Publications on Financial instability hypothesis (FIH)
Book Series, November 2015 | November 2015
By L. Randall Wray
Perhaps no economist was more vindicated by the global financial crisis than Hyman P. Minsky (1919–1996). Although a handful of economists raised alarms as early as 2000, Minsky’s warnings began a half century earlier, with writings that set out a compelling theory of financial instability. Yet even today he remains largely outside mainstream economics; few people have a good grasp of his writings, and fewer still understand their full importance. Why Minsky Matters makes the maverick economist’s critically valuable insights accessible to general readers for the first time. Author L. Randall Wray shows that by understanding Minsky we will not only see the next crisis coming but we might be able to act quickly enough to prevent it.
As Wray explains, Minsky’s most important idea is that “stability is destabilizing”: to the degree that the economy achieves what looks to be robust and stable growth, it is setting up the conditions in which a crash becomes ever more likely. Before the financial crisis, mainstream economists pointed to much evidence that the economy was more stable, but their predictions were completely wrong because they disregarded Minsky’s insight. Wray also introduces Minsky’s significant work on money and banking, poverty and unemployment, and the evolution of capitalism, as well as his proposals for reforming the financial system and promoting economic stability.
A much-needed introduction to an economist whose ideas are more relevant than ever, Why Minsky Matters is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand why economic crises are becoming more frequent and severe—and what we can do about it.
Published by: Princeton
Working Paper No. 839 | June 2015
The Unit of Account, Inflation, Leverage, and Financial Fragility
We hope to model financial fragility and money in a way that captures much of what is crucial in Hyman Minsky’s financial fragility hypothesis. This approach to modeling Minsky may be unique in the formal Minskyan literature. Namely, we adopt a model in which a psychological variable we call financial prudence (P) declines over time following a financial crash, driving a cyclical buildup of leverage in household balance sheets. High leverage or a low safe-asset ratio in turn induces high financial fragility (FF). In turn, the pathways of FF and capacity utilization (u) determine the probabilistic risk of a crash in any time interval. When they occur, these crashes entail discrete downward jumps in stock prices and financial sector assets and liabilities. To the endogenous government liabilities in Hannsgen (2014), we add common stock and bank loans and deposits. In two alternative versions of the wage-price module in the model (wage–Phillips curve and chartalist, respectively), the rate of wage inflation depends on either unemployment or the wage-setting policies of the government sector. At any given time t, goods prices also depend on endogenous markup and labor productivity variables. Goods inflation affects aggregate demand through its impact on the value of assets and debts. Bank rates depend on an endogenous markup of their own. Furthermore, in light of the limited carbon budget of humankind over a 50-year horizon, goods production in this model consumes fossil fuels and generates greenhouse gases.
The government produces at a rate given by a reaction function that pulls government activity toward levels prescribed by a fiscal policy rule. Subcategories of government spending affect the pace of technical progress and prudence in lending practices. The intended ultimate purpose of the model is to examine the effects of fiscal policy reaction functions, including one with dual unemployment rate and public production targets, testing their effects on numerically computed solution pathways. Analytical results in the penultimate section show that (1) the model has no equilibrium (steady state) for reasons related to Minsky’s argument that modern capitalist economies possess a property that he called “the instability of stability,” and (2) solution pathways exist and are unique, given vectors of initial conditions and parameter values and realizations of the Poisson model of financial crises.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
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.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
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.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
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.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Eugenio Caverzasi
Working Paper No. 753 | February 2013
This paper addresses the critique of the aggregational problem attached to the financial instability hypothesis of Hyman Minsky. The core of this critique is based on the Kaleckian analytical framework and, in very broad terms, states that the expenditure of ﬁrms for investment is at the same time a source of income for the ﬁrms producing capital goods. Hence, even if investments are debt ﬁnanced, as in Minsky’s analysis, the overall level of indebtedness of the ﬁrm sector remains unchanged, since the debts of investing ﬁrms are balanced by the income of capital goods–producing ﬁrms. According to the critics, Minsky incurs a fallacy of composition when he does not take this dynamic into account when applying his micro analysis of investment at the macro level. The aim of this paper is to clarify the consequences of debt-ﬁnanced investments over the ﬁnancial structure of an aggregate economy. Starting from the works of Michał Kalecki and Josef Steindl, we developed a stock-flow consistent analysis of a highly simpliﬁed economy under four different ﬁnancial regimes: (1) debt-ﬁnanced with no distributed profits, (2) debt-ﬁnanced with distributed proﬁts, (3) internally ﬁnanced with no distributed proﬁts, and (4) internally ﬁnanced with distributed proﬁts. The results of our investigation show that debt-ﬁnanced investments do not lead to a worsening of the ﬁnancial position of the ﬁrm sector only if specific assumptions are taken into account.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Eugenio Caverzasi
