Research Topics

Publications on Financial crisis

There are 37 publications for Financial crisis.
  • The Repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and the Federal Reserve’s Extraordinary Intervention during the Global Financial Crisis


    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.

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    Author(s):
    Yeva Nersisyan

  • Minsky, Monetary Policy, and Mint Street


    Working Paper No. 820 | November 2014
    Challenges for the Art of Monetary Policymaking in Emerging Economies

    This paper examines the emerging challenges to the art of monetary policymaking using the case study of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in light of developments in the Indian economy during the last decade (2003–04 to 2013–14). The paper uses Hyman P. Minsky’s financial instability hypothesis as the conceptual framework for evaluating the endogenous nature of financial instability and its potential impact on monetary policymaking, and addresses the need to pursue regulatory policy as a tool that is complementary to monetary policy in light of the agenda of reforms put forward by Minsky. It further reviews the extensions to the Minskyan hypothesis in the areas of setting fiscal policy, managing cross-border capital flows, and developing financial institutional infrastructure. The lessons learned from the interplay of policy choices in these areas and their impact on monetary policymaking at the RBI are presented.

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    Author(s):
    Srinivas Yanamandra

  • Minsky and Dynamic Macroprudential Regulation


    Public Policy Brief No. 131, 2014 | April 2014

    In the context of current debates about the proper form of prudential regulation and proposals for the imposition of liquidity and capital ratios, Senior Scholar Jan Kregel examines Hyman Minsky’s work as a consultant to government agencies exploring financial regulatory reform in the 1960s. As Kregel explains, this often-overlooked early work, a precursor to Minsky’s “financial instability hypothesis”(FIH), serves as yet another useful guide to explaining why regulation and supervision in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis were flawed—and why the approach to reregulation after the crisis has been incomplete. 

  • Minsky and the Subprime Mortgage Crisis


    Working Paper No. 796 | April 2014
    The Financial Instability Hypothesis in the Era of Financialization

    The aim of this paper is to develop a structural explanation of the subprime mortgage crisis, grounded on the combination of two apparently incompatible financial theories: the financial instability hypothesis by Hyman P. Minsky and the theory of capital market inflation by Jan Toporowski. Our thesis is that, once the evolution of the financial market is taken into account, the financial Keynesianism of Minsky is still a valid framework to understand the events leading to the crisis.

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    Author(s):
    Eugenio Caverzasi

  • Arresting Financial Crises


    Working Paper No. 751 | February 2013
    The Fed versus the Classicals

    Nineteenth-century British economists Henry Thornton and Walter Bagehot established the classical rules of behavior for a central bank, acting as lender of last resort, seeking to avert panics and crises: Lend freely (to temporarily illiquid but solvent borrowers only) against the security of sound collateral and at above-market, penalty interest rates. Deny aid to unsound, insolvent borrowers. Preannounce your commitment to lend freely in all future panics. Also lend for short periods only, and have a clear, simple, certain exit strategy. The purpose is to prevent bank runs and money-stock collapses—collapses that, by reducing spending and prices, will, in the face of downward inflexibility of nominal wages, produce falls in output and employment.

    In the financial crisis of 2008–09 the Federal Reserve adhered to some of the classical rules—albeit using a credit-easing rather than a money stock–protection rationale—while deviating from others. Consistent with the classicals, the Fed filled the market with liquidity while lending to a wide variety of borrowers on an extended array of assets. But it departed from the classical prescription in charging subsidy rather than penalty rates, in lending against tarnished collateral and/or purchasing assets of questionable value, in bailing out insolvent borrowers, in extending its lending deadlines beyond intervals approved by classicals, and in failing both to precommit to avert all future crises and to articulate an unambiguous exit strategy. Given that classicals demonstrated that satiating panic-induced demands for cash are sufficient to end crises, the Fed might think of abandoning its costly and arguably inessential deviations from the classical model and, instead, return to it.

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    Author(s):
    Thomas M. Humphrey

  • Expansion of Federal Reserve Authority in the Recent Financial Crisis Raises Questions about Governance


    One-Pager No. 36 | January 2013

    Several years before the onset of the recent financial crisis, ex – Federal Reserve Board Member Lawrence Meyer wrote that the Fed “is often called the most powerful institution in America,” its key decisions made by 19 people whose names are known by few, meeting regularly behind closed doors. Bernard Shull examines the origin and nature of Fed authority and independence, and reviews the impact of Dodd-Frank on our central bank. His conclusion? The new constraints placed on the Fed are modest at best, and its continued expansion inexorably raises questions of governance.

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    Author(s):
    Bernard Shull

  • The Impact of Financial Reform on Federal Reserve Autonomy


    Working Paper No. 735 | November 2012

    The Federal Reserve has been criticized for not preventing the risky behavior of large financial companies prior to the financial crisis of 2008–09, for approving mergers that aggravated the “too big to fail” problem, and for its substantial contribution to bailouts when their risk management failed. The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, in attempting to diminish financial instability and eliminate too-big-to-fail policies, has established a new regulatory framework and laid out new responsibilities for the Federal Reserve. In doing so, it appears to address criticisms of the central bank by constricting its autonomy. The law, however, has also extended the Federal Reserve’s supervisory authority and expanded its capacity to exercise regulatory control over its extended domain. This new authority is in addition to the augmentation of its monetary powers over the past several years.

