Publications on Monetary policy
Working Paper No. 881 | January 2017
This paper investigates the long-term determinants of Indian government bonds’ (IGB) nominal yields. It examines whether John Maynard Keynes’s supposition that short-term interest rates are the key driver of long-term government bond yields holds over the long-run horizon, after controlling for various key economic factors such as inflationary pressure and measures of economic activity. It also appraises whether the government finance variable—the ratio of government debt to nominal income—has an adverse effect on government bond yields over a long-run horizon. The models estimated here show that in India, short-term interest rates are the key driver of long-term government bond yields over the long run. However, the ratio of government debt and nominal income does not have any discernible adverse effect on yields over a long-run horizon. These findings will help policymakers in India (and elsewhere) to use information on the current trend in short-term interest rates, the federal fiscal balance, and other key macro variables to form their long-term outlook on IGB yields, and to understand the implications of the government’s fiscal stance on the government bond market.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Tanweer Akram Anupam Das
Working Paper No. 876 | October 2016
The Fed’s Unjustified Rationale
In December 2015, the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) initiated the process of “normalization,” with the objective of gradually raising the federal funds rate back to “normal”—i.e., levels that are “neither expansionary nor contrary” and are consistent with the established 2 percent longer-run goal for the annual Personal Consumption Expenditures index and the estimated natural rate of unemployment. This paper argues that the urgency and rationale behind the rate hikes are not theoretically sound or empirically justified. Despite policymakers’ celebration of “substantial” labor market progress, we are still short some 20 million jobs. Further, there is no reason to believe that the current exceptionally low inflation rates are transitory. Quite the contrary: without significant fiscal efforts to restore the bargaining power of labor, inflation rates are expected to remain below the Federal Open Market Committee’s long-term goal for years to come. Also, there is little empirical evidence or theoretical support for the FRB’s suggestion that higher interest rates are necessary to counter “excessive” risk-taking or provide a more stable financial environment.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Flavia Dantas
Working Paper No. 868 | June 2016
The ECB’s Belated Conversion?
This paper investigates the European Central Bank’s (ECB) monetary policies. It identifies an antigrowth bias in the bank’s monetary policy approach: the ECB is quick to hike, but slow to ease. Similarly, while other players and institutional deficiencies share responsibility for the euro’s failure, the bank has generally done “too little, too late” with regard to managing the euro crisis, preventing protracted stagnation, and containing deflation threats. The bank remains attached to the euro area’s official competitive wage–repression strategy, which is in conflict with the ECB’s price stability mandate and undermines its more recent, unconventional monetary policy initiatives designed to restore price stability. The ECB needs a “Euro Treasury” partner to overcome the euro regime’s most serious flaw: the divorce between central bank and treasury institutions.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 864 | April 2016
In this paper we analyze options for the European Central Bank (ECB) to achieve its single mandate of price stability. Viable options for price stability are described, analyzed, and tabulated with regard to both short- and long-term stability and volatility. We introduce an additional tool for promoting price stability and conclude that public purpose is best served by the selection of an alternative buffer stock policy that is directly managed by the ECB.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Warren Mosler Damiano B. Silipo
Working Paper No. 863 | March 2016
US government indebtedness and fiscal deficits increased notably following the global financial crisis. Yet long-term interest rates and US Treasury yields have remained remarkably low. Why have long-term interest rates stayed low despite the elevated government indebtedness? What are the drivers of long-term interest rates in the United States? John Maynard Keynes holds that the central bank’s actions are the main determinants of long-term interest rates. A simple model is presented where the central bank’s actions are the key drivers of long-term interest rates through short-term interest rates and various monetary policy measures. The empirical findings reveal that short-term interest rates, after controlling for other crucial variables such as the rate of inflation, the rate of economic activity, fiscal deficits, government debts, and so forth, are the most important determinants of long-term interest rates in the United States. Public finance variables, such as government fiscal balances or government indebtedness, as a share of nominal GDP appear not to have any discernable effect on long-term interest rates.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Tanweer Akram Huiqing Li
Working Paper No. 862 | March 2016
