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 2020/2 | April 2020
    The federal government appears to have abandoned the idea of a coordinated public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the entirety to state and local governments. Meanwhile, the economic standstill resulting from necessary public health measures will soon cripple state and local budgets. Alexander Williams outlines a proposal for an intragovernmental automatic stabilizer program that would provide a backstop for state and local finances—both during the pandemic and beyond. Without this program, states will be severely constrained in their ability to respond to COVID-19, and balanced budget requirements will force them to cut jobs and raise taxes during the deepest recession in living memory.

  • Policy Note 2020/1 | March 2020
    The Economic Implications of the Pandemic
    The spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) is a major shock for the US and global economies. Research Scholar Michalis Nikiforos explains that we cannot fully understand the economic implications of the pandemic without reference to two Minskyan processes at play in the US economy: the growing divergence of stock market prices from output prices, and the increasing fragility in corporate balance sheets.

    The pandemic did not arrive in the context of an otherwise healthy US economy—the demand and supply dimensions of the shock have aggravated an inevitable adjustment process. Using a Minskyan framework, we can understand how the current economic weakness can be perpetuated through feedback effects between flows of demand and supply and their balance sheet impacts.

  • Working Paper No. 948 | February 2020
    This paper analyzes recent macroeconomic developments in the eurozone, particularly in Germany. Several economic indicators are sending signals of a looming German recession. Geopolitical tensions caused by trade disputes between the United States and China, plus the risk of a disorderly Brexit, began disrupting the global supply chain in manufacturing. German output contraction has been centered on manufacturing, particularly the automobile sector. Despite circumstances that call for fiscal intervention to rescue the economy, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government was overdue with corrective measures. This paper explains Germany’s hesitancy to protect its economy, which has been based on a political and historical ideology that that rejects issuing new public debt to increase public spending, thus leaving the economy exposed to the doldrums. The paper also considers serious shortcomings in the European Union’s (EU) foreign and defense policies that recently surfaced during the Syrian refugee crisis. The eurocrisis revealed near-fatal weaknesses of the European Monetary Union (EMU), which is still incomplete without a common fiscal policy, a common budget, and a banking union. Unless corrected, such deficiencies will cause both the EU and the EMU to dissolve if another asymmetric shock occurs. This paper also analyzes recent geopolitical developments that are crucial to the EU/eurozone’s existential crisis.

  • Working Paper No. 947 | February 2020
    Starting from the mid-nineteenth century, this paper analyzes two periods of financial instability connected with financial globalization. The first culminates with the 1929 crisis, while the second characterizes the more recent experience starting from the 1970s. The period in between is divided into two subperiods. The first goes up to World War II and sees a retrenchment from globalization and the affirmation of a statist approach to national policy autonomy in pursuing domestic goals, for which we take as examples the New Deal, financial regulation, and the new international cooperative approach finally leading to Bretton Woods. The second subperiod, marked by the new international monetary order and limited globalization, although appearing as a relatively calm interlude, conceals the seeds of a renewed push toward financial fragility. The above periods are synthetically analyzed in terms of the development and mutual fertilization of theories, institutions, and vested public and private interests. The narrative is based on two interpretative keys: the Minskyan theory of financial fragility and changes in the public-private partnership, mainly with reference to the financial sector for which the role of the state as guarantor of last resort necessarily ensues. The lesson that can be derived is that a laissez-faire approach to globalization strengthens asymmetric powers and necessarily leads to overglobalization, as well as to financial and economic instability, rendering it extremely difficult and socially costly for the state to comply with its role as financial guarantor.

  • Working Paper No. 944 | January 2020
    Keynes argued that the short-term interest rate is the main driver of the long-term interest rate. This paper empirically models the relationship between short-term interest rates and long-term government securities yields in Canada, after controlling for other important financial variables. The statistical analysis uses high-frequency daily data from 1990 to 2018. It applies both the cointegration technique and Granger causality within the vector error correction (VEC) framework. The empirical results suggest that the action of the monetary authority is an important determinant of Canadian government securities yields, which supports the Keynesian perspective. These findings have important implications for investors, financial analysts, and policymakers.