Working Paper No. 724 | May 2012
This paper surveys the context and contours of contemporary Post-Keynesian Institutionalism (PKI). It begins by reviewing recent criticism of conventional economics by prominent economists as well as examining, within the current context, important research that paved the way for PKI. It then sketches essential elements of PKI—drawing heavily on the contributions of Hyman Minsky—and identifies directions for future research. Although there is much room for further development, PKI offers a promising starting point for economics after the Great Recession.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Charles J. Whalen
Working Paper No. 659 | March 2011
Stability is destabilizing. These three words concisely capture the insight that underlies Hyman Minsky’s analysis of the economy’s transformation over the entire postwar period. The basic thesis is that the dynamic forces of a capitalist economy are explosive and must be contained by institutional ceilings and floors. However, to the extent that these constraints achieve some semblance of stability, they will change behavior in such a way that the ceiling will be breached in an unsustainable speculative boom. If the inevitable crash is “cushioned” by the institutional floors, the risky behavior that caused the boom will be rewarded. Another boom will build, and the crash that follows will again test the safety net. Over time, the crises become increasingly frequent and severe, until finally “it” (a great depression with a debt deflation) becomes possible.
Policy must adapt as the economy is transformed. The problem with the stabilizing institutions that were put in place in the early postwar period is that they no longer served the economy well by the 1980s. Further, they had been purposely degraded and even in some cases dismantled, often in the erroneous belief that “free” markets are self-regulating. Hence, the economy evolved over the postwar period in a manner that made it much more fragile. Minsky continually formulated and advocated policy to deal with these new developments. Unfortunately, his warnings were largely ignored by the profession and by policymakers—until it was too late.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 652 | March 2011
The Queen of England famously asked her economic advisers why none of them had seen “it” (the global financial crisis) coming. Obviously, the answer is complex, but it must include reference to the evolution of macroeconomic theory over the postwar period—from the “Age of Keynes,” through the Friedmanian era and the return of Neoclassical economics in a particularly extreme form, and, finally, on to the New Monetary Consensus, with a new version of fine-tuning. The story cannot leave out the parallel developments in finance theory—with its efficient markets hypothesis—and in approaches to regulation and supervision of financial institutions.
This paper critically examines these developments and returns to the earlier Keynesian tradition to see what was left out of postwar macro. For example, the synthesis version of Keynes never incorporated true uncertainty or “unknowledge,” and thus deviated substantially from Keynes’s treatment of expectations in chapters 12 and 17 of the General Theory. It essentially reduced Keynes to sticky wages and prices, with nonneutral money only in the case of fooling. The stagflation of the 1970s ended the great debate between “Keynesians” and “Monetarists” in favor of Milton Friedman’s rules, and set the stage for the rise of a succession of increasingly silly theories rooted in pre-Keynesian thought. As Lord Robert Skidelsky (Keynes’s biographer) argues, “Rarely in history can such powerful minds have devoted themselves to such strange ideas.” By returning to Keynes, this paper attempts to provide a new direction forward.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 612 | August 2010
Before we can reform the financial system, we need to understand what banks do; or, better, what banks should do. This paper will examine the later work of Hyman Minsky at the Levy Institute, on his project titled “Reconstituting the United States’ Financial Structure.” This led to a number of Levy working papers and also to a draft book manuscript that was left uncompleted at his death in 1996. In this paper I focus on Minsky’s papers and manuscripts from 1992 to 1996 and his last major contribution (his Veblen-Commons Award–winning paper).
Much of this work was devoted to his thoughts on the role that banks do and should play in the economy. To put it as succinctly as possible, Minsky always insisted that the proper role of the financial system was to promote the “capital development” of the economy. By this he did not simply mean that banks should finance investment in physical capital. Rather, he was concerned with creating a financial structure that would be conducive to economic development to improve living standards, broadly defined. Central to his argument is the understanding of banking that he developed over his career. Just as the financial system changed (and with it, the capitalist economy), Minsky’s views evolved. I will conclude with general recommendations for reform along Minskyan lines.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
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.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):