Japan has experienced stagnation, deflation, and low interest rates for decades. It is caught in a liquidity trap. This paper examines Japan’s liquidity trap in light of the structure and performance of the country’s economy since the onset of stagnation. It also analyzes the country’s liquidity trap in terms of the different strands in the theoretical literature. It is argued that insights from a Keynesian perspective are still quite relevant. The Keynesian perspective is useful not just for understanding Japan’s liquidity trap but also for formulating and implementing policies that can overcome the liquidity trap and foster renewed economic growth and prosperity. Paul Krugman (1998a, b) and Ben Bernanke (2000; 2002) identify low inflation and deflation risks as the cause of a liquidity trap. Hence, they advocate a credible commitment by the central bank to sustained monetary easing as the key to reigniting inflation, creating an exit from a liquidity trap through low interest rates and quantitative easing. In contrast, for John Maynard Keynes (2007 ) the possibility of a liquidity trap arises from a sharp rise in investors’ liquidity preference and the fear of capital losses due to uncertainty about the direction of interest rates. His analysis calls for an integrated strategy for overcoming a liquidity trap. This strategy consists of vigorous fiscal policy and employment creation to induce a higher expected marginal efficiency of capital, while the central bank stabilizes the yield curve and reduces interest rate volatility to mitigate investors’ expectations of capital loss. In light of Japan’s experience, Keynes’s analysis and proposal for generating effective demand might well be a more appropriate remedy for the country’s liquidity trap.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Tanweer Akram
Book Series, November 2015 | November 2015
Edited by Rainer Kattel, Jan Kregel, and Mario Tonveronachi
Have past and more recent regulatory changes contributed to increased financial stability in the European Union (EU), or have they improved the efficiency of individual banks and national financial systems within the EU? Edited by Rainer Kattel, Tallinn University of Technology, Director of Research Jan Kregel, and Mario Tonveronachi, University of Siena, this volume offers a comparative overview of how financial regulations have evolved in various European countries since the introduction of the single European market in 1986. The collection includes a number of country studies (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Estonia, Hungary, Slovenia) that analyze the domestic financial regulatory structure at the beginning of the period, how the EU directives have been introduced into domestic legislation, and their impact on the financial structure of the economy. Other contributions examine regulatory changes in the UK and Nordic countries, and in postcrisis America.
Published by: RoutledgeAssociated Program:
Working Paper No. 848 | October 2015
A Case Study of the Canadian Economy, 1935–75
Historically high levels of private and public debt coupled with already very low short-term interest rates appear to limit the options for stimulative monetary policy in many advanced economies today. One option that has not yet been considered is monetary financing by central banks to boost demand and/or relieve debt burdens. We find little empirical evidence to support the standard objection to such policies: that they will lead to uncontrollable inflation. Theoretical models of inflationary monetary financing rest upon inaccurate conceptions of the modern endogenous money creation process. This paper presents a counter-example in the activities of the Bank of Canada during the period 1935–75, when, working with the government, it engaged in significant direct or indirect monetary financing to support fiscal expansion, economic growth, and industrialization. An institutional case study of the period, complemented by a general-to-specific econometric analysis, finds no support for a relationship between monetary financing and inflation. The findings lend support to recent calls for explicit monetary financing to boost highly indebted economies and a more general rethink of the dominant New Macroeconomic Consensus policy framework that prohibits monetary financing.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Josh Ryan-Collins
Working Paper No. 845 | September 2015
Assessing the ECB’s Crisis Management Performance and Potential for Crisis ResolutionThis study assesses the European Central Bank’s (ECB) crisis management performance and potential for crisis resolution. The study investigates the institutional and functional constraints that delineate the ECB’s scope for policy action under crisis conditions, and how the bank has actually used its leeway since 2007—or might do so in the future. The study finds that the ECB may well stand out positively when compared to other important euro-area or national authorities involved in managing the euro crisis, but that in general the bank did “too little, too late” to prevent the euro area from slipping into recession and protracted stagnation. The study also finds that expectations regarding the ECB’s latest policy initiatives may be excessively optimistic, and that proposals featuring the central bank as the euro’s savior through even more radical employment of its balance sheet are misplaced hopes. Ultimately, the euro’s travails can only be ended and the euro crisis resolved by shifting the emphasis toward fiscal policy; specifically, by partnering the ECB with a “Euro Treasury” that would serve as a vehicle for the central funding of public investment through the issuance of common Euro Treasury debt securities.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Book Series, September 2015 | September 2015
By L. Randall Wray
In a completely revised second edition, Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray presents the key principles of Modern Money Theory, exploring macro accounting, monetary and fiscal policy, currency regimes, and exchange rates in developed and developing nations. Wray examines how misunderstandings about the nature of money caused the recent global financial meltdown, and provides fresh ideas about how leaders should approach economic policy. This updated edition also includes new chapters on tax policies and inflation.
