and inflation expectations have generally declined, not increased.
But why have things changed so much? Lowe says it's partly because the GFC was the biggest financial shock since the Great Depression and so has required a much bigger dose of monetary stimulus than usual, which is taking longer than usual to work.
But it's also partly because monetary policy is less effective. "Economic activity does not appear to have responded to the stimulatory monetary conditions in the way that occurred in the past and inflation rates have been very low," he says.
The single most important factor causing the change, he says, is the very high levels of debt now existing in many advanced economies.
One of the "channels" through which stimulatory monetary policy works is by the lower interest rates encouraging people to borrow so as to bring forward future spending. This has worked well in the past, but the high stock of debt acquired from past episodes has left many households, businesses and banks (and even in some cases, perversely, governments) unwilling to add to their debt.
Rather, they're using the low interest rates to help "repair their balance sheets" by paying down their debts.
One aspect of easy monetary policy that is still working normally, however, is the rapid rise in the prices of assets such as property and shares.
Another thing that's different is the flow-on from demand to prices. Both workers and firms seem to perceive their pricing power to have been reduced. More worried about keeping their jobs, workers are accepting much lower wage rises. More worried about losing customers, firms are more cautious about putting up their prices.
So how is all this affecting us in Australia? Lowe says one big effect is to leave us with an exchange rate that's higher than it should be; that hasn't fallen as much as the fall in our mineral export prices implies it should have.
This has required the Reserve Bank to cut our official interest rate by more than it thinks ideal. It's done this partly to reduce our interest rates relative to other advanced countries' rates and so put some downward pressure on our dollar, but mainly to make up for the inadequate stimulus coming from the still-too-high exchange rate.
The big drawback to our very low interest rates is the boom in asset prices: for shares and, more worryingly, houses.
Second, Lowe says, the same factors affecting global monetary policy are evident in Oz, although to a lesser extent. Our banks, businesses and governments don't have excessive levels of debt, but our households do. So, many are using the fall in mortgage interest rates to step up their repayments of principal rather than increase their consumer spending.
Retirees living on interest earnings seem to have cut their consumption rather than eat into their capital.
Our wage growth is surprisingly low, contributing to low inflation.
Lowe's conclusion, however, is that our monetary policy is still working. And once the major advanced economies have fully recovered from the Great Recession - which could take as long as another decade - global monetary policy will return to normal.