    This paper reviews and evaluates both constraints imposed on the Federal Reserve by the Dodd-Frank Act and the expansion of Federal Reserve authority. It finds that the constraints are unlikely to have much impact, but the expansion of authority constitutes a significant increase in power and influence. The paper concludes that the expansion of Federal Reserve authority invites questions about the organizational design and governance of the central bank, and its traditional autonomy.

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    Author(s):
    Bernard Shull

  • The Crisis of Finance-dominated Capitalism in the Euro Area, Deficiencies in the Economic Policy Architecture, and Deflationary Stagnation Policies


    Working Paper No. 734 | October 2012

    In this paper the euro crisis is interpreted as the latest episode in the crisis of finance-dominated capitalism. For 11 initial Euro area countries, the major features of finance-dominated capitalism are analyzed; specifically, the increasing inequality of income distribution and the rising imbalances of current accounts. Against this background, the euro crisis and the economic policy reactions of European governments and institutions are examined. It is shown that deflationary stagnation policies have prevailed since 2010, resulting in massive real GDP losses; some improvement in the price competitiveness of the crisis countries but considerable and persistent current account imbalances; reductions in government deficit–to-GDP ratios but continuously rising trends in gross government debt–to-GDP ratios; a risk of further recession for the euro area as a whole—and the increasing threat of the euro’s ultimate collapse. Therefore, an alternative macroeconomic policy approach tackling the basic contradictions of finance-dominated capitalism and the deficiencies of European economic policy institutions and strategies—in particular, the lack of (1) an institution convincingly guaranteeing public debt and (2) a stable and sustainable financing mechanism for acceptable current account imbalances—is outlined.

  • Fiscal Policy, Unemployment Insurance, and Financial Crises in a Model of Growth and Distribution


    Working Paper No. 723 | May 2012

    Recently, some have wondered whether a fiscal stimulus plan could reduce the government’s budget deficit. Many also worry that fiscal austerity plans will only bring higher deficits. Issues of this kind involve endogenous changes in tax revenues that occur when output, real wages, and other variables are affected by changes in policy. Few would disagree that various paradoxes of austerity or stimulus might be relevant, but such issues can be clarified a great deal with the help of a complete heterodox model.

    In light of recent world events, this paper seeks to improve our understanding of the dynamics of fiscal policy and financial crises within the context of two-dimensional (2D) and five-dimensional heterodox models. The nonlinear version of the 2D model incorporates curvilinear functions for investment and consumption out of unearned income. To bring in fiscal policy, I make use of a rule with either (1) dual targets of capacity utilization and public production, or (2) a balanced-budget target. Next, I add discrete jumps and policy-regime switches to the model in order to tell a story of a financial crisis followed by a move to fiscal austerity. Then, I return to the earlier model and add three more variables and equations: (1) I model the size of the private- and public-sector labor forces using a constant growth rate and account for their social reproduction by introducing an unemployment-insurance scheme; and (2) I make the markup endogenous, allowing its rate of change to depend, in a possibly nonlinear way, on capacity utilization, the real wage relative to a fixed norm, the employment rate, profitability, and the business sector’s desired capital-stock growth rate. In the conclusion, I comment on the implications of my results for various policy issues.

  • Using Minsky to Simplify Financial Regulation


    Research Project Report, April 10, 2012 | April 2012
    This monograph is part of the Institute’s research program on Financial Instability and the Reregulation of Financial Institutions and Markets, funded by the Ford Foundation. Its purpose is to investigate the causes and development of the recent financial crisis from the point of view of the late financial economist and Levy Distinguished Scholar Hyman Minsky, and to propose “a thorough, integrated approach to our economic problems.”

    The monograph draws on Minsky’s work on financial regulation to assess the efficacy of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, enacted in response to the 2008 subprime crisis and subsequent deep recession. Some two years after its adoption, the implementation of Dodd-Frank is still far from complete. And despite the fact that a principal objective of this legislation was to remove the threat of taxpayer bailouts for banks deemed “too big to fail,” the financial system is now more concentrated than ever and the largest banks even larger. As economic recovery seems somewhat more assured and most financial institutions have regrouped sufficiently to repay the governmental support they received, the specific rules and regulations required to make Dodd-Frank operational are facing increasing resistance from both the financial services industry and from within the US judicial system.