Published by: Palgrave Macmillan
Working Paper No. 843 | July 2015
This paper has two main objectives. The first is to propose a policy architecture that can prevent a very high public debt from resulting in a high tax burden, a government default, or inflation. The second objective is to show that government deficits do not face a financing problem. After these deficits are initially financed through the net creation of base money, the private sector necessarily realizes savings, in the form of either government bond purchases or, if a default is feared, “acquisitions” of new money.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Pedro Leao
One-Pager No. 49 | May 2015
Shadow Banking and Federal Reserve Governance in the Global Financial Crisis
The 2008 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) transcripts provide a rare portrait of how policymakers responded to the unfolding of the world’s largest financial crisis since the Great Depression. The transcripts reveal an FOMC that lacked a satisfactory understanding of a shadow banking system that had grown to enormous proportions—an FOMC that neither comprehended the extent to which the fate of regulated member banks had become intertwined and interlinked with the shadow banking system, nor had considered in advance the implications of a serious crisis. As a consequence, the Fed had to make policy on the fly as it tried to prevent a complete collapse of the financial system.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Matthew Berg
Research Project Report, April 2015 | April 2015This 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.Download:Associated Program:
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.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Srinivas Yanamandra
Public Policy Brief No. 137, 2014 | September 2014
A Proposal to Repair Half of a Flawed DesignThe flaws of the Maastrict Treaty are a frequent object of commentary but, as yet, Europe remains unable—or, perhaps more accurately, unwilling—to address these flaws. The European project will remain unfinished and the ability of the European Central Bank to implement effective monetary policies will continue to be hobbled. As Mario Tonveronachi observes in this public policy brief, Europe has a currency union, but this does not mean that Europe has achieved a single financial market, an essential element for a functioning union. He reminds us that a single European market requires pricing in relation to common risk-free assets rather than in relation to a collection of individual idiosyncratic sovereign rates. And financial operators must have access to the same risk-free assets for trading and liquidity operations. The euro provides neither of these functions, and thus, while there has been a measure of convergence, a single financial market, and the financial integration it represents, remains unachieved.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Mario Tonveronachi
Working Paper No. 813 | August 2014
For Economic Stimulus, or for Austerity and Volatility?
The implementation of economic reforms under new economic policies in India was associated with a paradigmatic shift in monetary and fiscal policy. While monetary policies were solely aimed at “price stability” in the neoliberal regime, fiscal policies were characterized by the objective of maintaining “sound finance” and “austerity.” Such monetarist principles and measures have also loomed over the global recession. This paper highlights the theoretical fallacies of monetarism and analyzes the consequences of such policy measures in India, particularly during the period of the global recession. Not only did such policies pose constraints on the recovery of output and employment, with adverse impacts on income distribution; but they also failed to achieve their stated goal in terms of price stability. By citing examples from southern Europe and India, this paper concludes that such monetarist policy measures have been responsible for stagnation, with a rise in price volatility and macroeconomic instability in the midst of the global recession.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Sunanda Sen Zico DasGupta
Public Policy Brief No. 134, 2014 | June 2014
This September, voters in Scotland will decide whether to break away from the United Kingdom. If supporters of independence carry the day, pivotal choices that affect the scope of Scotland’s economic sovereignty and its future relationship to the UK will need to be made, particularly with respect to the question of its currency. As the disaster in the eurozone makes clear, it is essential to get these arrangements right.
In this policy brief, Philip Pilkington outlines a monetary framework designed to meet the macroeconomic challenges that would be faced by a newly separate Scotland. His conclusion: while it would be in Scotland’s best interests to continue using the sterling in the short run, making the transition to issuing its own, freely floating currency would place the country on a more stable economic footing.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Philip Pilkington
Working Paper No. 802 | May 2014
Policy Challenges for Central Banks
Central banks responded with exceptional liquidity support during the financial crisis to prevent a systemic meltdown. They broadened their tool kit and extended liquidity support to nonbanks and key financial markets. Many want central banks to embrace this expanded role as “market maker of last resort” going forward. This would provide a liquidity backstop for systemically important markets and the shadow banking system that is deeply integrated with these markets. But how much liquidity support can central banks provide to the shadow banking system without risking their balance sheets? I discuss the expanding role of the shadow banking sector and the key drivers behind its growing importance. There are close parallels between the growth of shadow banking before the recent financial crisis and earlier financial crises, with rapid growth in near monies as a common feature. This ebb and flow of shadow-banking-type liabilities are indeed an ingrained part of our advanced financial system. We need to reflect and consider whether official sector liquidity should be mobilized to stem a future breakdown in private shadow banking markets. Central banks should be especially concerned about providing liquidity support to financial markets without any form of structural reform. It would indeed be ironic if central banks were to declare victory in the fight against too-big-to-fail institutions, just to end up bankrolling too-big-to-fail financial markets.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 788 | March 2014
The Case of the United States
One of the main contributions of Modern Money Theory (MMT) has been to explain why monetarily sovereign governments have a very flexible policy space that is unconstrained by hard financial limits. Not only can they issue their own currency to pay public debt denominated in their own currency, but they can also easily bypass any self-imposed constraint on budgetary operations. Through a detailed analysis of the institutions and practices surrounding the fiscal and monetary operations of the treasury and central bank of the United States, the eurozone, and Australia, MMT has provided institutional and theoretical insights into the inner workings of economies with monetarily sovereign and nonsovereign governments. The paper shows that the previous theoretical conclusions of MMT can be illustrated by providing further evidence of the interconnectedness of the treasury and the central bank in the United States.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Policy Note 2014/2 | February 2014
