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 2020/6 | October 2020
    As COVID-19 infection and test positivity rates rise in the United States and federal stimulus plans expire, Senior Scholar Jan Kregel articulates an alternative approach to analyzing the economic problems raised by the pandemic and organizing an appropriate policy response. In contrast to both the mainstream and some Keynesian-inspired approaches, Kregel advocates a central role for direct social provisioning as a means of equitably sharing the costs of quarantine under conditions of strict lockdown.
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  • Working Paper No. 974 | October 2020
    Financial Instability and Crises in Keynes’s Monetary Thought
    This paper revisits Keynes’s writings from Indian Currency and Finance (1913) to The General Theory (1936) with a focus on financial instability. The analysis reveals Keynes’s astute concerns about the stability/fragility of the banking system, especially under deflationary conditions. Keynes’s writings during the Great Depression uncover insights into how the Great Depression may have informed his General Theory. Exploring the connection between the experience of the Great Depression and the theoretical framework Keynes presents in The General Theory, the assumption of a constant money stock featuring in that work is central. The analysis underscores the case that The General Theory is not a special case of the (neo-)classical theory that is relevant only to “depression economics”—refuting the interpretation offered by J. R. Hicks (1937) in his seminal paper “Mr. Keynes and the Classics: A Suggested Interpretation.” As a scholar of the Great Depression and Federal Reserve chairman at the time of the modern crisis, Ben Bernanke provides an important intellectual bridge between the historical crisis of the 1930s and the modern crisis of 2007–9. The paper concludes that, while policy practice has changed, the “classical” theory Keynes attacked in 1936 remains hegemonic today. The common (mis-)interpretation of The General Theory as depression economics continues to describe the mainstream’s failure to engage in relevant monetary economics.

  • Working Paper No. 973 | October 2020
    An Open Economy Perspective
    This paper is focused on Modern Monetary Theory’s (MMT) treatment of inflation from an open economy perspective. It analyzes how the inflation process is explained within the MMT framework and provides empirical evidence in support of this vision. However, it also makes use of a stock-flow consistent (open economy) model to underline some limits of the theory when it is applied in the context of a non-US (relatively) open economy with a flexible exchange rate regime. The model challenges the contention made by MMTers that measures such as the job guarantee program can achieve full employment without facing an inflation-unemployment trade-off.
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    Emilio Carnevali Matteo Deleidi
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  • Working Paper No. 972 | September 2020
    On the Nature and Outcomes of the Beauty Contest
    Since the 2008 crisis, the economics literature has shown a renewed interest in Keynes’s “beauty contest” (BC) as a fundamental aspect of the functioning of financial markets. We argue that to understand the importance of the BC, psychological and informational factors are of small importance, and a dynamic-structural approach should be followed instead: the BC framework is paramount because it is rooted in the historical trajectory of capitalism and it is not simply a consequence of “irrational” (i.e., biased) agents. In this genuine form, the BC mechanism allows one to understand the main trends of a financialized world. Moreover, the conventional nature of financial markets provides a sound method for assessing different economic policies whose effectiveness depends on how much they can influence the convention itself. This alternative understanding of the BC can be used to start the needed rethinking of economics, urged by the crisis, that is for now reduced to studying the financial and psychological “imperfections” of the market.
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    Lorenzo Esposito Giuseppe Mastromatteo
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  • Working Paper No. 971 | September 2020
    In a seminal 1972 paper, Robert M. May asked: “Will a Large Complex System Be Stable?” and argued that stability (of a broad class of random linear systems) decreases with increasing complexity, sparking a revolution in our understanding of ecosystem dynamics. Twenty-five years later, May, Levin, and Sugihara translated our understanding of the dynamics of ecological networks to the financial world in a second seminal paper, “Complex Systems: Ecology for Bankers.” Just a year later, the US subprime crisis led to a near worldwide “great recession,” spread by the world financial network. In the present paper we describe highlights in the development of our present understanding of stability and complexity in network systems, in order to better understand the role of networks in both stabilizing and destabilizing economic systems. A brief version of this working paper, focused on the underlying theory, appeared as an invited feature article in the February 2020 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and the Life Sciences newsletter (Hastings et al. 2020).
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    Harold M. Hastings Tai Young-Taft Chih-Jui Tsen
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  • Working Paper No. 969 | September 2020
    This paper analyzes the nominal yields of UK gilt-edged securities (“gilts”) based on a Keynesian perspective, which holds that the short-term interest rate is the primary driver of the long-term interest rate. Quarterly data are used to model gilts’ nominal yields. These models bring to light the complex dynamics relating the nominal yields on gilts to the short-term interest rate, inflation, the growth of industrial production, and the government debt ratio. The results show that the short-term interest rate has a crucial influence on the nominal yields on gilts, even after controlling for various factors. Contrary to widely held views, a higher government debt ratio does not lead to higher nominal yields.