    This suggests that the Dodd-Frank legislation may be too extensive, too complicated, and too concerned with eliminating past abuses to ever be fully implemented, much less met with compliance. Indeed, it has been called a veritable paradise for regulatory arbitrage. The result has been a call for a more fundamental review of the extant financial legislation, with some suggesting a return to a regulatory framework closer to Glass-Steagall’s separation of institutions by function—a cornerstone of Minsky’s extensive work on regulation in the 1990s. For Minsky, the goal of any systemic reform was to ensure that the basic objectives of the financial system—to support the capital development of the economy and to provide a safe and secure payments system—were met. Whether the Dodd-Frank Act can fulfill this aspect of its brief remains an open question.

  • Orthodox versus Heterodox (Minskyan) Perspectives of Financial Crises


    Working Paper No. 695 | November 2011
    Explosion in the 1990s versus Implosion in the 2000s

    Orthodox and heterodox theories of financial crises are hereby compared from a theoretical viewpoint, with emphasis on their genesis. The former view (represented by the fourth-generation models of Paul Krugman) reflects the neoclassical vision whereby turbulence is an exception; the latter insight (represented by the theories of Hyman P. Minsky) validates and extends John Maynard Keynes’s vision, since it is related to a modern financial world. The result of this theoretical exercise is that Minsky’s vision represents a superior explanation of financial crises and current events in financial systems because it considers the causes of financial crises as endogenous to the system. Crucial facts in relevant financial crises are mentioned in section 1, as an introduction; the orthodox models of financial crises are described in section 2; the heterodox models of financial crises are outlined in section 3; the main similarities and differences between orthodox and heterodox models of financial crises are identified in section 4; and conclusions based on the information provided by the previous section are outlined in section 5. References are listed at the end of the paper.

  • Institutional Prerequisites of Financial Fragility within Minsky’s Financial Instability Hypothesis


    Working Paper No. 674 | July 2011
    A Proposal in Terms of “Institutional Fragility”

    The relevancy of Minsky’s Financial Instability Hypothesis (FIH) in the current (and still unfolding) crisis has been clearly acknowledged by both economists and regulators. While most papers focus on discussing to what extent the FIH or Minsky’s Big Bank/Big Government interpretation is appropriate to explain and sort out the crisis, some authors have also emphasized the need to consider the institutional foundations of Minsky’s work (Whalen 2007, Wray 2008, Dimsky 2010). The importance of institutions within the FIH was strongly emphasized by Minsky himself, who assigned them the function of constraining the development of financial fragility. Yet only limited literature has focused on the institutional aspects on Minsky’s FIH. The reason for this may be that they were mainly dealt with by Minsky in his latest papers, and they have remained, to some extent, incomplete, unclear, and even ambiguous. In our view, a synthesis of Minsky’s proposals, along with a clarification and theoretical justification, remains to be done. Our objective in this paper is to contribute to this theoretical project. It leads us to propose that the notion of “institutional fragility” can constitute a useful perspective to complement and justify the endogenous development of financial fragility within the FIH. Eventually, this view may contribute to the debate about international financial governance.

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    Author(s):
    Christine Sinapi

  • Minsky on the Reregulation and Restructuring of the Financial System


    Research Project Report, April 12, 2011 | April 2011
    Will Dodd-Frank Prevent "It" from Happening Again? `
    This monograph is part of the Institute's ongoing research program on Financial Instability and the Reregulation of Financial Institutions and Markets, funded by the Ford Foundation. This program's purpose is to investigate the causes and development of the recent financial crisis from the point of view of the late financial economist and Levy Distinguished Scholar Hyman P. Minsky. The monograph draws on Minsky's extensive work on regulation in order to review and analyze the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, enacted in response to the crisis in the US subprime mortgage market, and to assess whether this new regulatory structure will prevent "It"—a debt deflation on the order of the Great Depression—from happening again. It seeks to assess the extent to which the Act will be capable of identifying and responding to the endogenous generation of financial fragility that Minsky believed to be the root cause of financial instability, building on the views expressed in his published work, his official testimony, and his unfinished draft manuscript on the subject. Whether the Dodd-Frank Act will fulfill its brief—in part, "to promote the financial stability in the United States by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end 'too big to fail,' to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, [and] to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices"—is an open question. As Minsky wrote in his landmark 1986 book Stabilizing an Unstable Economy, "A new era of reform cannot be simply a series of piecemeal changes. Rather, a thorough, integrated approach to our economic problems must be developed." This has been one of the organizing principles of our project. 

  • It's Time to Rein In the Fed


    Public Policy Brief No. 117, 2011 | April 2011

    Scott Fullwiler and Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray review the roles of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury in the context of quantitative easing, and find that the financial crisis has highlighted the limited oversight of Congress and the limited transparency of the Fed. And since a Fed promise is ultimately a Treasury promise that carries the full faith and credit of the US government, the question is whether the Fed should be able to commit the public purse in times of national crisis.