Lessons for the Current Debate on the US Debt LimitIn 1943, Congress faced unpredictably large war expenditures exceeding the prevailing debt limit. Congressional debates from that time contain an insightful discussion of how the increased expenditures could be financed, dealing with practical and theoretical issues that seem to be missing from current debates. In the '43 debate, Representative Wright Patman proposed that the Treasury should create a nonnegotiable zero interest bond that would be placed directly with the Federal Reserve Banks. As the deadline for raising the US federal government debt limit approaches, Senior Scholar Jan Kregel examines the implications of Patman's proposal. Among the lessons: that the debt can be financed at any rate the government desires without losing control over interest rates as a tool of monetary policy. The problem of financing the debt is not the issue. The question is whether the size of the deficit to be financed is compatible with the stable expansion of the economy.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 783 | January 2014
A Sovereign Currency ApproachThis 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.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):L. Randall Wray Xinhua Liu
One-Pager No. 42 | September 2013Perhaps the most indictable offense that mainstream economists committed, from 1988 through 2008, was to retrace Keynes’s path of discovery from 1924 (A Tract on Monetary Reform) through 1936 (The General Theory). Wholesale deregulation of finance and categorical confidence in a reductionist role for central banks came into being as the conventional wisdom embraced the 1924 view that free markets and stable prices alone give us the best chance for economic stability. In the aftermath of the grand asset market boom-and-bust cycle of 2008–9, we are jettisoning Keynes circa 1924 for the Keynes of 1936. In effect, we study business cycles but seem incapable of extricating the economics profession from reciting its assigned lines as the play unfolds.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Robert J. Barbera
One-Pager No. 40 | September 2013Nicola Matthews, University of Missouri–Kansas City, presents the main findings of her research on the Fed’s lending practices following the global financial crisis of 2008. Applying Walter Bagehot’s principles, she finds that the Fed departed from the traditional lender-of-last-resort function of a central bank by lending to insolvent banks without good collateral--and below penalty rates. Most of the Fed’s emergency facilities lent at rates that were, on average, at or below market rates, with the big banks the primary beneficiaries. The Fed went beyond aiding markets to effectively making markets. Reform, Matthews concludes, is the only solution.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Nicola Matthews
Working Paper No. 758 | March 2013
The Low and Extended Lending Rates that Revived the Big Banks
Walter Bagehot’s putative principles of lending in liquidity crises—to lend freely to solvent banks with good collateral but at penalty rates—have served as a theoretical basis for thinking about the lender of last resort for close to 100 years, while simultaneously providing justification for central bank real-world intervention. If we presume Bagehot’s principles to be both sound and adhered to by central bankers, we would expect to find the lending by the Fed during the global financial crisis in line with such policies. Taking Bagehot’s principles at face value, this paper aims to examine one of these principles—central bank lending at penalty rates—and to determine whether it did in fact conform to this standard. A comprehensive analysis of these rates has revealed that the Fed did not, in actuality, follow Bagehot’s classical doctrine. Consequently, the intervention not only generated moral hazard but also set the stage for another crisis. This working paper is part of the Ford Foundation project “A Research and Policy Dialogue Project on Improving Governance of the Government Safety Net in Financial Crisis” and continues the investigation of the Fed’s bailout of the financial system—the most comprehensive study of the raw data to date.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Nicola Matthews
One-Pager No. 37 | January 2013
The global financial crisis has generated renewed interest in the 1951 Treasury – Federal Reserve Accord and its lessons for central bank independence. A broader interpretation of the Accord and of Marriner S. Eccles’s role at the Federal Reserve should teach central bankers that independence can be crucial for fighting inflation, but also encourage them to be more supportive of government efforts to fight deflation and mass unemployment.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 747 | January 2013
Lessons for Central Bank Independence
The 1951 Treasury – Federal Reserve Accord is an important milestone in central bank history. It led to a lasting separation between monetary policy and the Treasury’s debt-management powers, and established an independent central bank focused on price stability and macroeconomic stability. This paper revisits the history of the Accord and elaborates on the role played by Marriner Eccles in the events that led up to its signing. As chairman of the Fed Board of Governors since 1934, Eccles was also instrumental in drafting key banking legislation that enabled the Federal Reserve System to take on a more independent role after the Accord. The global financial crisis has generated renewed interest in the Accord and its lessons for central bank independence. The paper shows that Eccles’s support for the Accord—and central bank independence—was clearly linked to the strong inflationary pressures in the US economy at the time, but that he was as supportive of deficit financing in the 1930s. This broader interpretation of the Accord holds the key to a more balanced view of Eccles’s role at the Federal Reserve, where his contributions from the mid-1930s up to the Accord are seen as equally important. For this reason, the Accord should not be seen as the eternal beacon for central bank independence but rather as an enlightened vision for a more symmetric policy role for central banks, with equal weight on fighting inflation and preventing depressions.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 736 | November 2012
This paper argues that the usual framing of discussions of money, monetary policy, and fiscal policy plays into the hands of conservatives.That framing is also largely consistent with the conventional view of the economy and of society more generally. To put it the way that economists usually do, money “lubricates” the market mechanism—a good thing, because the conventional view of the market itself is overwhelmingly positive. Acknowledging the work of George Lakoff, this paper takes the position that we need an alternative meme, one that provides a frame that is consistent with a progressive social view if we are to be more successful in policy debates. In most cases, the progressives adopt the conservative framing and so have no chance. The paper advances an alternative framing for money and shows how it can be used to reshape discussion. The paper shows that the Modern Money Theory approach is particularly useful as a starting point for framing that emphasizes use of the monetary system as a tool to accomplish the public purpose.
