Research Topics

Publications on Hyman Minsky

There are 48 publications for Hyman Minsky.
  • Minsky at Basel


    Working Paper No. 875 | September 2016
    A Global Cap to Build an Effective Postcrisis Banking Supervision Framework

    The global financial crisis shattered the conventional wisdom about how financial markets work and how to regulate them. Authorities intervened to stop the panic—short-term pragmatism that spoke volumes about the robustness of mainstream economics. However, their very success in taming the collapse reduced efforts to radically change the “big bank” business model and lessened the possibility of serious banking reform—meaning that a strong and possibly even bigger financial crisis is inevitable in the future. We think an overall alternative is needed and at hand: Minsky’s theories on investment, financial stability, the growing weight of the financial sector, and the role of the state. Building on this legacy, it is possible to analyze which aspects of the post-2008 reforms actually work. In this respect, we argue that the only effective solution is to impose a global cap on the absolute size of banks.

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    Author(s):
    Giuseppe Mastromatteo Lorenzo Esposito

  • Financing the Capital Development of the Economy


    Working Paper No. 837 | May 2015
    A Keynes-Schumpeter-Minsky Synthesis

    This paper discusses the role that finance plays in promoting the capital development of the economy, with particular emphasis on the current situation of the United States and the United Kingdom. We define both “finance” and “capital development” very broadly. We begin with the observation that the financial system evolved over the postwar period, from one in which closely regulated and chartered commercial banks were dominant to one in which financial markets dominate the system. Over this period, the financial system grew rapidly relative to the nonfinancial sector, rising from about 10 percent of value added and a 10 percent share of corporate profits to 20 percent of value added and 40 percent of corporate profits in the United States. To a large degree, this was because finance, instead of financing the capital development of the economy, was financing itself. At the same time, the capital development of the economy suffered perceptibly. If we apply a broad definition—to include technological advances, rising labor productivity, public and private infrastructure, innovations, and the advance of human knowledge—the rate of growth of capacity has slowed.

    The past quarter century witnessed the greatest explosion of financial innovation the world had ever seen. Financial fragility grew until the economy collapsed into the global financial crisis. At the same time, we saw that much (or even most) of the financial innovation was directed outside the sphere of production—to complex financial instruments related to securitized mortgages, to commodities futures, and to a range of other financial derivatives. Unlike J. A. Schumpeter, Hyman Minsky did not see the banker merely as the ephor of capitalism, but as its key source of instability. Furthermore, due to “financialisation of the real economy,” the picture is not simply one of runaway finance and an investment-starved real economy, but one where the real economy itself has retreated from funding investment opportunities and is instead either hoarding cash or using corporate profits for speculative investments such as share buybacks. As we will argue, financialization is rooted in predation; in Matt Taibbi’s famous phrase, Wall Street behaves like a giant, blood-sucking “vampire squid.”

    In this paper we will investigate financial reforms as well as other government policy that is necessary to promote the capital development of the economy, paying particular attention to increasing funding of the innovation process. For that reason, we will look not only to Minsky’s ideas on the financial system, but also to Schumpeter’s views on financing innovation.

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    Author(s):
    Mariana Mazzucato L. Randall Wray

  • Reforming the Fed's Policy Response in the Era of Shadow Banking


    Research Project Report, April 2015 | April 2015
    This monograph is part of the Levy Institute’s Research and Policy Dialogue Project on Improving Governance of the Government Safety Net in Financial Crisis, a two-year project funded by the Ford Foundation.

    This is the fourth in a series of reports summarizing the findings of the Research and Policy Dialogue Project on Improving Governance of the Government Safety Net in Financial Crisis, directed by Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray. This project explores alternative methods of providing a government safety net in times of crisis. In the global financial crisis that began in 2007, the United States used two primary responses: a stimulus package approved and budgeted by Congress, and a complex and unprecedented response by the Federal Reserve. The project examines the benefits and drawbacks of each method, focusing on questions of accountability, democratic governance and transparency, and mission consistency.

    The project has also explored the possibility of reform that might place more responsibility for provision of a safety net on Congress, with a smaller role to be played by the Fed, enhancing accountability while allowing the Fed to focus more closely on its proper mission. Given the rise of shadow banking—a financial system that operates largely outside the reach of bank regulators and supervisors—the Fed faces a complicated problem. It might be necessary to reform finance, through downsizing and a return to what Hyman Minsky called “prudent banking,” before we can reform the Fed.