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    Author(s):
    Scott Fullwiler L. Randall Wray

  • Minsky’s Money Manager Capitalism and the Global Financial Crisis


    Working Paper No. 661 | March 2011

    The world’s worst economic crisis since the 1930s is now well into its third year. All sorts of explanations have been proffered for the causes of the crisis, from lax regulation and oversight to excessive global liquidity. Unfortunately, these narratives do not take into account the systemic nature of the global crisis. This is why so many observers are misled into pronouncing that recovery is on the way—or even under way already. I believe they are incorrect. We are, perhaps, in round three of a nine-round bout. It is still conceivable that Minsky’s “it”—a full-fledged debt deflation with failure of most of the largest financial institutions—could happen again.

    Indeed, Minsky’s work has enjoyed unprecedented interest, with many calling this a “Minsky moment” or “Minsky crisis.” However, most of those who channel Minsky locate the beginnings of the crisis in the 2000s. I argue that we should not view this as a “moment” that can be traced to recent developments. Rather, as Minsky argued for nearly 50 years, we have seen a slow realignment of the global financial system toward “money manager capitalism.” Minsky’s analysis correctly links postwar developments with the prewar “finance capitalism” analyzed by Rudolf Hilferding, Thorstein Veblen, and John Maynard Keynes—and later by John Kenneth Galbraith. In an important sense, over the past quarter century we created conditions similar to those that existed in the run-up to the Great Depression, with a similar outcome. Getting out of this mess will require radical policy changes no less significant than those adopted in the New Deal.

  • Measuring Macroprudential Risk


    Working Paper No. 654 | March 2011
    Financial Fragility Indexes

    With the Great Recession and the regulatory reform that followed, the search for reliable means to capture systemic risk and to detect macrofinancial problems has become a central concern. In the United States, this concern has been institutionalized through the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which has been put in charge of detecting threats to the financial stability of the nation. Based on Hyman Minsky’s financial instability hypothesis, the paper develops macroeconomic indexes for three major economic sectors. The index provides a means to detect the speed with which financial fragility accrues, and its duration; and serves as a complement to the microprudential policies of regulators and supervisors. The paper notably shows, notably, that periods of economic stability during which default rates are low, profitability is high, and net worth is accumulating are fertile grounds for the growth of financial fragility.

  • It's Time to Rein In the Fed


    One-Pager No. 8 | February 2011

    The economic crisis that has gripped the US economy since 2007 has highlighted Congress’s limited oversight of the Federal Reserve, and the limited transparency of the Fed’s actions. And since a Fed promise is ultimately a Treasury promise that carries the full faith and credit of the US government, the question is, Should the Fed be able to commit the public purse in times of national crisis?

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    Author(s):
    Scott Fullwiler L. Randall Wray

  • China in the Global Economy


    Working Paper No. 642 | December 2010

    China occupies a unique position among developing countries. Its success in achieving relative stability in the financial sector since the institution of reforms in 1979 has given way to relative instability since the beginning of the current global financial crisis. Over the last few years, China has been on a path of capital account opening that has drawn larger inflows of capital from abroad, both foreign-direct and portfolio investment. Of late, a surge in these inflows has introduced problems for the monetary authorities in continuing with an autonomous monetary policy in China, especially with large additions to official reserves, the latter in a bid to avoid further appreciation of the country’s domestic currency. Like other developing countries, China today faces the “impossible trilemma” of managing the exchange rate with near-complete capital mobility and an autonomous monetary policy. Facing problems in devising and sustaining this policy, China has been using expansionary fiscal policy to tackle the impact of shrinking export demand. The recent drive on the part of Chinese authorities to boost real demand in the countryside and to revamp the domestic market shows a promise far different from that of the financial rescue packages in many advanced nations.

    The close integration of China with the world economy over the last two decades has raised concerns from different quarters that relate both to (1) the possible effects of the recent global downturn on China and (2) the second-round effects of a downturn in China for the rest of world.

     

  • Financial Stability, Regulatory Buffers, and Economic Growth


    Working Paper No. 637 | November 2010
    Some Postrecession Regulatory Implications

    Over the past 40 years, regulatory reforms have been undertaken on the assumption that markets are efficient and self-corrective, crises are random events that are unpreventable, the purpose of an economic system is to grow, and economic growth necessarily improves well-being. This narrow framework of discussion has important implications for what is expected from financial regulation, and for its implementation. Indeed, the goal becomes developing a regulatory structure that minimizes the impact on economic growth while also providing high-enough buffers against shocks. In addition, given the overarching importance of economic growth, economic variables like profits, net worth, and low default rates have been core indicators of the financial health of banking institutions.

    This paper argues that the framework within which financial reforms have been discussed is not appropriate to promoting financial stability. Improving capital and liquidity buffers will not advance economic stability, and measures of profitability and delinquency are of limited use to detect problems early. The paper lays out an alternative regulatory framework and proposes a fundamental shift in the way financial regulation is performed, similar to what occurred after the Great Depression. It is argued that crises are not random, and that their magnitude can be greatly limited by specific pro-active policies. These policies would focus on understanding what Ponzi finance is, making a difference between collateral-based and income-based Ponzi finance, detecting Ponzi finance, managing financial innovations, decreasing competitions in the banking industry, ending too-big-to-fail, and deemphasizing economic growth as the overarching goal of an economic system. This fundamental change in regulatory and supervisory practices would lead to very different ways in which to check the health of our financial institutions while promoting a more sustainable economic system from both a financial and a socio-ecological point of view.