It is not so much the accuracy of the conventional view of money that we need to question, but rather the framing. We need a new meme for money, one that would emphasize the social, not the individual. It would focus on the positive role played by the state, not only in the creation and evolution of money, but also in ensuring social control over money. It would explain how money helps to promote a positive relation between citizens and the state, simultaneously promoting shared values such as liberty, democracy, and responsibility. It would explain why social control over money can promote nurturing activities over the destructive impulses of our “undertakers” (Smith’s evocative term for capitalists).Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 714 | April 2012
China and India
The narrative as well as the analysis of global imbalances in the existing literature are incomplete without the part of the story that relates to the surge in capital flows experienced by the emerging economies. Such analysis disregards the implications of capital flows on their domestic economies, especially in terms of the “impossibility” of following a monetary policy that benefits domestic growth. It also fails to recognize the significance of uncertainty and changes in expectation as factors in the (precautionary) buildup of large official reserves. The consequences are many, and affect the fabric of growth and distribution in these economies. The recent experiences of China and India, with their deregulated financial sectors, bear this out.
Financial integration and free capital mobility, which are supposed to generate growth with stability (according to the “efficient markets” hypothesis), have not only failed to achieve their promises (especially in the advanced economies) but also forced the high-growth developing economies like India and China into a state of compliance, where domestic goals of stability and development are sacrificed in order to attain the globally sanctioned norm of free capital flows.
With the global financial crisis and the specter of recession haunting most advanced economies, the high-growth economies in Asia have drawn much less attention than they deserve. This oversight leaves the analysis incomplete, not only by missing an important link in the prevailing network of global trade and finance, but also by ignoring the structural changes in these developing economies—many of which are related to the pattern of financialization and turbulence in the advanced economies.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Research Project Report, April 10, 2012 | April 2012This 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.
Research Project Report, April 9, 2012 | April 2012This 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.
Working Paper No. 713 | April 2012
A Reinterpretation of Henry Simons’s “Rules versus Authorities in Monetary Policy"
Henry Simons’s 1936 article “Rules versus Authorities in Monetary Policy” is a classical reference in the literature on central bank independence and rule-based policy. A closer reading of the article reveals a more nuanced policy prescription, with significant emphasis on the need to control short-term borrowing; bank credit is seen as highly unstable, and price level controls, in Simons’s view, are not be possible without limiting banks’ ability to create money by extending loans. These elements of Simons’s theory of money form the basis for Hyman P. Minsky’s financial instability hypothesis. This should not come as a surprise, as Simons was Minsky’s teacher at the University of Chicago in the late 1930s. I review the similarities between their theories of financial instability and the relevance of their work for the current discussion of macroprudential tools and the conduct of monetary policy. According to Minsky and Simons, control of finance is a prerequisite for successful monetary policy and economic stabilization.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 712 | April 2012
How to Achieve a Better Balance between Global and Official Liquidity
Global liquidity provision is highly procyclical. The recent financial crisis has resulted in a flight to safety, with severe strains in key funding markets leading central banks to employ highly unconventional policies to avoid a systemic meltdown. Bagehot’s advice to “lend freely at high rates against good collateral” has been stretched to the limit in order to meet the liquidity needs of dysfunctional financial markets. As the eligibility criteria for central bank borrowing have been tweaked, it is legitimate to ask, How elastic should the supply of central bank currency be?
Even when the central bank has the ability to create abundant official liquidity, there should be some limits to its support for the financial sector. Traditionally, the misuse of the fiat money privilege has been limited by self-imposed rules that central bank loans must be fully backed by gold or collateralized in some other way. But since the onset of the crisis, we have seen how this constraint has been relaxed to accommodate the demand for market support. My suggestion is that there has to be some upper limit, and that we should work hard to find guidelines and policies that can limit the need for central bank liquidity support in future crises.
