Research Programs

Economic Policy for the 21st Century

Economic Policy for the 21st Century

Nearly all Levy Institute research focuses not only on economic analysis, but also on the creation of possible strategies through which policymakers may solve the issue at hand. This program includes research on those macroeconomic policy areas most closely associated with public sector activities: monetary policy and financial institutions, federal budget policy, and the labor market. Examples of studies on monetary policy and financial institutions include explorations of the repercussions the euro’s introduction has had on monetary and fiscal policies and monetary institutions within the European Community; the effectiveness of monetary policy; and Minskyan analyses of the current economic problems in the United States, Japan, and Brazil. Examinations of federal budget policies cover such topics as the effects of budget surpluses on the economy, the need for fiscal expansion to combat economic torpor, and analyses of the Social Security and health care systems.

Associated Programs

Federal Budget Policy
Explorations in Theory and Empirical Analysis
INET–Levy Institute Project

Program Publications

  • Working Paper No. 875 | September 2016
    A Global Cap to Build an Effective Postcrisis Banking Supervision Framework

    The global financial crisis shattered the conventional wisdom about how financial markets work and how to regulate them. Authorities intervened to stop the panic—short-term pragmatism that spoke volumes about the robustness of mainstream economics. However, their very success in taming the collapse reduced efforts to radically change the “big bank” business model and lessened the possibility of serious banking reform—meaning that a strong and possibly even bigger financial crisis is inevitable in the future. We think an overall alternative is needed and at hand: Minsky’s theories on investment, financial stability, the growing weight of the financial sector, and the role of the state. Building on this legacy, it is possible to analyze which aspects of the post-2008 reforms actually work. In this respect, we argue that the only effective solution is to impose a global cap on the absolute size of banks.

    Associated Program(s):
    Giuseppe Mastromatteo Lorenzo Esposito
    Related Topic(s):

  • Working Paper No. 874 | September 2016
    Is There a Case for Gender-sensitive Horizontal Fiscal Equalization?

    This paper seeks to evaluate whether a gender-sensitive formula for the inter se devolution of union taxes to the states makes the process more progressive. We have used the state-specific child sex ratio (the number of females per thousand males in the age group 0–6 years) as one of the criteria for the tax devolution. The composite devolution formula as constructed provides maximum rewards to the state with the most favorable child-sex ratio, and the rewards progressively decline along with the declining sex ratio. In this formulation, the state with the most unfavorable child-sex ratio is penalized the most in terms of its share in the horizontal devolution. It is observed that the inclusion of gender criteria makes the intergovernmental fiscal transfers formula more equitable across states. This is not surprising given the monotonic decline in the sex ratio in some of the most high-income states in India.

  • Working Paper No. 872 | August 2016
    Do Fiscal Rules Impose Hard Budget Constraints?

    The primary objective of rule-based fiscal legislation at the subnational level in India is to achieve debt sustainability by placing a ceiling on borrowing and the use of borrowed resources for public capital investment by phasing out deficits in the budget revenue account. This paper examines whether the application of fiscal rules has contributed to an increase in fiscal space for public capital investment spending in major Indian states. Our analysis shows that, controlling for other factors, there is a negative relationship between fiscal rules and public capital investment spending at the state level under the rule-based fiscal regime.

  • Working Paper No. 868 | June 2016
    The ECB’s Belated Conversion?

    This paper investigates the European Central Bank’s (ECB) monetary policies. It identifies an antigrowth bias in the bank’s monetary policy approach: the ECB is quick to hike, but slow to ease. Similarly, while other players and institutional deficiencies share responsibility for the euro’s failure, the bank has generally done “too little, too late” with regard to managing the euro crisis, preventing protracted stagnation, and containing deflation threats. The bank remains attached to the euro area’s official competitive wage–repression strategy, which is in conflict with the ECB’s price stability mandate and undermines its more recent, unconventional monetary policy initiatives designed to restore price stability. The ECB needs a “Euro Treasury” partner to overcome the euro regime’s most serious flaw: the divorce between central bank and treasury institutions.

  • Working Paper No. 867 | May 2016

    This paper examines the issue of the Greek public debt from different perspectives. We provide a historical discussion of the accumulation of Greece’s public debt since the 1960s and the role of public debt in the recent crisis. We show that the austerity imposed since 2010 has been unsuccessful in stabilizing the debt while at the same time taking a heavy toll on the Greek economy and society. The experience of the last six years shows that the country’s public debt is clearly unsustainable, and therefore a bold restructuring is needed. An insistence on the current policies is not justifiable either on pragmatic or on moral or any other grounds. The experience of Germany in the early post–World War II period provides some useful hints for the way forward. A solution to the Greek public debt problem is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the solution of the Greek and wider European crisis. A broader agenda that deals with the malaises of the Greek economy and the structural imbalances of the eurozone is of vital importance.