  • Working Paper No. 942 | January 2020
    This paper emphasizes the need for understanding the interdependencies between the real and financial sides of the economy in macroeconomic models. While the real side of the economy is generally well explained in macroeconomic models, the financial side and its interaction with the real economy remains poorly understood. This paper makes an attempt to model the interdependencies between the real and financial sides of the economy in Denmark while adopting a stock-flow consistent approach. The model is estimated using Danish data for the period 1995–2016. The model is simulated to create a baseline scenario for the period 2017–30, against which the effects of two standard shocks (fiscal shocks and interest rate shocks) are analyzed. Overall, our model is able to replicate the stylized facts, as will be discussed. While the model structure is fairly simple due to different constraints, the use of the stock-flow approach makes it possible to explain several transmission mechanisms through which real economic behavior can affect the balance sheets, and at the same time capture the feedback effects from the balance sheets to the real economy. Finally, we discuss certain limitations of our model.

  • Testimony | November 2019
    Reexamining the Economic Costs of Debt
    On November 20, 2019, Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray testified before the House Committee on the Budget on the topic of reexamining the economic costs of debt:

    "In recent months a new approach to national government budgets, deficits, and debts—Modern Money Theory (MMT)—has been the subject of discussion and controversy. [. . .]

    In this testimony I do not want to rehash the theoretical foundations of MMT. Instead I will highlight empirical facts with the goal of explaining the causes and consequences of the intransigent federal budget deficits and the growing national government debt. I hope that developing an understanding of the dynamics involved will make the topic of deficits and debt less daunting. I will conclude by summarizing the MMT views on this topic, hoping to set the record straight."

    Update 1/7/2020: In an appendix, L. Randall Wray responds to a Question for the Record submitted by Rep. Ilhan Omar

  • Working Paper No. 938 | October 2019
    Nominal yields for Japanese government bonds (JGBs) have been remarkably low for several decades. Japanese government debt ratios have continued to increase amid a protracted period of stagnant nominal GDP, low inflation, and deflationary pressures. Many analysts are puzzled by the phenomenon of JGBs’ low nominal yields because Japanese government debt ratios are elevated. However, this paper shows that the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ) highly accommodative monetary policy is primarily responsible for keeping JGB yields low for a protracted period. This is consistent with Keynes’s view that the short-term interest rate is the key driver of the long-term interest rate. This paper also relates the BoJ’s monetary policy and economic developments in Japan to the evolution of JGBs’ long-term interest rates.

  • Working Paper No. 936 | September 2019
    The Modern Money Theory Approach
    This paper will present the Modern Money Theory approach to government finance. In short, a national government that chooses its own money of account, imposes a tax in that money of account, and issues currency in that money of account cannot face a financial constraint. It can make all payments as they come due. It cannot be forced into insolvency. While this was well understood in the early postwar period, it was gradually “forgotten” as the neoclassical theory of the household budget constraint was applied to government finance. Matters were made worse by the development of “generational accounting” that calculated hundreds of trillions of dollars of government red ink through eternity due to “entitlements.” As austerity measures were increasingly adopted at the national level, fiscal responsibility was shifted to state and local governments through “devolution.” A “stakeholder” approach to government finance helped fuel white flight to suburbs and produced “doughnut holes” in the cities. To reverse these trends, we need to redevelop our understanding of the fiscal space open to the currency issuer—expanding its responsibility not only for national social spending but also for helping to fund state and local government spending. This is no longer just an academic debate, given the challenges posed by climate change, growing inequality, secular stagnation, and the rise of Trumpism.

  • Working Paper No. 935 | August 2019
    A Liquidity Preference Theoretical Perspective
    This paper investigates the peculiar macroeconomic policy challenges faced by emerging economies in today’s monetary (non)order and globalized finance. It reviews the evolution of the international monetary and financial architecture against the background of Keynes’s original Bretton Woods vision, highlighting the US dollar’s hegemonic status. Keynes’s liquidity preference theory informs the analysis of the loss of policy space and widespread instabilities in emerging economies that are the consequence of financial hyperglobalization. While any benefits promised by mainstream promoters remain elusive, heightened vulnerabilities have emerged in the aftermath of the global crisis.