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. 831 | January 2015
    The Market Creating and Shaping Roles of State Investment Banks

    Recent decades witnessed a trend whereby private markets retreated from financing the real economy, while, simultaneously, the real economy itself became increasingly financialized. This trend resulted in public finance becoming more important for investments in capital development, technical change, and innovation. Within this context, this paper focuses on the roles played by a particular source of public finance: state investment banks (SIBs). It develops a conceptual typology of the different roles that SIBs play in the economy, which together show the market creation/shaping process of SIBs rather than their mere “market fixing” roles. This paper discusses four types of investments, both theoretically and empirically: countercyclical, developmental, venture capitalist, and challenge led. To develop the typology, we first discuss how standard market failure theory justifies the roles of SIBs, the diagnostics and evaluation toolbox associated with it, and resulting criticisms centered on notions of “government failures.” We then show the limitations of this approach based on insights from Keynes, Schumpeter, Minsky, and Polanyi, as well as other authors from the evolutionary economics tradition, which help us move toward a framework for public investments that is more about market creating/shaping than market fixing. As frameworks lead to evaluation tools, we use this new lens to discuss the increasingly targeted investments that SIBs are making, and to shed new light on the usual criticisms that are made about such directed activity (e.g., crowding out and picking winners). The paper ends with a proposal of directions for future research.

    Associated Program:
    Mariana Mazzucato Caetano C.R. Penna
    Related Topic(s):

  • Working Paper No. 829 | January 2015

    Before the global financial crisis, the assistance of a lender of last resort was traditionally thought to be limited to commercial banks. During the crisis, however, the Federal Reserve created a number of facilities to support brokers and dealers, money market mutual funds, the commercial paper market, the mortgage-backed securities market, the triparty repo market, et cetera. In this paper, we argue that the elimination of specialized banking through the eventual repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act (GSA) has played an important role in the leakage of the public subsidy intended for commercial banks to nonbank financial institutions. In a specialized financial system, which the GSA had helped create, the use of the lender-of-last-resort safety net could be more comfortably limited to commercial banks.

    However, the elimination of GSA restrictions on bank-permissible activities has contributed to the rise of a financial system where the lines between regulated and protected banks and the so-called shadow banking system have become blurred. The existence of the shadow banking universe, which is directly or indirectly guaranteed by banks, has made it practically impossible to confine the safety to the regulated banking system. In this context, reforming the lender-of-last-resort institution requires fundamental changes within the financial system itself.

  • Working Paper No. 828 | January 2015
    The Indian Case

    Financialization creates space for the financial sector in economies, and in doing so helps to raise the share of financial assets in the portfolios held by market participants. Largely driven by deregulation, the process works to make financial assets relatively attractive as compared to other assets, by offering both better returns and potential capital gains. Both the trend toward a more financialized economy and the expected returns on financial investments have provided incentives to corporate managers to invest larger sums in financial assets, resulting in growth of the share of financial assets relative to other assets held in portfolios. Assets held in the financial sector, however, failed to generate asset growth for the corporates. The need to obtain resources by borrowing in order to meet current liabilities reflects a pattern of Ponzi finance on their part. This paper traces the above pattern in corporate holdings of assets and its implications, with emphasis on the Indian economy.

  • Working Paper No. 827 | January 2015
    Early Work on Endogenous Money and the Prudent Banker

    In this paper, I examine whether Hyman P. Minsky adopted an endogenous money approach in his early work—at the time that he was first developing his financial instability approach. In an earlier piece (Wray 1992), I closely examined Minsky’s published writings to support the argument that, from his earliest articles in 1957 to his 1986 book (as well as a handout he wrote in 1987 on “securitization”), he consistently held an endogenous money view. I’ll refer briefly to that published work. However, I will devote most of the discussion here to unpublished early manuscripts in the Minsky archive (Minsky 1959, 1960, 1970). These manuscripts demonstrate that in his early career Minsky had already developed a deep understanding of the nature of banking. In some respects, these unpublished pieces are better than his published work from that period (or even later periods) because he had stripped away some institutional details to focus more directly on the fundamentals. It will be clear from what follows that Minsky’s approach deviated substantially from the postwar “Keynesian” and “monetarist” viewpoints that started from a “deposit multiplier.” The 1970 paper, in particular, delineates how Minsky’s approach differs from the “Keynesian” view as presented in mainstream textbooks. Further, Minsky’s understanding of banking in those years appears to be much deeper than that displayed three or four decades later by much of the post-Keynesian endogenous-money literature.

  • Working Paper No. 825 | January 2015
    What Should BNDES Do?

    The 2007–8 global financial crisis has shown the failure of private finance to efficiently allocate capital to finance real capital development. The resilience and stability of Brazil’s financial system has received attention, since it navigated relatively smoothly through the Great Recession and the collapse of the shadow banking system. This raises the question of whether it is possible that the alternative approaches followed by some developing countries might provide an indication of more stable regulatory approaches generally. There has been much discussion about how to support private long-term finance in order to meet Brazil’s growing infrastructure and investment needs. One of the essential functions of the financial system is to provide the long-term funding needed for long-lived and expensive capital assets. However, one of the main difficulties of the current private financial system is its failure to provide long-term financing, as the short-termism in Brazil’s financial market is a major obstacle to financing long-term assets. In its current form, the National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES) is the main source of long-term funding in the country. However, BNDES has been subject to a range of criticisms, such as crowding out private sector bank lending, and it is said to be hampering the development of the local capital market. This paper argues that, rather than following the traditional approach to justify the existence of public banks—and BNDES in particular, based on market failures—finding an effective answer to this question requires a theory of financial instability.