  • Preventing Another Crisis


    One-Pager No. 5 | November 2010
    The Need for More Profound Reforms

    There is no justification for the belief that cutting spending or raising taxes by any amount will reduce the federal deficit, let alone permit solid growth. The worst fears about recent stimulative policies and rapid money-supply growth are proving to be incorrect once again. We must find the will to reinvigorate government and to maintain Keynesian macro stimulus in the face of ideological opposition and widespread mistrust of government.

  • Detecting Ponzi Finance


    Working Paper No. 605 | June 2010
    An Evolutionary Approach to the Measure of Financial Fragility
    Different frameworks of analysis lead to different conceptions of financial instability and financial fragility. On one side, the static approach conceptualizes financial instability as an unfortunate byproduct of capitalism that results from unpredictable random forces that no one can do anything about except prepare for through adequate loss reserves, capital, and liquidation buffers. On the other side, the evolutionary approach conceptualizes financial instability as something that the current economic system invariably brings upon itself through internal market and nonmarket forces, and that requires change in financial practices rather than merely good financial buffers. This paper compares the two approaches in order to lay the foundation for the empirical analysis developed within the evolutionary approach. The paper shows that, with the use of macroeconomic data, it is possible to detect financial fragility, especially Ponzi finance. The methodology is applied to residential housing in the US household sector and is able to capture some of the trends that are known to be sources of economic difficulties. Notably, the paper finds that Ponzi finance was going on in the housing sector from at least 2004 to 2007, which concurs with other works based on more detailed data.

  • Three Futures for Postcrisis Banking in the Americas


    Working Paper No. 604 | June 2010
    The Financial Trilemma and the Wall Street Complex

    This would seem an opportune moment to reshape banking systems in the Americas. But any effort to rethink and improve banking must acknowledge three major barriers. The first is a crisis of vision: there has been too little consideration of what kind of banking system would work best for national economies in the Americas. The other two constraints are structural. Banking systems in Mexico and the rest of Latin America face a financial regulation trilemma, the logic and implications of which are similar to those of smaller nations’ macroeconomic policy trilemma. The ability of these nations to impose rules that would pull banking systems in the direction of being more socially productive and economically functional is constrained both by regional economic compacts (in the case of Mexico, NAFTA) and by having a large share of the domestic banking market operated by multinational banks.

    For the United States, the structural problem involves the huge divide between Wall Street megabanks and the remainder of the US banking system. The ambitions, modes of operation, and economic effects of these two different elements of US banking are quite different. The success, if not survival, of one element depends on the creation of a regulatory atmosphere and set of enabling federal government subsidies or supports that is inconsistent with the success, or survival, of the other element.

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    Author(s):
    Gary A. Dymski

  • Reforms Without Politicians


    One-Pager No. 2 | May 2010
    What We Can Do Today to Straighten Out Financial Markets

    Congress is currently debating new regulations for financial institutions in an effort to avoid a repeat of the recent crisis that brought the banking system to the brink. Some of those proposed changes would be valuable. But what nobody seems to have noticed is that the government already has the power to address some of the most important factors that contributed to the crisis. Today, right now, Washington could change a few key rules and prevent a repeat of the rampant speculation, and possible fraud, that led to so much trouble this last time around.

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  • The Global Financial Crisis and a New Capitalism?


    Working Paper No. 592 | May 2010
    The 2008 global financial crisis was the consequence of the process (1) of financialization, or the creation of massive fictitious financial wealth, that began in the 1980s,; and (2) the hegemony of a reactionary ideology—namely, neoliberalism—based on self-regulated and efficient markets. Although laissez-faire capitalism is intrinsically unstable, the lessons of  the 1929 stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930s were transformed into theories and institutions or regulations that led to the “30 glorious years of capitalism” (1948–77) and that could have helped avoid a financial crisis as profound as the present one. But it did not, because a coalition of rentiers and “financists” achieved hegemony and, while deregulating the existing financial operations, refused to regulate the financial innovations that made these markets even  riskier. Neoclassical economics played the role of a meta-ideology as it legitimized, mathematically and “scientifically,” neoliberal ideology and deregulation. From this crisis a new democratic capitalist system will emerge, though its character is difficult to predict. It will not be financialized, but the glory years’ tendencies toward a global and knowledge-based capitalism in which professionals  have more say than rentier capitalists, as well as the tendency to improve democracy by making it more social and participative, will be resumed.
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    Author(s):
    Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira

  • Global Imbalances, the US Dollar, and How the Crisis at the Core of Global Finance Spread to “Self-Insuring” Emerging Market Economies


    Working Paper No. 591 | March 2010

    This paper investigates the spread of what started as a crisis at the core of the global financial system to emerging economies. While emerging economies had exhibited some resilience through the early stages of the financial turmoil that began in the summer of 2007, they have been hit hard since mid-2008. Their deteriorating fortunes are only partly attributable to the collapse in world trade and sharp drop in commodity prices. Things were made worse by emerging markets’ exposure to the turmoil in global finance itself. As “innocent bystanders,” even countries that had taken out “self-insurance” proved vulnerable to the global “sudden stop” in capital flows. We critique loanable funds theoretical interpretations of global imbalances and offer an alternative explanation that emphasizes the special status of the US dollar. Instead of taking out even more self-insurance, developing countries should pursue capital account management to enlarge their policy space and reduce external vulnerabilities.

