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

  • 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.

  • Working Paper No. 934 | August 2019
    This paper analyzes the dynamics of long-term US Treasury security yields from a Keynesian perspective using daily data. Keynes held that the short-term interest rate is the main driver of the long-term interest rate. In this paper, the daily changes in long-term Treasury security yields are empirically modeled as a function of the daily changes in the short-term interest rate and other important financial variables to test Keynes’s hypothesis. The use of daily data provides a long time series. It enables the extension of earlier Keynesian models of Treasury security yields that relied on quarterly and monthly data. Models based on higher-frequency daily data from financial markets—such as the ones presented in this paper—can be valuable to investors, financial analysts, and policymakers because they make it possible for a real-time fundamental assessment of the daily changes in long-term Treasury security yields based on a wide range of financial variables from a Keynesian perspective. The empirical findings of this paper support Keynes’s view by showing that the daily changes in the short-term interest rate are the main driver of the daily changes in the long-term interest rate on Treasury securities. Other financial variables, such as the daily changes in implied volatility of equity prices and the daily changes in the exchange rate, are found to have some influence on Treasury yields.

  • Working Paper No. 933 | July 2019
    Making Sense of the Barro-Ricardo Equivalence in a Financialized World
    The 2008 crisis created a need to rethink many aspects of economic theory, including the role of public intervention in the economy. On this issue, we explore the Barro-Ricardo equivalence, which has played a decisive role in molding the economic policies that fostered the crisis. We analyze the equivalence and its theoretical underpinnings, concluding that: (1) it declares, but then forgets, that it does not matter whether the nature of debt and investment is public or private; (2) its most problematic assumption is the representative agent hypothesis, which does not allow for an explanation of financialization and cannot assess dangers coming from high levels of financial leverage; (3) social wealth cannot be based on any micro-foundation and is linked to the role of the state as provider of financial stability; and (4) default is always the optimal policy for the government, and this remains true even when relaxing many equivalence assumptions. We go on to discuss possible solutions to high levels of public debt in the real world, inferring that no general conclusions are possible and every solution or mix of solutions must be tailored to each specific case. We conclude by connecting different solutions to the political balance of forces in the current era of financialization, using Italy (and, by extension, the eurozone) as a concrete example to better illustrate the discussion.
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    Associated Program(s):
    Author(s):
    Lorenzo Esposito Giuseppe Mastromatteo
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  • Working Paper No. 932 | June 2019
    Local government debt in China is increasing and presents a great threat to China’s financial stability. In China’s fiscal system, the central government often prioritizes reducing its fiscal deficit and can determine to a great extent the distribution of revenue and expenditure between itself and local governments. There is therefore a tendency for the fiscal burden to be shifted from the central government to the local governments. Resolving China’s local government debt problem requires not only strengthening regulation, but also abandoning the central government’s fiscal balance target, because this target may make regulation hard to sustain in times of economic downturn. This paper discusses central-local fiscal relations in the framework of Modern Money Theory, suggesting that, because a government with currency sovereignty can always afford any spending denominated in its own currency, China’s central government should bear a greater fiscal burden.
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    Associated Program:
    Author(s):
    Zengping He Genliang Jia
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  • Working Paper No. 929 | May 2019
    Increases in the federal funds rate aimed at stabilizing the economy have inevitably been followed by recessions. Recently, peaks in the federal funds rate have occurred 6–16 months before the start of recessions; reductions in interest rates apparently occurred too late to prevent those recessions. Potential leading indicators include measures of labor productivity, labor utilization, and demand, all of which influence stock market conditions, the return to capital, and changes in the federal funds rate, among many others. We investigate the dynamics of the spread between the 10-year Treasury rate and the federal funds rate in order to better understand “when to ease off the (federal funds) brakes.”
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    Associated Program(s):
    Author(s):
    Harold M. Hastings Tai Young-Taft Thomas Wang
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    Region(s):
    United States

  • Policy Note 2019/2 | May 2019
    Against the background of an ongoing trade dispute between the United States and China, Senior Scholar Jan Kregel analyzes the potential for achieving international adjustment without producing a negative impact on national and global growth. Once the structure of trade in the current international system is understood (with its global production chains and large imbalances financed by international borrowing and lending), it is clear that national strategies focused on tariff adjustment to reduce bilateral imbalances will not succeed. This understanding of the evolution of the structure of trade and international finance should also inform our view of how to design a new international financial system capable of dealing with increasingly large international trade imbalances.

  • Working Paper No. 928 | May 2019
    In the Western interpretation of democracy, governments exist in order to manage relations of property, with absence of property ownership leading to exclusion from participation in governance and, in many cases, absence of equal treatment before the law. Democratizing money will therefore ensure equal opportunity to the ownership of property, and thus full participation in the democratic governance of society, as well as equal access to the banking system, which finances the creation of capital via the creation of money. If the divergence between capital and labor—between rich and poor—is explained by the monopoly access of capitalists to finance, then reducing this divergence is crucially dependent on the democratization of money. Though the role of money and finance in determining inequality between capital and labor transcends any particular understanding of the process by which the creation of money leads to inequity, specific proposals for the democratization of money will depend on the explanation of how money comes into existence and how it supports capital accumulation.

  • Working Paper No. 926 | April 2019
    Lessons for Monetary Unions
    The debate about the use of fiscal instruments for macroeconomic stabilization has regained prominence in the aftermath of the Great Recession, and the experience of a monetary union equipped with fiscal shock absorbers, such as the United States, has often been a reference. This paper enhances our knowledge about the degree of macroeconomic stabilization achieved in the United States through the federal budget, providing a detailed breakdown of the different channels. In particular, we investigate the relative importance and stabilization impact of the federal system of unemployment benefits and of its extension as a response to the Great Recession. The analysis shows that in the United States, corporate income taxes collected at the federal level are the single most efficient instrument for providing stabilization, given that even with a smaller size than other instruments they can provide important effects, mainly against common shocks. On the other hand, Social Security benefits and personal income taxes have a greater role in stabilizing asymmetric shocks. A federal system of unemployment insurance, then, can play an important stabilization role, in particular when enhanced by a discretionary program of extended benefits in the event of a large shock, like the Great Recession.