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

  • One-Pager No. 54 | February 2018
    The outgoing governor of the People’s Bank of China recently warned of a possible Chinese “Minsky moment”—Paul McCulley’s term, most recently applied to the 2007 US real estate crash that reverberated around the world as a global financial crisis. Although Western commentators have weighed in on both sides of the debate about the likelihood of China’s debt bubble bursting, Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray argues that too little attention is being paid to the far more probable repeat of a US Minsky moment. US prospects for growth, as well as for successfully handling the next financial meltdown, are dismal, he concludes.
     

  • Policy Note 2018/1 | February 2018
    It is beginning to look a lot like déjà vu in the United States. According to Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray, the combination of overvalued stocks, overleveraged banks, an undersupervised financial system, high indebtedness across sectors, and growing inequality together should remind one of the conditions of 1929 and 2007. Comparing the situations of the United States and China, where the outgoing central bank governor recently warned of the fragility of China’s financial sector, Wray makes the case that the United State is far more likely to “win” the race to the next “Minsky moment.” Instead of sustainable growth, we have “bubble-ized” our economy on the back of an overgrown financial sector—and to make matters worse, he concludes, US policymakers are ill-prepared to deal with the coming crisis.

  • Working Paper No. 900 | January 2018
    A Comparison of the Evolution of the Positions of Hyman Minsky and Abba Lerner
    This paper examines the views of Hyman Minsky and Abba Lerner on the functional finance approach to fiscal policy. It argues that the main principles of functional finance were relatively widely held in the immediate postwar period. However, with the rise of the Phillips curve, the return of the Quantity Theory, the development of the notion of a government budget constraint, and accelerating inflation at the end of the 1960s, functional finance fell out of favor. The paper compares and contrasts the evolution of the views of Minsky and Lerner over the postwar period, arguing that Lerner’s transition went further, as he embraced a version of Monetarism that emphasized the use of monetary policy over fiscal policy. Minsky’s views of functional finance became more nuanced, in line with his Institutionalist approach to the economy. However, Minsky never rejected his early beliefs that countercyclical government budgets must play a significant role in stabilizing the economy. Thus, in spite of some claims that Minsky should not be counted as one of the “forefathers” of Modern Money Theory (MMT), this paper argues that it is Minsky, not Lerner, whose work remains essential for the further development of MMT.

  • Working Paper No. 897 | September 2017
    Ever since the Great Recession, central banks have supplemented their traditional policy tool of setting the short-term interest rate with massive buyouts of assets to extend lines of credit and jolt flagging demand. As with many new policies, there have been a range of reactions from economists, with some extolling quantitative easing’s expansionary virtues and others fearing it might invariably lead to overvaluation of assets, instigating economic instability and bubble behavior. To investigate these theories, we combine elements of the models in chapters 5, 10, and 11 of Godley and Lavoie’s (2007) Monetary Economics with equations for quantitative easing and endogenous bubbles in a new model. By running the model under a variety of parameters, we study the causal links between quantitative easing, asset overvaluation, and macroeconomic performance. Preliminary results suggest that rather than being pro- or countercyclical, quantitative easing acts as a sort of phase shift with respect to time.
     

  • Public Policy Brief No. 144 | September 2017
    A Radical Proposal Based on Keynes’s Clearing Union
    In light of the problems besetting the eurozone, this policy brief examines the contributions of John Maynard Keynes and Richard Kahn to early debates over the design of the postwar international financial system. Their critical engagement with the early policy challenges associated with managing international settlements offers a perspective from which to analyze the flaws in the current euro-based financial system, and Keynes’s clearing union proposal offers a template for a better approach. A system of regional federations employing a clearing system in which members either retained their own currency or used a common currency as a unit of account in registering debits and credits for settlement purposes would preserve domestic policy independence and retain regional diversity.
     