    This report describes the overall scope of the project and summarizes key findings from the three previous reports, as well as additional research undertaken in 2014.  

  • Europe at the Crossroads


    Policy Note 2015/1 | February 2015
    Financial Fragility and the Survival of the Single Currency
    Given the continuing divergence between progress in the monetary field and political integration in the euro area, the German interest in imposing austerity may be seen as representing an attempt to achieve, de facto, accelerated progress toward political union; progress that has long been regarded by Germany as a precondition for the success of monetary unification in the form of the common currency. Yet no matter how necessary these austerity policies may appear in the context of the slow and incomplete political integration in Europe, they are ultimately unsustainable. In the absence of further progress in political unification, writes Senior Scholar Jan Kregel, the survival and stability of the euro paradoxically require either sustained economic stagnation or the maintenance of what Hyman Minsky would have recognized as a Ponzi scheme. Neither of these alternatives is economically or politically sustainable. 
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  • 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 on Banking


    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.

  • The Socialization of Investment, from Keynes to Minsky and Beyond


    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.

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    Author(s):
    Riccardo Bellofiore

  • 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

  • From the State Theory of Money to Modern Money Theory


    Working Paper No. 792 | March 2014
    An Alternative to Economic Orthodoxy

    This paper explores the intellectual history of the state, or chartalist, approach to money, from the early developers (Georg Friedrich Knapp and A. Mitchell Innes) through Joseph Schumpeter, John Maynard Keynes, and Abba Lerner, and on to modern exponents Hyman Minsky, Charles Goodhart, and Geoffrey Ingham. This literature became the foundation for Modern Money Theory (MMT). In the MMT approach, the state (or any other authority able to impose an obligation) imposes a liability in the form of a generalized, social, legal unit of account—a money—used for measuring the obligation. This approach does not require the preexistence of markets; indeed, it almost certainly predates them. Once the authorities can levy such obligations, they can name what fulfills any obligation by denominating those things that can be delivered; in other words, by pricing them. MMT thus links obligatory payments like taxes to the money of account as well as the currency. This leads to a revised view of money and sovereign finance. The paper concludes with an analysis of the policy options available to a modern government that issues its own currency.

  • Options for China in a Dollar Standard World


    Working Paper No. 783 | January 2014
    A Sovereign Currency Approach
    This paper examines the fiscal and monetary policy options available to China as a sovereign currency-issuing nation operating in a dollar standard world. We first summarize a number of issues facing China, including the possibility of slower growth, global imbalances, and a number of domestic imbalances. We then analyze current monetary and fiscal policy formation and examine some policy recommendations that have been advanced to deal with current areas of concern. We next outline the sovereign currency approach and use it to analyze those concerns. We conclude with policy recommendations consistent with the policy space open to China.

  • Ending Poverty: Jobs, Not Welfare


    Book Series, April 2013 | April 2013
    By Hyman P. Minsky | Preface by Dimitri B. Papadimitriou | Introduction by L. Randall Wray
    Although Hyman P. Minsky is best known for his ideas about financial insta­bility, he was equally concerned with the question of how to create a stable economy that puts an end to poverty for all who are willing and able to work. This collection of Minsky’s writing spans almost three decades of his published and previously unpublished work on the necessity of combating poverty through full employment policies—through job creation, not welfare.

    Minsky was an American economist who studied under Joseph Schumpeter and Wassily Leontief. He taught economics at Washington University, the University of California–Berkeley, Brown University, and Harvard University. Minsky joined the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College as a distinguished scholar in 1990, where he continued his research and writing until a few months before his death in October 1996. His two seminal books were Stabilizing an Unstable Economy and John Maynard Keynes, both of which were reissued by the Levy Institute in 2008.

    Minsky held a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Chicago (1941) and an M.P.A. (1947) and a Ph.D. in economics (1954) from Harvard. He was a recipient in 1996 of the Veblen-Commons Award, given by the Association for Evolutionary Economics in recognition of his exemplary standards of scholarship, teaching, public service, and research in the field of evolutionary institutional economics.