  • The Global Financial Crisis and the Shift to Shadow Banking


    Working Paper No. 587 | February 2010

    While most economists agree that the world is facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, there is little agreement as to what caused it. Some have argued that the financial instability we are witnessing is due to irrational exuberance of market participants, fraud, greed, too much regulation, et cetera. However, some Post Keynesian economists following Hyman P. Minsky have argued that this is a systemic problem, a result of internal market processes that allowed fragility to build over time. In this paper we focus on the shift to the “shadow banking system” and the creation of what Minsky called the money manager phase of capitalism. In this system, rapid growth of leverage and financial layering allowed the financial sector to claim an ever-rising proportion of national income—what is sometimes called “financialization”—as the financial system evolved from hedge to speculative and, finally, to a Ponzi scheme.

    The policy response to the financial crisis in the United States and elsewhere has largely been an attempt to rescue money manager capitalism. Moreover, in the case of the United States. the bailout policy has contributed to further concentration of the financial sector, increasing dangers. We believe that the policies directed at saving the system are doomed to fail—and that alternative policies should be adopted. The effective solution should come in the way of downsizing the financial sector by two-thirds or more, and effecting fundamental modifications.

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    Author(s):
    Yeva Nersisyan L. Randall Wray

  • Is This the Minsky Moment for Reform of Financial Regulation?


    Working Paper No. 586 | February 2010

    The current financial crisis has been characterized as a “Minsky” moment, and as such provides the conditions required for a reregulation of the financial system similar to that of the New Deal banking reforms of the 1930s. However, Minsky’s theory was not one that dealt in moments but rather in systemic, structural changes in the operations of financial institutions. Therefore, the framework for reregulation must start with an understanding of the longer-term systemic changes that took place between the New Deal reforms and their formal repeal under the 1999 Financial Services Modernization Act. This paper attempts to identify some of those changes and their sources. In particular, it notes that the New Deal reforms were eroded by an internal process in which commercial banks that were given a monopoly position in deposit taking sought to remove those protections because unregulated banks were able to provide substitute instruments that were more efficient and unregulated but unavailable to regulated banks, since they involved securities market activities that would eventually be recognized as securitization. Regulators and the courts contributed to this process by progressively ruling that these activities were related to the regulated activities of the commercial banks, allowing them to reclaim securities market activities that had been precluded in the New Deal legislation. The 1999 Act simply made official the de facto repeal of the 1930s protections. Any attempt to provide reregulation of the system will thus require safeguards to ensure that this internal process of deregulation is not repeated.

  • Is Reregulation of the Financial System an Oxymoron?


    Working Paper No. 585 | February 2010

    The extension of the subprime mortgage crisis to a global financial meltdown led to calls for fundamental reregulation of the United States financial system. However, that reregulation has been slow in implementation and the proposals under discussion are far from fundamental. One explanation for this delay is the fact that many of the difficulties stemmed not from lack of regulation but from a failure to fully implement existing regulations. At the same time, the crisis evolved in stages, interspersed by what appeared to be the system’s return to normalcy. This evolution can be defined in terms of three stages (regulation and supervision, securitization, and a run on investment banks), each stage associated with a particular failure of regulatory supervision. It thus became possible to argue at each stage that all that was necessary was the appropriate application of existing regulations, and that nothing more needed to be done. This scenario progressed until the collapse of Lehman Brothers brought about a full-scale recession and attention turned to support of the real economy and employment, leaving the need for fundamental financial regulation in the background.

  • An Alternative View of Finance, Saving, Deficits, and Liquidity


    Working Paper No. 580 | October 2009

    This paper contrasts the orthodox approach with an alternative view on finance, saving, deficits, and liquidity. The conventional view on the cause of the current global financial crisis points first to excessive United States trade deficits that are supposed to have “soaked up” global savings. Worse, this policy was ultimately unsustainable because it was inevitable that lenders would stop the flow of dollars. Problems were compounded by the Federal Reserve’s pursuit of a low-interest-rate policy, which involved pumping liquidity into the markets and thereby fueling a real estate boom. Finally, with the world awash in dollars, a run on the dollar caused it to collapse. The Fed (and then the Treasury) had to come to the rescue of US banks, firms, and households. When asset prices plummeted, the financial crisis spread to much of the rest of the world. According to the conventional view, China, as the residual supplier of dollars, now holds the fate of the United States, and possibly the entire world, in its hands. Thus, it’s necessary for the United States to begin living within its means, by balancing its current account and (eventually) eliminating its budget deficit.

