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. 918 | December 2018
    Divergent trends, as observed, between growth in the financial and real sectors of the global economy entail the need for further research, especially on the motivations behind investment decisions. Investments in market economies are generally guided by call-put option pricing models—which rely on an ergodic notion of probability that conforms to a normal distribution function. This paper considers critiques of the above models, which include Keynes’s Treatise on Probability (1921) and the General Theory (1936), as well as follow-ups in the post-Keynesian approaches and others dealing with “fundamental uncertainty.” The methodological issues, as can be pointed out, are relevant in the context of policy issues and social institutions, including those subscribed to by the ruling state. As it has been held in variants of institutional economics subscribed to by John Commons, Thorstein Veblen, Geoffrey Hodgeson, and John Kenneth Galbraith, social institutions remain important in their capacity as agencies that influence individual behavior with their “informational-cognitive” functions in society. By shaping business concerns and strategies, social institutions have a major impact on investment decisions in a capitalist system. The role of such institutions in investment decisions via policy making is generally neglected in strategies based on mainstream economics, which continue to rely on optimization of stock market returns based on imprecise estimations of probability.

  • Policy Note 2018/5 | November 2018
    Minsky’s Forgotten Lessons Ten Years after Lehman
    Ten years after the fall of Lehman Brothers and the collapse of the US financial system, most commentaries remain overly focused on the proximate causes of the last crisis and the regulations put in place to prevent a repetition. According to Director of Research Jan Kregel, there is a broader set of lessons, which can be unearthed in the work of Distinguished Scholar Hyman Minsky, that needs to play a more central role in these debates on the 10th anniversary of the crisis.
     
    This insight begins with Minsky's account of how crisis is inherent to capitalist finance. Such an account directs us to shore up those government institutions that can serve as bulwarks against the inherent instability of the financial system—institutions that can prevent that instability from turning into a prolonged crisis in the real economy.
     

  • Working Paper No. 917 | October 2018
    Lauchlin Currie and Hyman Minsky on Financial Systems and Crises
    In November 1987, Hyman Minsky visited Bogotá, Colombia, after being invited by a group of professors who at that time were interested in post-Keynesian economics. There, Minsky delivered some lectures, and Lauchlin Currie attended two of those lectures at the National University of Colombia. Although Currie is not as well-known as Minsky in the American academy, both are outstanding figures in the development of non-orthodox approaches to monetary economics. Both alumni of the economics Ph.D. program at Harvard had a debate in Bogotá. Unfortunately, there are no formal records of this, so here a question arises: What could have been their respective positions? The aim of this paper is to discuss Currie’s and Minsky’s perspectives on monetary economics and to speculate on what might have been said during their debate.
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    Associated Program:
    Author(s):
    Iván D. Velasquez
    Related Topic(s):

  • Working Paper No. 916 | October 2018
    Seigniorage as Fiscal Revenue in the Aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis
    This study investigates the evolution of central bank profits as fiscal revenue (or: seigniorage) before and in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008–9, focusing on a select group of central banks—namely the Bank of England, the United States Federal Reserve System, the Bank of Japan, the Swiss National Bank, the European Central Bank, and the Eurosystem (specifically Deutsche Bundesbank, Banca d’Italia, and Banco de España)—and the impact of experimental monetary policies on central bank profits, profit distributions, and financial buffers, and the outlook for these measures going forward as monetary policies are seeing their gradual “normalization.”
     
    Seigniorage exposes the connections between currency issuance and public finances, and between monetary and fiscal policies. Central banks’ financial independence rests on seigniorage, and in normal times seigniorage largely derives from the note issue supplemented by “own” resources. Essentially, the central bank’s income-earning assets represent fiscal wealth, a national treasure hoard that supports its central banking functionality. This analysis sheds new light on the interdependencies between monetary and fiscal policies.
     
    Just as the size and composition of central bank balance sheets experienced huge changes in the context of experimental monetary policies, this study’s findings also indicate significant changes regarding central banks’ profits, profit distributions, and financial buffers in the aftermath of the crisis, with considerable cross-country variation.