    This book was made possible in part through the generous support of the Ford Foundation and Andrew Sheng of the Fung Global Institute.

    Published By: Levy Economics Institute of Bard College

  • The Missing Macro Link


    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.

     

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    Author(s):
    Eugenio Caverzasi

  • ECB Worries / European Woes


    Working Paper No. 742 | December 2012
    The Economic Consequences of Parochial Policy

    Financial market crises with the threat of a subsequent debt-deflation depression have occurred with increasing regularity in the United States from 1980 through the present. Almost reflexively, when confronted with such circumstances, US institutions and the policymakers that run them have responded in a fashion that has consistently thwarted debt-deflation-depression dynamics. It is true that these “remedies,” as they succeeded, increasingly contributed to a moral hazard in US and global financial markets that culminated with the crisis that began in 2007. Nonetheless, the straightforward steps taken by established institutions enabled the United States to derail depression dynamics, while European 1930s-style austerity proved as ineffective as it was almost a century ago. Europe’s, and specifically Germany’s, steadfast refusal to embrace the US recipe has fostered mushrooming economic hardship on the continent. The situation is gruesome, and any serious student of economic history had to have known, given European policy commitments, that it was destined to turn out this way.

    It is easy to understand why misguided policies drove initial European responses. Economic theory has frowned on Keynes. Economic successes, especially in Germany, offered up the wrong lessons, and enduring angst about inflation was a major distraction. At the outset, the wrong medicine for the wrong disease was to be expected.

    What is much harder to fathom is why such a poisonous elixir continues to be proffered amid widespread evidence that the patient is dying. Deconstructing cognitive dissonance in other spheres provides an explanation. Not surprisingly, knowing what one wants to happen at home completely informs one’s claims concerning what will be good for one’s neighbors. In such a construct, the last best hope for Europe is ECB President Mario Draghi. He seems to be able to speak German and yet act European.

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    Author(s):
    Robert J. Barbera Gerald Holtham

  • Minsky and the Narrow Banking Proposal


    Public Policy Brief No. 125, 2012 | August 2012
    No Solution for Financial Reform
    Before the law has even been fully implemented, the inadequacies of the regulatory approach underlying the Dodd-Frank Act are becoming more and more apparent. Financial scandal by financial scandal, the realization is hardening that there is a pressing need to search for more robust regulatory alternatives.

    The real challenge for financial reform is to develop a vision for a financial structure that would simplify the system and the activities of financial institutions so that they can be regulated and supervised effectively. Some paths to such simplification, however, are not worth treading. Against the backdrop of renewed present-day interest in the Depression-era “Chicago Plan,” featuring 100 percent reserve backing for deposits, Senior Scholar Jan Kregel turns to Hyman Minsky’s consideration of a similar “narrow banking” proposal in the mid-1990s. For reasons that eventually led Minsky himself to abandon the proposal, as well as reasons developed here by Kregel that have even more pressing relevance in today’s political climate, plans for a narrow banking system are found wanting.

  • Post-Keynesian Institutionalism after the Great Recession


    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.

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    Author(s):
    Charles J. Whalen

  • 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.

  • Building Effective Regulation Requires a Theory of Financial Instability


    One-Pager No. 30 | May 2012

    Hyman Minsky had particular views about how the regulatory system and financial architecture should be reformulated, and one of the many lessons we can learn from his work is that there is an intimate connection between how we think about the prospect of financial market instability and how we approach financial regulation. Regulation cannot be effective if it is simply based on “piecemeal” measures produced in response to the current “moment,” Minsky wrote. It needs to reformulate the structure of the financial system itself.

  • Measuring Macroprudential Risk through Financial Fragility


    Working Paper No. 716 | April 2012
    A Minskyan Approach

    This paper presents a method to capture the growth of financial fragility within a country and across countries. This is done by focusing on housing finance in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. Following the theoretical framework developed by Hyman P. Minsky, the paper focuses on the risk of amplification of shock via a debt deflation instead of the risk of a shock per se. Thus, instead of focusing on credit risk, for example, financial fragility is defined in relation to the means used to service debts, given credit risk and all other sources of shocks. The greater the expected reliance on capital gains and debt refinancing to meet debt commitments, the greater the financial fragility, and so the higher the risk of debt deflation induced by a shock if no government intervention occurs. In the context of housing finance, this implies that the growth of subprime lending was not by itself a source of financial fragility; instead, it was the change in the underwriting methods in all sectors of the mortgage markets that created a financial situation favorable to the emergence of a debt deflation. Stated alternatively, when nonprime and prime mortgage lending moved to asset-based lending instead of income-based lending, the financial fragility of the economy grew rapidly.

