Research Programs

Monetary Policy and Financial Structure

Monetary Policy and Financial Structure

This program explores the structure of markets and institutions operating in the financial sector. Research builds on the work of the late Distinguished Scholar Hyman P. Minsky—notably, his financial instability hypothesis—and explores the institutional, regulatory, and market arrangements that contribute to financial instability. Research also examines policies—such as changes to the regulatory structure and the development of new types of institutions—necessary to contain instability.

Recent research has concentrated on the structure of financial markets and institutions, with the aim of determining whether financial systems are still subject to the risk of failing. Issues explored include the extent to which domestic and global economic events (such as the crises in Asia and Latin America) coincide with the types of instabilities Minsky describes, and involve analyses of his policy recommendations for alleviating instability and other economic problems.

Other subjects covered include the distributional effects of monetary policy, central banking and structural issues related to the European Monetary Union, and the role of finance in small business investment.

 



Program Publications

  • Policy Note 2019/1 | April 2019
    While a consensus has formed that the eurozone’s economic governance mechanisms must be reformed, and some progress has been made on this front, what has been agreed to so far falls short of what is needed to address the central imbalances caused by the eurozone setup, according to Paolo Savona.

    The key elements that are missing from the current package of reforms are interrelated: a common insurance scheme for bank deposits, the possible regulation of banks’ sovereign exposure, and the existence of a common safe asset. Savona outlines a proposal to increase the supply of safe assets provided by a common European issuer (the European Stability Mechanism) and explains how the plan could be made economically and politically satisfactory to all member states while facilitating progress on the deposit insurance and sovereign exposure issues.

  • Working Paper No. 925 | April 2019
    This paper traces the history of China’s reform of its monetary policy framework and analyzes its success and problems. In the context of financial marketization and the failure of the quantity-targeting framework, the People’s Bank of China transformed its monetary policy framework toward one that targets interest rates. The reform includes two important institutional changes: establishing an interest rate corridor and decreasing the difficulty the Open Market Operations room faces in estimating the market demand for reserves. The new monetary policy framework successfully stabilizes the interbank offered rate. However, this does not mean that the new framework is sufficient. One important problem remaining to be solved is how to manage the effects of fiscal activities on monetary policy operations. This paper analyzes the fiscal effects on reserves in China’s Treasury Single Account system. The missing role of the Treasury in monetary policy operations increases the difficulty for the central bank to achieve its interest rate target. A further reform is therefore needed to provide a coordination mechanism between the Treasury and the People’s Bank of China.
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    Author(s):
    He Zengping Jia Genliang
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  • Public Policy Brief No. 147 | March 2019
    As global market integration collides with growing demands for national political sovereignty, Senior Scholar Jan Kregel contrasts two diametrically opposed approaches to managing the tensions between international financial coordination and national autonomy. The first, a road not taken, is John Maynard Keynes’s proposal to reform the postwar international financial system. The second is the approach taken in the establishment of the eurozone and the development of its settlement and payment system. Analysis of Keynes’s clearing union proposal and its underlying theoretical approach highlights the flaws of the current eurozone setup.

  • Working Paper No. 923 | February 2019
    The New Deal and Postwar France Experiments
    By the beginning of the 20th century, the possibility and efficacy of economic planning was believed to have been proven by totalitarian experiments in Germany, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser degree, Fascist Italy; however, the possibilities and limitations of planning in capitalist democracies was unclear. The challenge in the United States in the 1930s and in postwar France was to find ways to make planning work under capitalism and democratic conditions, where private agents were free to not accept its directives.
     
    This paper begins by examining the experience with planning during the first years of the New Deal in the United States, centered on the creation and operation of the National Recovery Administration (NRA) and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), and continues with a discussion of the French experience with indicative planning in the aftermath of World War II. A digression follows, touching on the proximity between the matters treated in this paper and Keynes’s view that macroeconomic stabilization could require a measure of socialization of investments, following James Tobin’s hunch that French indicative planning, as well as some social democrat experiences in Northern Europe, could be playing precisely that role. The paper concludes by identifying the lessons one can draw from the two experiences.

  • Working Paper No. 918 | December 2018
    Divergent trends, as observed, between growth in the financial and real sectors of the global economy entail the need for further research, especially on the motivations behind investment decisions. Investments in market economies are generally guided by call-put option pricing models—which rely on an ergodic notion of probability that conforms to a normal distribution function. This paper considers critiques of the above models, which include Keynes’s Treatise on Probability (1921) and the General Theory (1936), as well as follow-ups in the post-Keynesian approaches and others dealing with “fundamental uncertainty.” The methodological issues, as can be pointed out, are relevant in the context of policy issues and social institutions, including those subscribed to by the ruling state. As it has been held in variants of institutional economics subscribed to by John Commons, Thorstein Veblen, Geoffrey Hodgeson, and John Kenneth Galbraith, social institutions remain important in their capacity as agencies that influence individual behavior with their “informational-cognitive” functions in society. By shaping business concerns and strategies, social institutions have a major impact on investment decisions in a capitalist system. The role of such institutions in investment decisions via policy making is generally neglected in strategies based on mainstream economics, which continue to rely on optimization of stock market returns based on imprecise estimations of probability.