    I challenge every aspect of this interpretation. Our nation operates with a sovereign currency, one that is issued by a sovereign government that operates with a flexible exchange rate. As such, the government does not really borrow, nor can foreigners be the source of dollars. Rather, it is the US current account deficit that supplies the net dollar saving to the rest of the world, and the federal government budget deficit that supplies the net dollar saving to the nongovernment sector. Further, saving is never a source of finance; rather, private lending creates bank deposits to finance spending that generates income. Some of this income can be saved, so the second part of the saving decision concerns the form in which savings might be held—as liquid or illiquid assets. US current account deficits and federal budget deficits are sustainable, so the United States does not need to adopt austerity, nor does it need to look to the rest of the world for salvation. Rather, it needs to look to domestic fiscal stimulus strategies to resolve the crisis, and to a larger future role for government in helping to stabilize the economy.

  • Money Manager Capitalism and the Global Financial Crisis


    Working Paper No. 578 | September 2009

    This paper applies Hyman Minsky’s approach to provide an analysis of the causes of the global financial crisis. Rather than finding the origins in recent developments, this paper links the crisis to the long-term transformation of the economy from a robust financial structure in the 1950s to the fragile one that existed at the beginning of this crisis in 2007. As Minsky said, “Stability is destabilizing”: the relative stability of the economy in the early postwar period encouraged this transformation of the economy. Today’s crisis is rooted in what he called “money manager capitalism,” the current stage of capitalism dominated by highly leveraged funds seeking maximum returns in an environment that systematically under-prices risk. With little regulation or supervision of financial institutions, money managers have concocted increasingly esoteric instruments that quickly spread around the world. Those playing along are rewarded with high returns because highly leveraged funding drives up prices for the underlying assets. Since each subsequent bust wipes out only a portion of the managed money, a new boom inevitably rises. Perhaps this will prove to be the end of this stage of capitalism–the money manager phase. Of course, it is too early even to speculate on the form capitalism will take. I will only briefly outline some policy implications.

  • Securitization, Deregulation, Economic Stability, and Financial Crisis, Part II


    Working Paper No. 573.2 | August 2009
    Deregulation, the Financial Crisis, and Policy Implications

    This study analyzes the trends in the financial sector over the past 30 years, and argues that unsupervised financial innovations and lenient government regulation are at the root of the current financial crisis and recession. Combined with a long period of economic expansion during which default rates were stable and low, deregulation and unsupervised financial innovations generated incentives to make risky financial decisions. Those decisions were taken because it was the only way for financial institutions to maintain market share and profitability. Thus, rather than putting the blame on individuals, this paper places it on an economic setup that requires the growing use of Ponzi processes during enduring economic expansion, and on a regulatory system that is unwilling to recognize (on the contrary, it contributes to) the intrinsic instability of market mechanisms. Subprime lending, greed, and speculation are merely aspects of the larger mechanisms at work.

    It is argued that we need to change the way we approach the regulation of financial institutions and look at what has been done in other sectors of the economy, where regulation and supervision are proactive and carefully implemented in order to guarantee the safety of society. The criterion for regulation and supervision should be neither Wall Street’s nor Main Street’s interests but rather the interests of the socioeconomic system. The latter requires financial stability if it’s to raise, durably, the standard of living of both Wall Street and Main Street. Systemic stability, not profits or homeownership, should be the paramount criterion for financial regulation, since systemic stability is required to maintain the profitability—and ultimately, the existence—of any capitalist economic entity. The role of the government is to continually counter the Ponzi tendencies of market mechanisms, even if they are (temporarily) improving standards of living, and to encourage economic agents to develop safe and reliable financial practices.

    See also, Working Paper No. 573.1, “Securitization, Deregulation, Economic Stability, and Financial Crisis, Part I: The Evolution of Securitization.”

  • Securitization, Deregulation, Economic Stability, and Financial Crisis, Part I


    Working Paper No. 573.1 | August 2009
    The Evolution of Securitization

    This study analyzes the trends in the financial sector over the past 30 years, and argues that unsupervised financial innovations and lenient government regulation are at the root of the current financial crisis and recession. Combined with a long period of economic expansion during which default rates were stable and low, deregulation and unsupervised financial innovations generated incentives to make risky financial decisions. Those decisions were taken because it was the only way for financial institutions to maintain market share and profitability. Thus, rather than putting the blame on individuals, this paper places it on an economic setup that requires the growing use of Ponzi processes during enduring economic expansion, and on a regulatory system that is unwilling to recognize (on the contrary, it contributes to) the intrinsic instability of market mechanisms. Subprime lending, greed, and speculation are merely aspects of the larger mechanisms at work.