  • Beyond the Minsky Moment: Where We’ve Been, Why We Can’t Go Back, and the Road Ahead for Financial Reform


    eBook, April 2012 | April 2012
    This eBook traces the roots of the 2008 financial meltdown to the structural and regulatory changes leading from the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act to the 1999 Financial Services Modernization Act, and on through to the subprime-triggered crash. It evaluates the regulatory reactions to the global financial crisis—most notably, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act—and, with the help of Minsky’s work, sketches a way forward in terms of stabilizing the financial system and providing for the capital development of the economy.
    The book explains how money manager capitalism set the stage for the outbreak of the systemic crisis and debt deflation through which we are still living. And it explains that, despite calls for a return to Glass-Steagall, we cannot turn back the clock. Minsky’s blueprint for a more stable structure is smaller banks and the restoration of relationship banking. Modifying and extending his idea for creating a bank holding company would preserve some of the features of Glass-Steagall. 

  • 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.

  • Improving Governance of the Government Safety Net in Financial Crisis


    Research Project Report, April 9, 2012 | April 2012
    This monograph is part of the Levy Institute’s Research and Policy Dialogue Project on Improving Governance of the Government Safety Net in Financial Crisis, a two-year project funded by the Ford Foundation.

    In the current financial crisis, the United States has relied on two primary methods of extending the government safety net: a stimulus package approved and budgeted by Congress, and a massive and unprecedented response by the Federal Reserve in the fulfillment of its lender-of-last-resort function. This monograph examines the benefits and drawbacks of each method, focusing on questions of accountability, democratic governance and transparency, and mission consistency. The aim is to explore the possibility of reform that would place more responsibility for provision of a safety net on Congress, with a smaller role to be played by the Fed, not only enhancing accountability but also allowing the Fed to focus more closely on its proper mission.

  • Global Financial Crisis


    Working Paper No. 711 | March 2012
    A Minskyan Interpretation of the Causes, the Fed’s Bailout, and the Future

    This paper provides a quick review of the causes of the Global Financial Crisis that began in 2007. There were many contributing factors, but among the most important were rising inequality and stagnant incomes for most American workers, growing private sector debt in the United States and many other countries, financialization of the global economy (itself a very complex process), deregulation and desupervision of financial institutions, and overly tight fiscal policy in many nations. The analysis adopts the “stages” approach developed by Hyman P. Minsky, according to which a gradual transformation of the economy over the postwar period has in many ways reproduced the conditions that led to the Great Depression. The paper then moves on to an examination of the US government’s bailout of the global financial system. While other governments played a role, the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve assumed much of the responsibility for the bailout. A detailed examination of the Fed’s response shows how unprecedented—and possibly illegal—was its extension of the government’s “safety net” to the biggest financial institutions. The paper closes with an assessment of the problems the bailout itself poses for the future.

  • The Euro Crisis and the Job Guarantee


    Working Paper No. 707 | February 2012
    A Proposal for Ireland

    Euroland is in a crisis that is slowly but surely spreading from one periphery country to another; it will eventually reach the center. The blame is mostly heaped upon supposedly profligate consumption by Mediterraneans. But that surely cannot apply to Ireland and Iceland. In both cases, these nations adopted the neoliberal attitude toward banks that was pushed by policymakers in Europe and America, with disastrous results. The banks blew up in a speculative fever and then expected their governments to absorb all the losses. The situation was similar in the United States, but in our case the debts were in dollars and our sovereign currency issuer simply spent, lent, and guaranteed 29 trillion dollars’ worth of bad bank decisions. Even in our case it was a huge mistake—but it was “affordable.” Ireland and Iceland were not so lucky, as their bank debts were in “foreign” currencies. By this I mean that even though Irish bank debt was in euros, the Government of Ireland had given up its own currency in favor of what is essentially a foreign currency—the euro, which is issued by the European Central Bank (ECB). Every euro issued in Ireland is ultimately convertible, one to one, to an ECB euro. There is neither the possibility of depreciating the Irish euro nor the possibility of creating ECB euros as necessary to meet demands for clearing. Ireland is in a situation similar to that of Argentina a decade ago, when it adopted a currency board based on the US dollar. And yet the authorities demand more austerity, to further reduce growth rates. As both Ireland and Greece have found out, austerity does not mean reduced budget deficits, because tax revenues fall faster than spending can be cut. Indeed, as I write this, Athens has exploded in riots. Is there an alternative path?

