Publications on Economic growth
Technology and Productivity
Working Paper No. 998 | January 2022
A Critique of Aggregate IndicatorsEconomic analysts have used trends in total factor productivity (TFP) to evaluate the effectiveness with which economies are utilizing advances in technology. However, this measure is problematic on several different dimensions. First, the idea that it is possible to separate out the relative contribution to economic output of labor, capital, and technology requires ignoring their complex interdependence in actual production. Second, since TFP growth has declined in recent decades in all of the developed market societies, there is good reason to believe that the decline is an artifact of the slower rates of economic growth that are linked to austerity policies. Third, reliance on TFP assumes that measures of gross domestic product are accurately capturing changes in economic output, even as the portion of the labor force producing tangible goods has declined substantially. Finally, there are other indicators that suggest that current rates of technological progress might be as strong or stronger than in earlier decades.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Fred Block
Seven Replies to the Critiques of Modern Money Theory
Working Paper No. 996 | December 2021Modern Money Theory (MMT) has generated considerable scrutiny and discussions over the past decade. While it has gained some acceptance in the financial sector and among some politicians, it has come under strong criticisms from all sides of the academic spectrum and from conservative political circles. MMT has been argued to be both fascist and communist, orthodox and heterodox, dangerous and benign, unworkable and obvious, and unrealistic and clearly nothing new. The contradictory aspects of the range of criticisms suggest that there is at best a superficial understanding of the MMT framework. MMT relies on a well-established theoretical framework and is not inherently about changing the economic system; it is about changing the policymaking praxis to implement a given public purpose. That public purpose can be small or large and can be conservative or progressive; it ought not to be narrowly determined but rather should be set as democratically as possible. While MMT proponents tend to favor a public purpose that deals with what they see as major drawbacks of capitalist economies (persistent nonfrictional unemployment, unfair inequalities, and financial instability), their policy proposals do not lead to a major shift of domestic resources to the public purpose. If a major increase in government spending is implemented, MMT provides some guidance on how to do that in the least disruptive manner by drawing on past economic experiences. The point is to implement the public purpose at a pace that recognizes the potential constraint that comes from domestic resource availability and potential inflationary pressures from bottlenecks, rising import prices, and exchange rate depreciation, among others. In most cases, economies have more flexibility than what is admitted. In all cases, when monetary sovereignty prevails, the fiscal position and the public debt are poor metrics for judging the viability of a public purpose and its pace of implementation.
As such, applying MMT to policymaking does not mean that a government ought to be encouraged to record fiscal deficits or that the relation between the central bank and the treasury ought to be radically changed to allow direct financing. The fiscal balance is not a proper policy goal because it leads to irrelevant or incorrect policymaking and because it is largely outside the control of policymakers. The financial praxis of monetarily sovereign governments already conforms to MMT. Central banks and treasuries routinely coordinate their financial operations. Some governments have allowed direct financing of the treasury by the central bank; others have not but have developed equivalent ways to coordinate their fiscal and monetary operations that work around existing political constraints. Such routine coordination ensures an elastic financing of government operations that at least deals with domestic resources and is not intrinsically inflationary.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Greece: In Search of Investors
Strategic Analysis, January 2020 | January 20202019 marked the third year of the continuing economic recovery in Greece, with real GDP and employment rising, albeit at modest rates. In this Strategic Analysis we note that the expansion has mainly been driven by net exports, with tourism playing a dominant role. However, household consumption and investment are still too far below their precrisis levels, and a stronger and sustainable recovery should target these components of domestic demand as well.