  • Working Paper No. 913 | August 2018
    There is no disputing Germany’s dominant economic role within the eurozone (EZ) and the broader European Union. Economic leadership, however, entails responsibilities, especially in a world system of monetary production economies that compete with each other according to political and economic interests. In the first section of this paper, historical context is given to the United States’ undisputed leadership of monetary production economies following the end of World War II to help frame the broader discussion developed in the second section on the requirements of the leading nation-state in the new system of states after the war. The second section goes on further to discuss how certain constraints regarding the external balance do not apply to the leader of the monetary production economies. The third section looks at Hyman P. Minsky’s proposal for a shared burden between the hegemon and other core industrial economies in maintaining the stability of the international financial system. Section four looks at Germany’s leadership role within the EZ and how it must emulate some of the United States’ trade policies in order to make the EZ a viable economic bloc. The break up scenario is considered in the fifth section. The last section summarizes and concludes.
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    Associated Program(s):
    Author(s):
    Ignacio Ramirez Cisneros
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    Region(s):
    Europe

  • Working Paper No. 911 | August 2018
    This paper reviews the performance of the euro area since the euro’s launch 20 years ago. It argues that the euro crisis has exposed existential flaws in the euro regime. Intra-area divergences and the corresponding buildup of imbalances had remained unchecked prior to the crisis. As those imbalances eventually imploded, member states were found to be extremely vulnerable to systemic banking problems and abruptly deteriorating public finances. Debt legacies and high unemployment continue to plague euro crisis countries. Its huge current account surplus highlights that the euro currency union, toiling under the German euro and trying to emulate the German model, has become very vulnerable to global developments. The euro regime is flawed and dysfunctional. Europe has to overcome the German euro. Three reforms are essential to turn the euro into a viable European currency. First, divergences in competitiveness positions must be prevented in future. Second, market integration must go hand in hand with policy integration. Third, the euro is lacking a safe footing for as long as the ECB is missing a federal treasury partner. Therefore, establishing the vital treasury–central bank axis that stands at the center of power in sovereign states is essential.

  • Working Paper No. 910 | August 2018
    An Empirical Analysis
    The short-term interest rate is the main driver of the Commonwealth of Australia government bonds’ nominal yields. This paper empirically models the dynamics of government bonds’ nominal yields using the autoregressive distributed lag (ARDL) approach. Keynes held that the central bank exerts decisive influence on government bond yields because the central bank’s policy rate and other monetary policy actions determine the short-term interest rate, which in turn affects long-term government bonds’ nominal yields. The models estimated here show that Keynes’s conjecture applies in the case of Australian government bonds’ nominal yields. Furthermore, the effect of the budget balance ratio on government bond yields is small but statistically significant. However, there is no statistically discernable effect of the debt ratio on government bond yields.
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    Associated Program(s):
    Author(s):
    Tanweer Akram Anupam Das
    Related Topic(s):
    Region(s):
    Pacific Rim

  • One-Pager No. 56 | June 2018
    The European Commission's proposal for the regulation of sovereign bond-backed securities (SBBSs) follows the release of a high-level taskforce report, sponsored by the European Systemic Risk Board, on the feasibility of an SBBS framework. The proposal and the SBBS scheme, Mario Tonveronachi argues, would fail to yield the intended results while undermining financial stability.

    Tonveronachi articulates his alternative, centered on the European Central Bank's issuance of debt certificates along the maturity spectrum to create a common yield curve and corresponding absorption of a share of each eurozone country’s national debts. Alongside these financial operations, new reflationary but debt-reducing fiscal rules would be imposed.

  • Public Policy Brief No. 145 | June 2018
    An Assessment and an Alternative Proposal
    In response to a proposal put forward by the European Commission for the regulation of sovereign bond-backed securities (SBBSs), Mario Tonveronachi provides his analysis of the SBBS scheme and attendant regulatory proposal, and elaborates on an alternative approach to addressing the problems that have motivated this high-level consideration of an SBBS framework.

    As this policy brief explains, it is doubtful the SBBS proposal would produce its intended results. Tonveronachi’s alternative, discussed in Levy Institute Public Policy Briefs Nos. 137 and 140, not only better addresses the two problems targeted by the SBBS scheme, but also a third, critical defect of the current euro system: national sovereign debt sustainability.