    In this piece I argue that there is. First, I quickly summarize the financial foibles of Iceland and Ireland. I will then—also quickly—summarize the case for debt relief or default. Then I will present a program of direct job creation that could put Ireland on the path to recovery. Understanding the financial problems and solutions puts the jobs program proposal in the proper perspective: a full implementation of a job guarantee cannot occur within the current financial arrangements. Still, something can be done.

  • Inflationary and Distributional Effects of Alternative Fiscal Policies


    Working Paper No. 706 | February 2012
    An Augmented Minskyan-Kaleckian Model

    This paper augments the basic Post-Keynesian markup model to examine the effects of different fiscal policies on prices and income distribution. This is an approach à la Hyman P. Minsky, who argued that in the modern era, government is both “a blessing and a curse,” since it stabilizes profits and output by imparting an inflationary bias to the economy, but without stabilizing the economy at or near full employment. To build on these insights, the paper considers several distinct functions of government: 1) government as an income provider, 2) as an employer, and 3) as a buyer of goods and services. The inflationary and distributional effects of each of these fiscal policies differ considerably. First, the paper examines the effects of income transfers to individuals and firms (in the form of unemployment insurance and investment subsidies, respectively). Next, it considers government as an employer of workers (direct job creation) and as a buyer of goods and services (indirect job creation). Finally, it modifies the basic theoretical model to incorporate fiscal policy à laMinsky and John Maynard Keynes, where the government ensures full employment through direct job creation of all of the unemployed unable to find private sector work, irrespective of the phase of the business cycle. The paper specifically models Minsky’s proposal for government as the employer of last resort (ELR), but the findings would apply to any universal direct job creation plan of similar design. The paper derives a fundamental price equation for a full-employment economy with government. The model presents a “price rule” for government spending that ensures that the ELR is not a source of inflation. Indeed, the fundamental equation illustrates that in the presence of such a price rule, at full employment inflationary effects are observed from sources other thanthe public sector employment program.


  • 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.

  • Waiting for the Next Crash


    Public Policy Brief No. 120, 2011 | October 2011
    The Minskyan Lessons We Failed to Learn

    Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray lays out the numerous and critical ways in which we have failed to learn from the latest global financial crisis, and identifies the underlying trends and structural vulnerabilities that make it likely a new crisis is right around the corner. Wray also suggests some policy changes that would shore up the financial system while reinvigorating the real economy, including the clear separation of commercial and investment banking, and a universal job guarantee.

  • Lessons We Should Have Learned from the Global Financial Crisis but Didn’t


    Working Paper No. 681 | August 2011

    This paper begins by recounting the causes and consequences of the global financial crisis (GFC). The triggering event, of course, was the unfolding of the subprime crisis; however, the paper argues that the financial system was already so fragile that just about anything could have caused the collapse. It then moves on to an assessment of the lessons we should have learned. Briefly, these include: (a) the GFC was not a liquidity crisis, (b) underwriting matters, (c) unregulated and unsupervised financial institutions naturally evolve into control frauds, and (d) the worst part is the cover-up of the crimes. The paper argues that we cannot resolve the crisis until we begin going after the fraud, and concludes by outlining an agenda for reform, along the lines suggested by the work of Hyman P. Minsky.

  • 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. 