  • Working Paper No. 968 | September 2020
    A Minskyan Approach to Mapping and Managing the (Western?) Financial Turmoil
    The COVID-19 crisis paralyzed huge parts of the planet in weeks. It not only infected the population but injected a gargantuan dose of uncertainty into the system. In that regard, as in many others, it is a phenomenon without precedent. As of the time of writing (May–June 2020), we are witnessing, simultaneously, a health crisis, an economic crisis, and a crisis of global governance as well. In the forthcoming months, it could well turn into a set of financial, social, and political crises most governments and international organizations are ill-prepared to handle. In this paper, what concerns us is the financial dimension of the crisis. The paper is divided into four sections. Following the introduction, the second section maps the financial dimension of the pandemic through an extension of Hyman Minsky’s financial fragility analysis. The result is a three-pronged analytical framework that encompasses financial fragility, financial instability, and insolvency-triggered asset-liability restructuring processes. These are seen as three distinct but interconnected processes advancing financial fragility. The third section dissects how these three processes have been managed as they have unfolded since March 2020, underlining the key policy interventions and institutional innovations introduced so far, and suggesting further measures for addressing the forthcoming stages of the financial turmoil. The fourth section concludes the paper by pointing out the results as of June 2020 and highlights our intended analytical contribution to Minsky’s theoretical framework.

  • One-Pager No. 64 | August 2020
    As congressional negotiations stall and state governments are poised to enact significant austerity, Alex Williams argues that fiscal aid to state governments should be tied to economic indicators rather than the capriciousness of federal legislators. Building this case for reform requires confronting a common objection: that state fiscal aid creates situations of moral hazard. This objection misconstrues the agency of state governments and misunderstands the incentives of federal politicians, according to Williams. There is a serious moral hazard problem involved here—but it is not the one widely claimed.

  • Public Policy Brief No. 152 | August 2020
    The mainstream fiscal federalism literature has led to an instinctive belief that states receiving fiscal aid during a recession are taking advantage of the federal government in pursuit of localized benefits with dispersed costs. This policy brief by Alex Williams challenges this unreflective argument and, in response, offers a novel framework for understanding the relationship between the business cycle and fiscal federalism in the United States.

    Utilizing the work of Michael Pettis, Williams demonstrates that a government unable to design its own capital structure is not meaningfully an agent with respect to the business cycle. As such, they cannot be considered agents in a moral hazard problem when receiving support from the federal government during a recession.

    From the perspective of this policy brief, the operative moral hazard problem is one in which federal-level politicians reap a political benefit from a seemingly principled refusal to increase federal spending, while avoiding blame for crisis and austerity at the state and local government level. Williams’ proposed solution is to impose macroeconomic discipline on federal policymakers by creating automatic stabilizers that take decisions about the level of state fiscal aid in a recession out of their hands.

  • Working Paper No. 962 | July 2020
    This paper models the dynamics of Japanese government bond (JGB) nominal yields using daily data. Models of government bond yields based on daily data, such as those presented in this paper, can be useful not only to investors and market analysts, but also to central bankers and other policymakers for assessing financial conditions and macroeconomic developments in real time. The paper shows that long-term JGB nominal yields can be modeled using the short-term interest rate on Treasury bills, the equity index, the exchange rate, commodity price index, and other key financial variables.