In this paper, I review the recent expansion of central bank liquidity support during the crisis, before discussing the collateral polices related to central banks’ lender-of-last-resort and market-maker-of-last-resort policies and their rationale. I then examine the relationship between the central bank and the treasury, and the potential threat to central bank independence if they venture into too much risky balance sheet expansion. A discussion about the exceptional growth of the shadow banking system follows. I introduce the concept of “liquidity illusion” to describe the fragility upon which much of the sector is based, and note that market growth has been based largely on a “fair-weather” view that central banks will support the market on rainy days. I argue that we need a better theoretical framework to understand the growth in the shadow banking system and the role of central banks in providing liquidity in a crisis.
Recently, the concept of “endogenous finance” has been used to explain the strong procyclical tendencies of the global financial system. I show that this concept was central to Hyman P. Minsky’s theory of financial instability, and suggest that his insights should be integrated into the ongoing search for a better theoretical framework for understanding the growth of the shadow banking system and how we can limit official liquidity support for this system. I end the paper with a summary and a discussion of some of the policy issues. I note that the Basel III “package” will hopefully reduce the need for central bank liquidity support in the future, but suggest that further structural reforms of the financial sector are needed to ease the tension between freewheeling private credit expansion and the limited ability or willingness of central banks to provide unlimited official liquidity support in a future crisis.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 710 | March 2012
A Historic Monetary Policy Pivot Point and Moment of (Relative) Clarity
Not since the Great Depression have monetary policy matters and institutions weighed so heavily in commercial, financial, and political arenas. Apart from the eurozone crisis and global monetary policy issues, for nearly two years all else has counted for little more than noise on a relative risk basis.
In major developed economies, a hypermature secular decline in interest rates is pancaking against a hard, roughly zero lower-rate bound (i.e., barring imposition of rather extreme policies such as a tax on cash holdings, which could conceivably drive rates deeply negative). Relentlessly mounting aggregate debt loads are rendering monetary- and fiscal policy–impaired governments and segments of society insolvent and struggling to escape liquidity quicksands and stubbornly low or negative growth and employment trends.
At the center of the current crisis is the European Monetary Union (EMU)—a monetary union lacking fiscal and political integration. Such partial integration limits policy alternatives relative to either full federal integration of member-states or no integration at all. As we have witnessed since spring 2008, this operationally constrained middle ground progressively magnifies economic divergence and political and social discord across member-states.
Given the scale and scope of the eurozone crisis, policy and actions taken (or not taken) by the European Central Bank (ECB) meaningfully impact markets large and small, and ripple with force through every major monetary policy domain. History, for the moment, has rendered the ECB the world’s most important monetary policy pivot point.
Since November 2011, the ECB has taken on an arguably activist liquidity-provider role relative to private banks (and, in some important measure, indirectly to sovereigns) while maintaining its long-held post as rhetorical promoter of staunch fiscal discipline relative to sovereignty-encased “peripheral” states lacking full monetary and fiscal integration. In December 2011, the ECB made clear its intention to inject massive liquidity when faced with crises of scale in future. Already demonstratively disposed toward easing due to conditions on their respective domestic fronts, other major central banks have mobilized since the third quarter of 2011. The collective global central banking policy posture has thus become more homogenized, synchronized, and directionally clear than at any time since early 2009.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Robert Dubois
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.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
One-Pager No. 10 | June 2011With quantitative easing winding down and the latest payroll tax-cut measures set to expire at the end of this year, pressing questions loom about the current state of the US economic recovery and its ability to sustain itself in the absence of support from monetary and fiscal policy.
Working Paper No. 673 | June 2011
We present strong empirical evidence favoring the role of effective demand in the US economy, in the spirit of Keynes and Kalecki. Our inference comes from a statistically well-specified VAR model constructed on a quarterly basis from 1980 to 2008. US output is our variable of interest, and it depends (in our specification) on (1) the wage share, (2) OECD GDP, (3) taxes on corporate income, (4) other budget revenues, (5) credit, and the (6) interest rate. The first variable was included in order to know whether the economy under study is wage led or profit led. The second represents demand from abroad. The third and fourth make up total government expenditure and our arguments regarding these are based on Kalecki’s analysis of fiscal policy. The last two variables are analyzed in the context of Keynes’s monetary economics. Our results indicate that expansionary monetary, fiscal, and income policies favor higher aggregate demand in the United States.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Julio López-Gallardo Luis Reyes-Ortiz
Was Keynes’s Monetary Policy, à Outrance in the Treatise, a Forerunnner of ZIRP and QE? Did He Change His Mind in the General Theory?