Fiscal austerity imposed on the Greek government has achieved its target in terms of public finances, such that some fiscal space is now available to stimulate the economy. Our simulations for the 2019–21 period show that under current conditions the economy is likely to continue on a path of modest growth, and that the amount of private investment needed for a stronger recovery is unlikely to materialize.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Income Distribution Macroeconomics
Working Paper No. 807 | June 2014
Recent research stresses the macroeconomic dimension of income distribution, but no theory has yet emerged. In this note, we introduce factor shares into popular growth models to gain insights into the macroeconomic effects of income distribution. The cost of modifying existing models is low compared to the benefits. We find, analytically, that (1) the multiplier is equal to the inverse of the labor share and is about 1.4; (2) income distribution matters mostly in the medium run; (3) output is wage led in the short run, i.e., as long as unemployment persists; (4) capacity expansion is profit led in the full-employment long run, but this is temporary and unstable.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
The Economics of Inclusion
Working Paper No. 755 | February 2013
Building an Argument for a Shared Society
This paper presents a review of the literature on the economics of shared societies. As defined by the Club de Madrid, shared societies are societies in which people hold an equal capacity to participate in and benefit from economic, political, and social opportunities regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, language, gender, or other attributes, and where, as a consequence, relationships between the groups are peaceful. Our review centers on four themes around which economic research addresses concepts outlined by the Club de Madrid: the effects of trust and social cohesion on growth and output, the effect of institutions on development, the costs of fractionalization, and research on the policies of social inclusion around the world.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Michael A. Valenti Olivier Giovannoni
Growth Trends and Cycles in the American Postwar Period, with Implications for Policy
Working Paper No. 754 | February 2013
Do all types of demand have the same effect on output? To answer this question, I estimate a cointegrated vector autoregressive (VAR) model of consumption, investment, and government spending on US data, 1955–2007. I find that: (1) economic growth can be decomposed into a short-run (transitory) cycle gravitating around a long-run (permanent) trend made of consumption shocks and government spending; (2) the estimated fluctuations are investment dominated, they coincide remarkably with the business cycle, and they are highly correlated with capacity utilization in both labor and capital; and (3) the long-run multipliers point to a large induced-investment phenomenon and to a smaller, but still significantly positive, government spending multiplier, around 1.5. The results cover a lot of theoretical ground: Paul Samuelson’s accelerator principle, John Kenneth Galbraith’s stress on consumption and government spending, Jan Tinbergen's investment-driven business cycle, and Robert Eisner’s inquiries on the investment function. The results are particularly useful to distinguish between economic policies for the short and long runs, albeit no attempt is made at this point to inquire into the effectiveness of specific economic policies.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Disaggregating the Resource Curse
Working Paper No. 641 | December 2010
Is the Curse More Difficult to Dispel in Oil States than in Mineral States?
The hypothesis of the natural resource curse has captivated the economics profession, and since the mid-1990s has generated a large body of policymaking initiatives aimed at dispelling the curse. In this paper, we evaluate how the effect of resource abundance on economic growth has changed since these policies were first introduced by comparing the periods 1970–89 and 1996–2008. We disaggregate resources into oil, gas, coal, and nonfuel mineral resources, and find that disaggregation unmasks diverse effects of resources on concurrent economic and institutional outcomes, as well as on the ability of countries to transform their economic and institutional infrastructure. We consider resource dependence and institutional quality as two channels linking resource abundance to economic growth in the context of an instrumental variables (IV) model. In addition to exploring these channels, the IV framework enables us to test for the endogeneity of the measures of resource dependence and institutional quality in the growth regressions, paying particular attention to the weakness of the instruments.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Timothy Azarchs Tamar Khitarishvili
Does Excessive Sovereign Debt Really Hurt Growth?
Working Paper No. 603 | June 2010
A Critique of This Time Is Different, by Reinhart and Rogoff
The worst global downturn since the Great Depression has caused ballooning budget deficits in most nations, as tax revenues collapse and governments bail out financial institutions and attempt countercyclical fiscal policy. With notable exceptions, most economists accept the desirability of expansion of deficits over the short term but fear possible long-term effects. There are a number of theoretical arguments that lead to the conclusion that higher government debt ratios might depress growth. There are other arguments related to more immediate effects of debt on inflation and national solvency. Research conducted by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff is frequently cited to demonstrate the negative impacts of public debt on economic growth and financial stability. In this paper we critically examine their work. We distinguish between a nation that operates with its own floating exchange rate and nonconvertible (sovereign) currency, and a nation that does not. We argue that Reinhart and Rogoff’s results are not relevant to the case of the United States.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):