  • The Financial Crisis Viewed from the Perspective of the “Social Costs” Theory


    Working Paper No. 662 | March 2011

    This paper examines the causes and consequences of the current global financial crisis. It largely relies on the work of Hyman Minsky, although analyses by John Kenneth Galbraith and Thorstein Veblen of the causes of the 1930s collapse are used to show similarities between the two crises. K.W. Kapp’s “social costs” theory is contrasted with the recently dominant “efficient markets” hypothesis to provide the context for analyzing the functioning of financial institutions. The paper argues that, rather than operating “efficiently,” the financial sector has been imposing huge costs on the economy—costs that no one can deny in the aftermath of the economy’s collapse. While orthodox approaches lead to the conclusion that money and finance should not matter much, the alternative tradition—from Veblen and Keynes to Galbraith and Minsky—provides the basis for developing an approach that puts money and finance front and center. Including the theory of social costs also generates policy recommendations more appropriate to an economy in which finance matters.

  • 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.

  • Minsky Crisis


    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.

  • Money in Finance


    Working Paper No. 656 | March 2011

    This paper begins by defining, and distinguishing between, money and finance, and addresses alternative ways of financing spending. We next examine the role played by financial institutions (e.g., banks) in the provision of finance. The role of government as both regulator of private institutions and provider of finance is also discussed, and related topics such as liquidity and saving are explored. We conclude with a look at some of the new innovations in finance, and at the global financial crisis, which could be blamed on excessive financialization of the economy.

  • A Minskyan Road to Financial Reform


    Working Paper No. 655 | March 2011

    In the aftermath of the global financial collapse that began in 2007, governments around the world have responded with reform. The outlines of Basel III have been announced, although some have already dismissed its reform agenda as being too little (and too late!). Like the proposed reforms in the United States, it is argued, Basel III would not have prevented the financial crisis even if it had been in place. The problem is that the architects of reform are working around the edges, taking current bank activities as somehow appropriate and trying to eliminate only the worst excesses of the 2000s.

    Hyman Minsky would not be impressed.

    Before we can reform the financial system, we need to understand what the financial system does—or, better, what it should do. To put it as simply as possible, Minsky always insisted that the proper role of the financial system is 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.

    In this paper, we first examine Minsky’s general proposals for reform of the economy—how to restore stable growth that promotes job creation and rising living standards. We then turn to his proposals for financial reform. We will focus on his writing in the early 1990s, when he was engaged in a project at the Levy Economics Institute on reconstituting the financial system (Minsky 1992a, 1992b, 1993, 1996). As part of that project, he offered his insights on the fundamental functions of a financial system. These thoughts lead quite naturally to a critique of the financial practices that precipitated the global financial crisis, and offer a path toward thorough-going reform.

  • Financial Keynesianism and Market Instability


    Working Paper No. 653 | March 2011

    In this paper I will follow Hyman Minsky in arguing that the postwar period has seen a slow transformation of the economy from a structure that could be characterized as “robust” to one that is “fragile.” While many economists and policymakers have argued that “no one saw it coming,” Minsky and his followers certainly did! While some of the details might have surprised Minsky, certainly the general contours of this crisis were foreseen by him a half century ago. I will focus on two main points: first, the past four decades have seen the return of “finance capitalism”; and second, the collapse that began two years ago is a classic “Fisher-Minsky” debt deflation. The appropriate way to analyze this transformation and collapse is from the perspective of what Minsky called “financial Keynesianism”—a label he preferred over Post Keynesian because it emphasized the financial nature of the capitalist economy he analyzed.

  • The Dismal State of Macroeconomics and the Opportunity for a New Beginning


    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.

  • Money


    Working Paper No. 647 | December 2010

    This paper advances three fundamental propositions regarding money:

    (1) As R. W. Clower (1965) famously put it, money buys goods and goods buy money, but goods do not buy goods.

    (2) Money is always debt; it cannot be a commodity from the first proposition because, if it were, that would mean that a particular good is buying goods.

    (3) Default on debt is possible.

    These three propositions are used to build a theory of money that is linked to common themes in the heterodox literature on money. The approach taken here is integrated with Hyman Minsky’s (1986) work (which relies heavily on the work of his dissertation adviser, Joseph Schumpeter [1934]); the endogenous money approach of Basil Moore; the French-Italian circuit approach; Paul Davidson’s (1978) interpretation of John Maynard Keynes, which relies on uncertainty; Wynne Godley’s approach, which relies on accounting identities; the “K” distribution theory of Keynes, Michal Kalecki, Nicholas Kaldor, and Kenneth Boulding; the sociological approach of Ingham; and the chartalist, or state money, approach (A. M. Innes, G. F. Knapp, and Charles Goodhart). Hence, this paper takes a somewhat different route to develop the more typical heterodox conclusions about money.