Policy Note 2011/4 | May 2011
At the end of 1930, as the 1929 US stock market crash was starting to have an impact on the real economy in the form of falling commodity prices, falling output, and rising unemployment, John Maynard Keynes, in the concluding chapters of his Treatise on Money, launched a challenge to monetary authorities to take “deliberate and vigorous action” to reduce interest rates and reverse the crisis. He argues that until “extraordinary,” “unorthodox” monetary policy action “has been taken along such lines as these and has failed, need we, in the light of the argument of this treatise, admit that the banking system can not, on this occasion, control the rate of investment, and, therefore, the level of prices.”
The “unorthodox” policies that Keynes recommends are a near-perfect description of the Japanese central bank’s experiment with a zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) in the 1990s and the Federal Reserve’s experiment with ZIRP, accompanied by quantitative easing (QE1 and QE2), during the recent crisis. These experiments may be considered a response to Keynes’s challenge, and to provide a clear test of his belief in the power of monetary policy to counter financial crisis. That response would appear to be an unequivocal No.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
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.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
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?Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 645 | December 2010
Beyond its original mission to “furnish an elastic currency” as lender of last resort and manager of the payments system, the Federal Reserve has always been responsible (along with the Treasury) for regulating and supervising member banks. After World War II, Congress directed the Fed to pursue a dual mandate, long interpreted to mean full employment with reasonable price stability. The Fed has been left to decide how to achieve these objectives, and it has over time come to view price stability as the more important of the two. In our view, the Fed’s focus on inflation fighting diverted its attention from its responsibility to regulate and supervise the financial sector, and its mandate to keep unemployment low. Its shift of priorities contributed to creation of the conditions that led to this crisis. Now in its third phase of responding to the crisis and the accompanying deep recession—so-called “quantitative easing 2,” or “QE2”—the Fed is currently in the process of purchasing $600 billion in Treasuries. Like its predecessor, QE1, QE2 is unlikely to seriously impact either of the Fed’s dual objectives, however, for the following reasons: (1) additional bank reserves do not enable greater bank lending; (2) the interest rate effects are likely to be small at best given the Fed’s tactical approach to QE2, while the private sector is attempting to deleverage at any rate, not borrow more; (3) purchases of Treasuries are simply an asset swap that reduce the maturity and liquidity of private sector assets but do not raise incomes of the private sector; and (4) given the reduced maturity of private sector Treasury portfolios, reduced net interest income could actually be mildly deflationary.
The most fundamental shortcoming of QE—or, in fact, of using monetary policy in general to combat the recession—is that it only “works” if it somehow induces the private sector to spend more out of current income. A much more direct approach, particularly given much-needed deleveraging by the private sector, is to target growth in after tax incomes and job creation through appropriate and sufficiently large fiscal actions. Unfortunately, stimulus efforts to date have not met these criteria, and so have mostly kept the recession from being far worse rather than enabling a significant economic recovery. Finally, while there is identical risk to the federal government whether a bailout, a loan, or an asset purchase is undertaken by the Fed or the Treasury, there have been enormous, fundamental differences in democratic accountability for the two institutions when such actions have been taken since the crisis began. Public debates surrounding the wisdom of bailouts for the auto industry, or even continuing to provide benefits to the unemployed, never took place when it came to the Fed committing trillions of dollars to the financial system—even though, again, the federal government is “on the hook” in every instance.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 639 | November 2010
The Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing is presented as injecting $600 billion into “the economy.” But instead of getting banks lending to Americans again—households and firms—the money is going abroad, through arbitrage interest-rate speculation, currency speculation, and capital flight. No wonder foreign economies are protesting, as their currencies are being pushed up.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Bernanke’s Paradox: Can He Reconcile His Position on the Federal Budget with His Recent Charge to Prevent Deflation?