  • Working Paper No. 896 | September 2017
    An Empirical Analysis of Electricity Distribution Companies in Brazil (2007–15)
    The present paper applies Hyman P. Minsky’s insights on financial fragility in order to analyze the behavior of electricity distribution companies in Brazil from 2007 to 2015. More specifically, it builds an analytical framework to classify the firms operating in this sector into Minskyan risk categories and assess how financial fragility evolved over time, in each firm and in the sector as a whole. This work adapts Minsky’s financial fragility indicators and taxonomy to the conditions of the electricity distribution sector and applies them to regulatory accounting data for more than 60 firms. This empirical application of Minsky’s theory for analyzing firms engaged in the provision of public goods and services is a novelty. The results show an increase in the financial fragility of those firms (as well as the sector) throughout the period, especially between 2008 and 2013, even though the number of firms operating at the highest level of financial risk hardly changed.
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    Author(s):
    Ernani Teixeira Torres Filho Norberto Montani Martins Caroline Yukari Miaguti
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  • Working Paper No. 894 | August 2017
    This paper undertakes an empirical inquiry concerning the determinants of long-term interest rates on US Treasury securities. It applies the bounds testing procedure to cointegration and error correction models within the autoregressive distributive lag (ARDL) framework, using monthly data and estimating a wide range of Keynesian models of long-term interest rates. While previous studies have mainly relied on quarterly data, the use of monthly data substantially expands the number of observations. This in turn enables the calibration of a wide range of models to test various hypotheses. The short-term interest rate is the key determinant of the long-term interest rate, while the rate of core inflation and the pace of economic activity also influence the long-term interest rate. A rise in the ratio of the federal fiscal balance (government net lending/borrowing as a share of nominal GDP) lowers yields on long-term US Treasury securities. The short- and long-run effects of short-term interest rates, the rate of inflation, the pace of economic activity, and the fiscal balance ratio on long-term interest rates on US Treasury securities are estimated. The findings reinforce Keynes’s prescient insights on the determinants of government bond yields.
     

  • Working Paper No. 893 | July 2017
    If Adam Smith Is the Father of Economics, It Is a Bastard Child
    Neoclassical economists of the current era frequently pay lip service to Adam Smith’s theories to certify the validity of natural-laws-based, laissez-faire policies. However, neoclassical theories are fundamentally disconnected from Adam Smith’s notion of value, his understanding of the economic individual and their interactions in society, his methodology, and the field of study he afforded to political economy. Instead, early neoclassical economists parted ways with the theories of Adam Smith in an effort to construct economic laws that would validate the existing capitalist order as universal, natural, and harmonious.
     

  • Policy Note 2017/2 | July 2017
    If the Trump administration is to fulfill its campaign promises to this age’s “forgotten” men and women, Director of Research Jan Kregel argues, it should embrace the broader lesson of the 1930s: that government regulation and fiscal policy are crucial in addressing changes in the economic and financial structure that have exacerbated the problems faced by struggling communities.

    In this policy note, Kregel explains how overcoming the economic and financial challenges we face today, just as in the 1930s, requires avoiding what Walter Lippmann identified as an “obvious error”: the blind belief that reducing regulation and the role of government will somehow restore a laissez-faire market liberalism that never existed and is inappropriate to the changing structure of production of both the US and the global economy.
     

  • Working Paper No. 892 | June 2017
    Standing on the Shoulders of Minsky

    Since the death of Hyman Minsky in 1996, much has been written about financialization. This paper explores the issues that Minsky examined in the last decade of his life and considers their relationship to that financialization literature. Part I addresses Minsky’s penetrating observations regarding what he called money manager capitalism. Part II outlines the powerful analytical framework that Minsky used to organize his thinking and that we can use to extend his work. Part III shows how Minsky’s observations and framework represent a major contribution to the study of financialization. Part IV highlights two keys to Minsky’s success: his treatment of economics as a grand adventure and his willingness to step beyond the world of theory. Part V concludes by providing a short recap, acknowledging formidable challenges facing scholars with a Minsky perspective, and calling attention to the glimmer of hope that offers a way forward.

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    Author(s):
    Charles J. Whalen
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