     

  • Minsky’s View of Capitalism and Banking in America


    One-Pager No. 6 | November 2010

    Before we can reform the financial system, we need to understand what banks do—or, better yet, what banks should do. Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray examines Hyman Minsky’s views on banking and the proper role of the financial system—not simply to finance investment in physical capital but to promote the “capital development” of the economy as a whole and the improvement of living standards, broadly defined.

  • What Do Banks Do? What Should Banks Do?


    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • A Critical Assessment of Seven Reports on Financial Reform: A Minskyan Perspective, Part IV


    Working Paper No. 574.4 | August 2009
    Summary Tables

    This four-part study is a critical analysis of several reports dealing with the reform of the financial system in the United States. The study uses Minsky’s framework of analysis and focuses on the implications of Ponzi finance for regulatory and supervisory policies. The main conclusion of the study is that, while all reports make some valuable suggestions, they fail to deal with the socioeconomic dynamics that emerge during long periods of economic stability. As a consequence, it is highly doubtful that the principal suggestions contained in the reports will provide any applicable means to limit the worsening of financial fragility over periods of economic stability. The study also concludes that any meaningful systemic and prudential regulatory changes should focus on the analysis of expected and actual cash flows (sources and stability) rather than capital equity, and on preventing the emergence of Ponzi processes. The latter tend to emerge over long periods of economic stability and are not necessarily engineered by crooks. On the contrary, the pursuit of economic growth may involve the extensive use of Ponzi financial processes in legal economic activities. The study argues that some Ponzi processes—more precisely, pyramid Ponzi processes—should not be allowed to proceed, no matter how severe the immediate impact on economic growth, standards of living, or competitiveness. This is so because pyramid Ponzi processes always collapse, regardless how efficient financial markets are, how well informed and well behaved individuals are, or whether there is a “bubble” or not. The longer the process is allowed to proceed, the more destructive it becomes. Pyramid Ponzi processes cannot be risk-managed or buffered against; if economic growth is to be based on a solid financial foundation, these processes cannot be allowed to continue. Finally, a supervisory and regulatory process focused on detecting Ponzi processes would be much more flexible and adaptive, since it would not be preoccupied with either functional or product limits, or with arbitrary ratios of “prudence.” Rather, it would oversee all financial institutions and all products, no matter how new or marginal they might be.

    See also, Working Paper Nos. 574.1, 574.2, and 574.3.

  • A Critical Assessment of Seven Reports on Financial Reform: A Minskyan Perspective, Part III


    Working Paper No. 574.3 | August 2009
    G30, OECD, GAO, ICMBS Reports

    This four-part study is a critical analysis of several reports dealing with the reform of the financial system in the United States. The study uses Minsky’s framework of analysis and focuses on the implications of Ponzi finance for regulatory and supervisory policies. The main conclusion of the study is that, while all reports make some valuable suggestions, they fail to deal with the socioeconomic dynamics that emerge during long periods of economic stability. As a consequence, it is highly doubtful that the principal suggestions contained in the reports will provide any applicable means to limit the worsening of financial fragility over periods of economic stability. The study also concludes that any meaningful systemic and prudential regulatory changes should focus on the analysis of expected and actual cash flows (sources and stability) rather than capital equity, and on preventing the emergence of Ponzi processes. The latter tend to emerge over long periods of economic stability and are not necessarily engineered by crooks. On the contrary, the pursuit of economic growth may involve the extensive use of Ponzi financial processes in legal economic activities. The study argues that some Ponzi processes—more precisely, pyramid Ponzi processes—should not be allowed to proceed, no matter how severe the immediate impact on economic growth, standards of living, or competitiveness. This is so because pyramid Ponzi processes always collapse, regardless how efficient financial markets are, how well informed and well behaved individuals are, or whether there is a “bubble” or not. The longer the process is allowed to proceed, the more destructive it becomes. Pyramid Ponzi processes cannot be risk-managed or buffered against; if economic growth is to be based on a solid financial foundation, these processes cannot be allowed to continue. Finally, a supervisory and regulatory process focused on detecting Ponzi processes would be much more flexible and adaptive, since it would not be preoccupied with either functional or product limits, or with arbitrary ratios of “prudence.” Rather, it would oversee all financial institutions and all products, no matter how new or marginal they might be.