Working Paper No. 636 | November 2010
This paper examines Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s recipe for deflation fighting and the specific policy actions he took in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Both in his academic and in his policy work, Bernanke has made the case that monetary policy is able to stem deflationary forces largely because of its “fiscal components,” and that governments like those in the United States or Japan face no constraints in financing these fiscal components. On the other hand, he has recently expressed strong concerns about the size of the federal budget deficit, calling for its reversal in the name of financial sustainability. The paper argues that these positions are fundamentally at odds with each other, and resolves the paradox by arguing on theoretical and technical grounds that there are no fundamental differences in financing conventional government spending programs and what Bernanke considers to be the fiscal components of monetary policy.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 625 | October 2010
A Dubious Success Story in Monetary Economics
This paper critically assesses the rise of central bank independence (CBI) as an apparent success story in modern monetary economics. As to the observed rise in CBI since the late 1980s, we single out the role of peculiar German traditions in spreading CBI across continental Europe, while its global spread may be largely attributable to the rise of neoliberalism. As to the empirical evidence alleged to support CBI, we are struck by the nonexistence of any compelling evidence for such a case. The theoretical support for CBI ostensibly provided by modeling exercises on the so-called time-inconsistency problem in monetary policy is found equally wanting. Ironically, New Classical modelers promoting the idea of maximum CBI unwittingly reinstalled a (New Classical) “benevolent dictator” fiction in disguise. Post Keynesian critiques of CBI focus on the money neutrality postulate as well as potential conflicts between CBI and fundamental democratic values. John Maynard Keynes’s own contributions on the issue of CBI are found worth revisiting.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 622 | September 2010
This paper discusses recent UK monetary policies as instances of John Kenneth Galbraith’s “innocent fraud,” including the idea that money is a thing rather than a relationship, the fallacy of composition (i.e., that what is possible for one bank is possible for all banks), and the belief that the money supply can be controlled by reserves management. The origins of the idea of quantitative easing (QE), and its defense when it was applied in Britain, are analyzed through this lens. An empirical analysis of the effect of reserves on lending is conducted; we do not find evidence that QE “worked,” either by a direct effect on money spending, or through an equity market effect. These findings are placed in a historical context in a comparison with earlier money control experiments in the UK.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Dirk Bezemer Geoffrey Gardiner
Statement of Professor James K. Galbraith to the Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology, Committee on Financial Services, US House of Representatives
Testimony, July 9, 2009 | July 2009
On July 9, 2009, Senior Scholar James K. Galbraith testified before the House Financial Services Committee regarding the functions of the Federal Reserve under the Obama administration’s proposals for financial regulation reform—specifically, the extent to which the newly proposed role of systemic risk regulator might conflict with the Fed’s traditional role as the independent authority on monetary policy. He also addressed questions of whether the Fed should relinquish its role in consumer protection, and whether the shadow banking system should be restored.
Galbraith pointed out that the Board’s primary mission is macroeconomic: “Rigorous enforcement of safety and soundness regulation is never going to be the first priority of the agency in the run-up to a financial crisis.” Systemic risk regulation needs to be deeply integrated into ongoing examination and supervision—a function best taken on by an agency “with no record of regulatory capture or institutional identification with the interests of the regulated sector.” That agency, said Galbraith, is the FDIC. If systemic risk is to be subject to consolidated prudential regulation, why not place that responsibility in the hands of an agency for which it is the first priority? Further, if large banks and other financial holding companies pose systemic risks, why not require them to divest and otherwise reduce the concentration of power that presently exists in the financial sector? In Galbraith’s view it would, over time, “bring the scale of financial activity into line with the capacity of supervisory authorities to regulate it, and the result would be a somewhat safer system.”Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 564 | May 2009
This paper is concerned with the New Consensus Macroeconomics (NCM) in the case of an open economy. It outlines and explains briefly the main elements of and way of thinking about the macroeconomy from the standpoint of both its theoretical and its policy dimensions. There are a few problems with this particular theoretical framework. We focus here on two important aspects closely related to NCM: the absence of banks and monetary aggregates from this theoretical framework, and the way the notion of the “equilibrium real rate of interest” is utilized by the same framework. The analysis is critical of NCM from a Keynesian perspective.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 562 | May 2009
A Gender Perspective
Widespread economic recessions and protracted financial crises have been documented as setting back gender equality and other development goals in the past. In the midst of the current global crisis—often referred to as “the Great Recession”—there is grave concern that progress made in poverty reduction and women’s equality will be reversed. Indeed, for many developing countries it is particularly worrisome that, through no fault of their own, the global economic downturn has exacerbated effects from other crises manifest in food insecurity, poverty, and increasing inequality. This paper explores both well-known and less discussed paths of transmission through which crises affect women’s world of work and overall wellbeing. As demand for textile and agricultural exports decline, along with tourism, job losses are expected to rise in these female-intensive industries. In addition, the gendered nature of the world of work suggests that women will see an increase in their share among informal and vulnerable workers worldwide, and will also supply more of their labor under unpaid conditions. The latter is particularly important in the context of developing countries, where many production activities take place outside the strict boundaries of the market. The paper also makes this point: examined through the prism of gender equality, the ability of the state to implement countercyclical policies matters greatly. If policy responses at the national and international levels end up aggravating inequities, gender equality processes face many more barriers, especially among the poor.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis, November 2007 | November 2007
In their latest Strategic Analysis, Distinguished Scholar Wynne Godley, President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, and Research Scholars Greg Hannsgen and Gennaro Zezza review recent events in the housing and financial markets to obtain a likely scenario for the evolution of household spending in the United States. They forecast a significant drop in borrowing and private expenditure in the coming quarters, with severe consequences for growth and unemployment, unless (1) the US dollar is allowed to continue its fall and thus complete the recovery in the US external imbalance, and (2) fiscal policy shifts its course—as it did in the 2001 recession.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):