  • Policy Note 2018/5 | November 2018
    Minsky’s Forgotten Lessons Ten Years after Lehman
    Ten years after the fall of Lehman Brothers and the collapse of the US financial system, most commentaries remain overly focused on the proximate causes of the last crisis and the regulations put in place to prevent a repetition. According to Director of Research Jan Kregel, there is a broader set of lessons, which can be unearthed in the work of Distinguished Scholar Hyman Minsky, that needs to play a more central role in these debates on the 10th anniversary of the crisis.
     
    This insight begins with Minsky's account of how crisis is inherent to capitalist finance. Such an account directs us to shore up those government institutions that can serve as bulwarks against the inherent instability of the financial system—institutions that can prevent that instability from turning into a prolonged crisis in the real economy.
     

  • Working Paper No. 917 | October 2018
    Lauchlin Currie and Hyman Minsky on Financial Systems and Crises
    In November 1987, Hyman Minsky visited Bogotá, Colombia, after being invited by a group of professors who at that time were interested in post-Keynesian economics. There, Minsky delivered some lectures, and Lauchlin Currie attended two of those lectures at the National University of Colombia. Although Currie is not as well-known as Minsky in the American academy, both are outstanding figures in the development of non-orthodox approaches to monetary economics. Both alumni of the economics Ph.D. program at Harvard had a debate in Bogotá. Unfortunately, there are no formal records of this, so here a question arises: What could have been their respective positions? The aim of this paper is to discuss Currie’s and Minsky’s perspectives on monetary economics and to speculate on what might have been said during their debate.
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    Author(s):
    Iván D. Velasquez
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  • Working Paper No. 916 | October 2018
    Seigniorage as Fiscal Revenue in the Aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis
    This study investigates the evolution of central bank profits as fiscal revenue (or: seigniorage) before and in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008–9, focusing on a select group of central banks—namely the Bank of England, the United States Federal Reserve System, the Bank of Japan, the Swiss National Bank, the European Central Bank, and the Eurosystem (specifically Deutsche Bundesbank, Banca d’Italia, and Banco de España)—and the impact of experimental monetary policies on central bank profits, profit distributions, and financial buffers, and the outlook for these measures going forward as monetary policies are seeing their gradual “normalization.”
     
    Seigniorage exposes the connections between currency issuance and public finances, and between monetary and fiscal policies. Central banks’ financial independence rests on seigniorage, and in normal times seigniorage largely derives from the note issue supplemented by “own” resources. Essentially, the central bank’s income-earning assets represent fiscal wealth, a national treasure hoard that supports its central banking functionality. This analysis sheds new light on the interdependencies between monetary and fiscal policies.
     
    Just as the size and composition of central bank balance sheets experienced huge changes in the context of experimental monetary policies, this study’s findings also indicate significant changes regarding central banks’ profits, profit distributions, and financial buffers in the aftermath of the crisis, with considerable cross-country variation.

  • Working Paper No. 913 | August 2018
    There is no disputing Germany’s dominant economic role within the eurozone (EZ) and the broader European Union. Economic leadership, however, entails responsibilities, especially in a world system of monetary production economies that compete with each other according to political and economic interests. In the first section of this paper, historical context is given to the United States’ undisputed leadership of monetary production economies following the end of World War II to help frame the broader discussion developed in the second section on the requirements of the leading nation-state in the new system of states after the war. The second section goes on further to discuss how certain constraints regarding the external balance do not apply to the leader of the monetary production economies. The third section looks at Hyman P. Minsky’s proposal for a shared burden between the hegemon and other core industrial economies in maintaining the stability of the international financial system. Section four looks at Germany’s leadership role within the EZ and how it must emulate some of the United States’ trade policies in order to make the EZ a viable economic bloc. The break up scenario is considered in the fifth section. The last section summarizes and concludes.
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    Associated Program(s):
    Author(s):
    Ignacio Ramirez Cisneros
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    Region(s):
    Europe

  • Working Paper No. 911 | August 2018
    This paper reviews the performance of the euro area since the euro’s launch 20 years ago. It argues that the euro crisis has exposed existential flaws in the euro regime. Intra-area divergences and the corresponding buildup of imbalances had remained unchecked prior to the crisis. As those imbalances eventually imploded, member states were found to be extremely vulnerable to systemic banking problems and abruptly deteriorating public finances. Debt legacies and high unemployment continue to plague euro crisis countries. Its huge current account surplus highlights that the euro currency union, toiling under the German euro and trying to emulate the German model, has become very vulnerable to global developments. The euro regime is flawed and dysfunctional. Europe has to overcome the German euro. Three reforms are essential to turn the euro into a viable European currency. First, divergences in competitiveness positions must be prevented in future. Second, market integration must go hand in hand with policy integration. Third, the euro is lacking a safe footing for as long as the ECB is missing a federal treasury partner. Therefore, establishing the vital treasury–central bank axis that stands at the center of power in sovereign states is essential.