    See also, Working Paper Nos. 574.1, 574.2, and 574.4.

  • A Critical Assessment of Seven Reports on Financial Reform: A Minskyan Perspective, Part II


    Working Paper No. 574.2 | August 2009
    Treasury, CRMPG Reports, Financial Stability Forum

    This four-part study is a critical analysis of several reports dealing with the reform of the financial system in the United States. The study uses Minsky’s framework of analysis and focuses on the implications of Ponzi finance for regulatory and supervisory policies. The main conclusion of the study is that, while all reports make some valuable suggestions, they fail to deal with the socioeconomic dynamics that emerge during long periods of economic stability. As a consequence, it is highly doubtful that the principal suggestions contained in the reports will provide any applicable means to limit the worsening of financial fragility over periods of economic stability. The study also concludes that any meaningful systemic and prudential regulatory changes should focus on the analysis of expected and actual cash flows (sources and stability) rather than capital equity, and on preventing the emergence of Ponzi processes. The latter tend to emerge over long periods of economic stability and are not necessarily engineered by crooks. On the contrary, the pursuit of economic growth may involve the extensive use of Ponzi financial processes in legal economic activities. The study argues that some Ponzi processes—more precisely, pyramid Ponzi processes—should not be allowed to proceed, no matter how severe the immediate impact on economic growth, standards of living, or competitiveness. This is so because pyramid Ponzi processes always collapse, regardless how efficient financial markets are, how well informed and well behaved individuals are, or whether there is a “bubble” or not. The longer the process is allowed to proceed, the more destructive it becomes. Pyramid Ponzi processes cannot be risk-managed or buffered against; if economic growth is to be based on a solid financial foundation, these processes cannot be allowed to continue. Finally, a supervisory and regulatory process focused on detecting Ponzi processes would be much more flexible and adaptive, since it would not be preoccupied with either functional or product limits, or with arbitrary ratios of “prudence.” Rather, it would oversee all financial institutions and all products, no matter how new or marginal they might be.

    See also, Working Paper Nos. 574.1, 574.3, and 574.4.

  • A Critical Assessment of Seven Reports on Financial Reform: A Minskyan Perspective, Part I


    Working Paper No. 574.1 | August 2009
    Key Concepts and Main Points

    This four-part study is a critical analysis of several reports dealing with the reform of the financial system in the United States. The study uses Minsky’s framework of analysis and focuses on the implications of Ponzi finance for regulatory and supervisory policies. The main conclusion of the study is that, while all reports make some valuable suggestions, they fail to deal with the socioeconomic dynamics that emerge during long periods of economic stability. As a consequence, it is highly doubtful that the principal suggestions contained in the reports will provide any applicable means to limit the worsening of financial fragility over periods of economic stability. The study also concludes that any meaningful systemic and prudential regulatory changes should focus on the analysis of expected and actual cash flows (sources and stability) rather than capital equity, and on preventing the emergence of Ponzi processes. The latter tend to emerge over long periods of economic stability and are not necessarily engineered by crooks. On the contrary, the pursuit of economic growth may involve the extensive use of Ponzi financial processes in legal economic activities. The study argues that some Ponzi processes—more precisely, pyramid Ponzi processes—should not be allowed to proceed, no matter how severe the immediate impact on economic growth, standards of living, or competitiveness. This is so because pyramid Ponzi processes always collapse, regardless how efficient financial markets are, how well informed and well behaved individuals are, or whether there is a “bubble” or not. The longer the process is allowed to proceed, the more destructive it becomes. Pyramid Ponzi processes cannot be risk-managed or buffered against; if economic growth is to be based on a solid financial foundation, these processes cannot be allowed to continue. Finally, a supervisory and regulatory process focused on detecting Ponzi processes would be much more flexible and adaptive, since it would not be preoccupied with either functional or product limits, or with arbitrary ratios of “prudence.” Rather, it would oversee all financial institutions and all products, no matter how new or marginal they might be.

    See also, Working Paper Nos. 574.2, 574.3, and 574.4.

  • 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.”

  • 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.

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