    Associated Program:
    Felipe Rezende
    Related Topic(s):

  • Working Paper No. 824 | January 2015
    A New Framework for Envisioning and Evaluating a Mission-oriented Public Sector

    Today, countries around the world are seeking “smart” innovation-led growth, and hoping that this growth is also more “inclusive” and “sustainable” than in the past. This paper argues that such a feat requires rethinking the role of government and public policy in the economy—not only funding the “rate” of innovation, but also envisioning its “direction.” It requires a new justification of government intervention that goes beyond the usual one of “fixing market failures.” It also requires the shaping and creating of markets. And to render such growth more “inclusive,” it requires attention to the ensuing distribution of “risks and rewards.”

    To approach the innovation challenge of the future, we must redirect the discussion, away from the worry about “picking winners” and “crowding out” toward four key questions for the future:

    1. Directions: how can public policy be understood in terms of setting the direction and route of change; that is, shaping and creating markets rather than just fixing them? What can be learned from the ways in which directions were set in the past, and how can we stimulate more democratic debate about such directionality?
    2. Evaluation: how can an alternative conceptualization of the role of the public sector in the economy (alternative to MFT) translate into new indicators and assessment tools for evaluating public policies beyond the microeconomic cost/benefit analysis? How does this alter the crowding in/out narrative?
    3. Organizational change: how should public organizations be structured so they accommodate the risk-taking and explorative capacity, and the capabilities needed to envision and manage contemporary challenges?
    4. Risks and Rewards: how can this alternative conceptualization be implemented so that it frames investment tools so that they not only socialize risk, but also have the potential to socialize the rewards that enable “smart growth” to also be “inclusive growth”?

  • Working Paper No. 822 | December 2014

    An understanding of, and an intervention into, the present capitalist reality requires that we put together the insights of Karl Marx on labor, as well as those of Hyman Minsky on finance. The best way to do this is within a longer-term perspective, looking at the different stages through which capitalism evolves. In other words, what is needed is a Schumpeterian-like, nonmechanical view about long waves, where Minsky’s financial Keynesianism is integrated with Marx’s focus on capitalist relations of production. Both are essential elements in understanding neoliberalism’s ascent and collapse. Minsky provided crucial elements in understanding the capitalist “new economy.” This refers to his perceptive diagnosis of “money manager capitalism,” the new form of capitalism that came from the womb of the Keynesian era itself. It collapsed a first time with the dot-com crisis, and a second time, and more seriously, with the subprime crisis. The focus is on the long-term changes in capitalism, and especially on what L. Randall Wray appropriately calls Minsky’s “stages approach.” Our aim is to show that this theme has a deep connection with the topic of the socialization of investment, central in the conclusions of the latter’s 1975 book on Keynes.

  • Book Series | December 2014
    Edited by Dimitri B. Papadimitriou
    Levy Institute Senior Scholar Jan A. Kregel is a prominent Post-Keynesian economist. This study combines lessons drawn from events and experiences of developing countries and examines them in relation to his ideas on economics and development.

    This collection brings together distinguished scholars who have been influenced by Kregel's prodigious contributions to the fields of economic theory and policy. The chapters cover and extend many topics analyzed in Kregel's published work, including monetary economic theory and policy; aspects of the Cambridge (UK and US) controversies; Sraffa's critique on neoclassical value and distribution theory; Post-Keynesianism; employment policy; obstacles in financing development; trade and development theories; causes and lessons from the financial crises in East Asia, Latin America, and Europe; Minskyan-Kregel theories of financial instability; and global governance. Combining rigorous scholarly assessment of the issues, the contributors seek to offer solutions to the debates on economic theory and the problem of continuing high unemployment, to identify the factors that determine economic expansion, and to analyze the impact of financial crises on systemic stability, markets, institutions, and international regulations on domestic and global economic performance.

    The scope and comprehensive analyses found in this volume will be of interest to economists and scholars of economics, finance, and development.

    Published by: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Working Paper No. 821 | December 2014
    The Advantages of Owning the Magic Porridge Pot

    Over the past two decades there has been a revival of Georg Friedrich Knapp’s “state money” approach, also known as chartalism. The modern version has come to be called Modern Money Theory. Much of the recent research has delved into three main areas: mining previous work, applying the theory to analysis of current sovereign monetary operations, and exploring the policy space open to sovereign currency issuers. This paper focuses on “outside” money—the currency issued by the sovereign—and the advantages that accrue to nations that make full use of the policy space provided by outside money.

  • Policy Note 2014/6 | December 2014
    Criticisms of the Federal Reserve’s “unconventional” monetary policy response to the Great Recession have been of two types. On the one hand, the tripling in the size of the Fed’s balance sheet has led to forecasts of rampant inflation in the belief that the massive increase in excess reserves might be spent on goods and services. And even worse, this would represent an attempt by government to inflate away its high levels of debt created to support the solvency of financial institutions after the September 2008 collapse of asset prices. On the other hand, it is argued that the near-zero short-term interest rate policy and measures to flatten the yield curve (quantitative easing plus "Operation Twist") distort the allocation and pricing in the credit and capital markets and will underwrite another asset price bubble, even as deflation prevails in product markets.   Both lines of criticism have led to calls for a return to a more conventional policy stance, and yet there is widespread agreement that this would have a negative impact on the economy, at least in the short-term. However, since the analyses behind both lines of criticism are mistaken, it is probable that the analyses of the impact of the risks of return to more normal policies are also in error.