    It is argued that we need to change the way we approach the regulation of financial institutions and look at what has been done in other sectors of the economy, where regulation and supervision are proactive and carefully implemented in order to guarantee the safety of society. The criterion for regulation and supervision should be neither Wall Street’s nor Main Street’s interests but rather the interests of the socioeconomic system. The latter requires financial stability if it’s to raise, durably, the standard of living of both Wall Street and Main Street. Systemic stability, not profits or homeownership, should be the paramount criterion for financial regulation, since systemic stability is required to maintain the profitability—and ultimately, the existence—of any capitalist economic entity. The role of the government is to continually counter the Ponzi tendencies of market mechanisms, even if they are (temporarily) improving standards of living, and to encourage economic agents to develop safe and reliable financial practices.

    See also, Working Paper No. 573.2, “Securitization, Deregulation, Economic Stability, and Financial Crisis, Part II: Deregulation, the Financial Crisis, and Policy Implications.”

  • A “People First” Strategy: Credit Cannot Flow When There Are No Creditworthy Borrowers or Profitable Projects


    Strategic Analysis, April 2009 | April 2009

    In 1930, John Maynard Keynes wrote: “The world has been slow to realise that we are living this year in the shadow of one of the greatest economic catastrophes of modern history.” The same holds true today: we are in the shadow of a global catastrophe, and we need to come to grips with the crisis—fast. According to Senior Scholar James K. Galbraith, two ingrained habits are leading to our failure to do so. The first is the assumption that economies will eventually return to normal on their own—an overly hopeful view that doesn’t take into account the massive pay-down of household debt resulting from the collapse of the banks. The second bad habit is the belief that recovery runs through the banks rather than around them. But credit cannot flow when there are no creditworthy borrowers or profitable projects; banks have failed, and the failure to recognize this is a recipe for wild speculation and control fraud, compounding taxpayer losses.

    Galbraith outlines a number of measures that are needed now, including realistic economic forecasts, more honest bank auditing, effective financial regulation, measures to forestall evictions and keep people in their homes, and increased public retirement benefits. We are not in a temporary economic lull, an ordinary recession, from which we will emerge to return to business as usual, says Galbraith. Rather, we are at the beginning of a long, painful, profound, and irreversible process of change—we need to start thinking and acting accordingly.

  • Managing the Impact of Volatility in International Capital Markets in an Uncertain World


    Working Paper No. 558 | April 2009

    International financial flows are the propagation mechanism for transmitting financial instability across borders; they are also the source of unsustainable external debt. Managing volatility thus requires institutions that promote domestic financial stability, ensure that domestic instability is contained, and guarantee that international institutions and rules of the game are not themselves a cause of volatility. This paper analyzes proposals to increase stability in domestic markets, in international markets, and in the structure of the international financial system from the point of view of Hyman P. Minsky’s financial instability hypothesis, and outlines how each of these three channels can produce financial fragility that lays the system open to financial instability and financial crisis.

  • Prospects for the United States and the World: A Crisis That Conventional Remedies Cannot Resolve


    Strategic Analysis, December 2008 | December 2008

    The economic recovery plans currently under consideration by the United States and many other countries seem to be concentrated on the possibility of using expansionary fiscal and monetary policies alone. In a new Strategic Analysis, the Levy Institute’s Macro-Modeling Team argues that, however well coordinated, this approach will not be sufficient; what’s required, they say, is a worldwide recovery of output, combined with sustainable balances in international trade.

  • Insuring Against Private Capital Flows


    Working Paper No. 553 | December 2008
    Is It Worth the Premium? What Are the Alternatives?

    Following an analysis of the forces behind the “global capital flows paradox” observed in the era of advancing financial globalization, this paper sets out to investigate the opportunity costs of self-insurance through precautionary reserve holdings. We reject the idea of reserves as low-cost protection against the vagaries of global finance. We also deny that arrangements giving rise to their rapid accumulation might be sustainable in the first place. Alternative policy options open to developing countries are explored, designed to limit both the risks of financial globalization and the costs of insurance-type responses. We propose comprehensive capital account management as an alternative to full capital account liberalization. The aims of a permanent regulatory regime of capital controls, with respect to both the aggregate size and the composition of capital flows, are twofold: first, to maintain sufficient macro policy space; second, to assure a good micro fit of external expertise incorporated in foreign direct investment as part of a country’s development strategy.

  • Fiscal Stimulus—Is More Needed?


    Strategic Analysis, April 2008 | April 2008

    As the government prepares to dispense the tax rebates that largely make up its recently approved $168 billion stimulus package, President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou and Research Scholars Greg Hannsgen and Gennaro Zezza explore the possibility of an additional fiscal stimulus of about $450 billion spread over three quarters—challenging the notion that a larger and more prolonged additional stimulus is unnecessary and will generate inflationary pressures. They find that, given current projections of even a moderate recession, a fiscal stimulus totaling $600 billion would not be too much. They also find that a temporary stimulus—even one lasting four quarters—will have only a temporary effect. An enduring recovery will depend on a prolonged increase in exports, the authors say, due to the weak dollar, a modest increase in imports, and the closing of the current account gap.

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