  • Working Paper No. 866 | May 2016
    Proposals for the Eurozone Crisis

    After reviewing the main determinants of the current eurozone crisis, this paper discusses the feasibility of introducing fiscal currencies as a way to restore fiscal space in peripheral countries, like Greece, that have so far adopted austerity measures in order to abide by their commitments to eurozone institutions and the International Monetary Fund. We show that the introduction of fiscal currencies would speed up the recovery, without violating the rules of eurozone treaties. At the same time, these processes could help transition the euro from its current status as the single currency to the status of “common clearing currency,” along the lines proposed by John Maynard Keynes at Bretton Woods as a system of international monetary payments. Eurozone countries could therefore move from “Plan B,” aimed at addressing member-state domestic problems, to a “Plan A” for a better European monetary system.

  • Working Paper No. 864 | April 2016

    In this paper we analyze options for the European Central Bank (ECB) to achieve its single mandate of price stability. Viable options for price stability are described, analyzed, and tabulated with regard to both short- and long-term stability and volatility. We introduce an additional tool for promoting price stability and conclude that public purpose is best served by the selection of an alternative buffer stock policy that is directly managed by the ECB.

  • Working Paper No. 861 | March 2016

    Money, in this paper, is defined as a power relationship of a specific kind, a stratified social debt relationship, measured in a unit of account determined by some authority. A brief historical examination reveals its evolving nature in the process of social provisioning. Money not only predates markets and real exchange as understood in mainstream economics but also emerges as a social mechanism of distribution, usually by some authority of power (be it an ancient religious authority, a king, a colonial power, a modern nation state, or a monetary union). Money, it can be said, is a “creature of the state” that has played a key role in the transfer of real resources between parties and the distribution of economic surplus.

    In modern capitalist economies, the currency is also a simple public monopoly. As long as money has existed, someone has tried to tamper with its value. A history of counterfeiting, as well as that of independence from colonial and economic rule, is another way of telling the history of “money as a creature of the state.” This historical understanding of the origins and nature of money illuminates the economic possibilities under different institutional monetary arrangements in the modern world. We consider the so-called modern “sovereign” and “nonsovereign” monetary regimes (including freely floating currencies, currency pegs, currency boards, dollarized nations, and monetary unions) to examine the available policy space in each case for pursuing domestic policy objectives.

  • Working Paper No. 859 | February 2016
    A Technical Articulation for Asia-Pacific

    Against the backdrop of the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development, this paper analyzes the measurement issues in gender-based indices constructed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and suggests alternatives for choice of variables, functional form, and weights. While the UNDP Gender Inequality Index (GII) conceptually reflects the loss in achievement due to inequality between men and women in three dimensions—health, empowerment, and labor force participation—we argue that the assumptions and the choice of variables to capture these dimensions remain inadequate and erroneous, resulting in only the partial capture of gender inequalities. Since the dimensions used for the GII are different from those in the UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI), we cannot say that a higher value in the GII represents a loss in the HDI due to gender inequalities. The technical obscurity remains how to interpret GII by combining women-specific indicators with indicators that are disaggregated for both men and women. The GII is a partial construct, as it does not capture many significant dimensions of gender inequality. Though this requires a data revolution, we tried to reconstruct the GII in the context of Asia-Pacific using three scenarios: (1) improving the set of variables incorporating unpaid care work, pay gaps, intrahousehold decision making, exposure to knowledge networks, and feminization of governance at local levels; (2) constructing a decomposed index to specify the direction of gender gaps; and (3) compiling an alternative index using Principal Components Index for assigning weights. The choice of countries under the three scenarios is constrained by data paucity. The results reveal that the UNDP GII overestimates the gap between the two genders, and that using women-specific indicators leads to a fallacious estimation of gender inequality. The estimates are illustrative. The implication of the results broadly suggests a return to the UNDP Gender Development Index for capturing gender development, with an improvised set of choices and variables.

  • Working Paper No. 857 | December 2015

    This paper describes the transformations in federal classification of ethno-racial information since the civil rights era of the 1960s. These changes were introduced in the censuses of 1980 and 2000, and we anticipate another major change in the 2020 Census. The most important changes in 1980 introduced the Hispanic Origin and Ancestry questions and the elimination of two questions on parental birthplace. The latter decision has made it impossible to adequately track the progress of the new second generation. The change in 2000 allowed respondents to declare origins in more than one race; the anticipated change for 2020 will create a single question covering race and Hispanic Origin—or, stated more broadly, race and ethnic origin. We show that the 1980 changes created problems in race and ethnic classification that required a “fix,” and the transformation anticipated for 2020 will be that fix. Creating the unified question in the manner the Census Bureau is testing will accomplish by far the hardest part of what we believe should be done. However, we suggest two additional changes of a much simpler nature: restoring the parental birthplace questions (to the annual American Community Survey) and possibly eliminating the Ancestry question (the information it gathered will apparently now be obtained in the single race-and-ethnicity question). The paper is historical in focus. It surveys how the classification system prior to 1980 dealt with the tension between ethno-racial continuity and assimilation (differently for each major type of group); how the political pressures producing the changes of 1980 and 2000 changed the treatment of that tension; and, finally, the building pressure for a further change.