Publications on Sovereign debt crisis
Working Paper No. 810 | June 2014
Monetization Fears and Europe’s Narrowing Options
With the creation of the Economic and Monetary Union and the euro, the national government debt of eurozone member-states became credit sensitive. While the potentially destabilizing impact of adverse cyclical conditions on credit-sensitive debt was seriously underestimated, the design was intentional, framed within a Friedman-Fischer-Buchanan view that “no monetization” rules provide a powerful means to discipline government behavior. While most countries follow some kind of “no monetization” rule, the one embraced by the eurozone was special, as it also prevented monetization on the secondary market for debt. This made all eurozone public debt defaultable—at least until the European Central Bank (ECB) announced the Outright Monetary Transactionsprogram, which can be seen as an enhanced rule-based approach that makes governments solvent on the condition that they balance their budgets. This has further narrowed Europe’s options for policy solutions that are conducive to job creation. An approach that would require no immediate changes in the European Union’s (EU) political structure would be for the EU to fund “net government spending in the interest of Europe” through the issue of a eurobond backed by the ECB.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Policy Note 2013/10 | December 2013
In a policy note published last year by the Levy Institute, Philip Pilkington and Warren Mosler argued that the eurozone sovereign debt crisis could be solved by national governments without the assistance of the European Central Bank (ECB) and without their leaving the currency union, through the issuance of a proposed financial innovation called “tax-backed bonds.” These bonds would be similar to standard government bonds except that, should the country issuing the bonds not make its payments, the tax-backed bonds would be acceptable to make tax payments within the country in question, and would continue to earn interest.
In the current policy note, Pilkington examines the continued relevance of the bond proposal in light of changes that have taken place with respect to ECB policy since the original proposal was made, as well as the case made by Ireland’s finance minister that tax-backed bonds would violate current Irish law (and, by implication, the law in other eurozone countries). He also outlines some changes made to the initial proposal in response to constructive criticisms received since its publication, and briefly notes another area in which the proposal might be utilized—outside the eurozone. His conclusion? That tax-backed bonds remain a valid policy tool, one that can be implemented at the national rather than at the federal level, and a stepping stone to solving the eurozone’s economic problems.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Philip Pilkington
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.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Robert J. Barbera Gerald Holtham
Policy Note 2012/4 | March 2012The root of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis can be found in the fact that investors are concerned that countries in the periphery might default, causing them to demand a higher yield on government bonds. What’s needed is a way of giving peripheral debt a high degree of safety while allowing peripheral countries to remain users of the euro. A simple solution to this problem would be for peripheral countries to begin issuing a new type of government debt: the “tax-backed bond.” Tax-backed bonds would be similar to current government bonds except that they would contain a clause stating that if the country failed to make its payments when due—and only if this happens—the bonds would be acceptable to make tax payments within the country in question. This tax backing would set an absolute floor below which the value of the asset could not fall, assuring investors that the bond is always “money good,” leading to lower bond rates and thus ensuring that peripheral countries would not be driven to default.
Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Philip Pilkington Warren Mosler
One-Pager No. 4 | November 2010
The Rescue Plan Cannot Address the Central Problem
The trillion-dollar rescue package European leaders aimed at the continent’s growing debt crisis in May might well have been code-named Panacea. Stocks rose throughout the region, but the reprieve was short-lived: markets fell on the realization that the bailout would not improve government finances going forward. The entire rescue plan rests on the assumption that the eurozone’s “problem children” can eventually get their fiscal houses in order. But no rescue plan can address the central problem: that countries with very different economies are yoked to the same currency.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):