What are the implications of combining Keynesian ideas with Walrasian general equilibrium theory in a way that does not assume sticky prices? This column presents the second in a two-part outline of a new paradigm for macroeconomics in the 21st century, focusing on policy. It argues that fiscal policy is not the right response to a financial crisis.
Why do bad and incompetent governments emerge and persist under a variety of different political regimes? This column presents a new insight. Even though more democratic regimes do not necessarily perform better than less democratic ones under given conditions such as during conflicts or early economic development, more democratic regimes do appear to have greater flexibility in the face of shocks.
The situation in Greece has called into question the EU’s ability to deal with fiscal crises. This column argues that the EU’s political vulnerability is likely to prevent it enforcing existing rules for fiscal discipline. The IMF should therefore be called in. This would take the blame off the Eurozone, re-establish lost credibility, and avoid moral hazard.
The rapid emergence of China as a major industrial power poses a complex challenge for the world’s natural resources. This column argues that the Chinese government-backed investments in natural resource supplies are predominately in areas that will help expand, diversify, and improve competition in the global supplier system. But potential geopolitical consequences remain a reason for concern.
What are the implications of combining Keynesian ideas with Walrasian general equilibrium theory in a way that does not assume sticky prices? This column presents the first of a two-part outline of a new macroeconomics paradigm for the 21st century, starting with the theory.
How fast and how soon should UK government debt be cut? This column argues that recent debate on this issue contains as much agreement as disagreement. Many economists now believe that fiscal councils could provide an institutional solution to fiscal policy difficulties.
Tim Besley of the London School of Economics – and a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) – talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about the idea of creating a politically neutral, expert body to ensure the proper long-term scrutiny of a country’s public finances – by analogy with the UK’s MPC, a Fiscal Policy Committee. The interview was recorded in London in February 2010.
What will happen to the global imbalances that many argue caused the global financial crisis? This column suggests that, while both surplus and deficits countries may make adjustments, emerging markets that have so far been on the sidelines of the action and outside the core discussion of global imbalances could start to absorb the excess liquidity.
What are the effects of inheritance tax on bequests and tax avoidance? This column examines data from Italy suggesting that the abolition of transfer taxes increased real estate inheritance by around 2 percentage points. Given that the ratio of real estate to total wealth exceeds 85% for the over 60s in Italy, it is likely that at least part of this increase is a genuine effect.
Which is the best route to development: Manufacturing or services? This column argues that India’s example of a “services revolution” – rapid growth and poverty reduction led by services – provides inspiration for late-comers to development and challenges the conventional wisdom that industrialisation is the only rapid route to economic development.
The financial crisis has brought large fiscal deficits and soaring public debt. A switch to tight fiscal policy risks throttling the recovery, but continuing deficits are spooking markets. This column argues the obvious solution is to promise future fiscal rectitude and stick with the current expansionary policies in the near term. This requires independent fiscal policy committees to institutionalise fiscal transparency and restore credibility to governments’ long-term public finances.
What will the next big technology be? This column argues that “cloud computing” will have a dramatic effect on how we live our lives and how we do business. The economic impact of the diffusion of this technology could match that of telecommunication infrastructures in the '70s and '80s or the introduction of the internet in the '90s. Once diffusion gathers apace, cloud computing could significantly boost GDP growth and could create around a million EU jobs within five years.
Recent evidence suggests that Latin American counties have been shifting their public debt from foreign to domestically issued liabilities. This column argues that the change in debt composition does not guarantee less exposure to external shocks. Without a stable domestic investor base, Latin America will remain vulnerable to swings in global financial markets.
How much “freedom” should policymakers have? This column discusses to what extent the experience gained from monetary policy can help to define how macroprudential policy should be implemented.
The EU has used various means to support the crisis-hit countries of Central and Eastern Europe. This column argues that EU action has been an expression of solidarity in recognition of the EU's responsibility to the region. But EU institutions and governments have also contributed to the suffering of Central and Eastern European in the crisis by some actions – or through failures to act.
Martin Feldstein suggested last week that Greece take a “holiday” from the Eurozone, rejoining with a depreciated nominal exchange rate. This column argues that the idea is not just impractical, it’s dangerous for the Eurozone.
Martin Feldstein argued last week that Greece should take “a temporary leave of absence with the right and the obligation to return at a more competitive exchange rate.” In this column, Argentina’s highly regarded former Minister of the Economy and a co-author argue that the idea won’t work. A better solution would be to adjust the Greek tax system.
FDI has fallen dramatically as a result of the global financial crisis. But this column shows that the trend for the decade is still up, suggesting a greater resilience of investment inflows towards emerging markets. Emerging markets are no longer considered a remote and exotic category for European companies; they are now a vital part of the “euro-emerging” multinationals.
Over the last 30 years, the US financial system has grown to proportions threatening the global economic order. This column suggests a ‘doomsday cycle’ has infiltrated the economic system and could lead to disaster after the next financial crisis. It says the best route to creating a safer system is to have very large and robust capital requirements, which are legislated and difficult to circumvent or revise.
Fears of protectionism have risen in the wake of the global financial crisis. This column argues that, far from being time to abandon the Doha Round, sustaining political support for the rules-based multilateral trade system is more important than ever. If this column’s recommendations are followed, world GDP could gain up to $282.7 billion a year.
Is “original sin”, a situation in which the domestic currency is not used to borrow abroad or to borrow long-term even domestically, no longer a problem? This column argues that, while original sin has diminished and countries are making greater use of their domestic bond market, foreign currency debt is still too risky to be sensible.
Experimental economics represents a strong growth industry. In the past several decades the method has expanded beyond intellectual curiosity, meriting consideration alongside the other more traditional empirical approaches used in economics. Accompanying this growth is an influx of new experimenters who are in need of straightforward direction to make their designs more powerful. This column provides several simple rules of thumb that researchers can apply to improve the efficiency of their experimental designs.
Attitudes to sex have changed dramatically over the last hundred years. This column presents a model where socialisation – the passing on of norms and ideologies by parents and institutions such as the church or state – is determined by the technological environment in which people live. Contraception has reduced the chance of unwanted pregnancies from premarital sex, and this in turn has changed social attitudes.
Many economists have pointed to China’s exchange rate policy as a cause for global economic instability. This column argues that an offshore market for the renminbi will provide a dynamic and objective benchmark from which to assess the value of China’s currency and to exert pressure to float its exchange rate.
Paul Seabright of the Toulouse School of Economics talks to Viv Davies about a new CEPR report, Bailing out the Banks, which analyses state-supported schemes for financial institutions in the current crisis and the need to reconcile the potentially conflicting policy goals of financial stability and competition in the banking industry. The interview was recorded in London in February 2010.
What happened to UK inflation in the 1970s? This column presents new research interpreting the period as an example of the “fiscal theory of the price level”. As predicted by the theory, inflation followed a random walk.
China’s exchange rate policy has implications for global trade and particularly other East Asian nations. This column argues that, given China’s fixation on the dollar peg, countries such as Thailand and Malaysia may have no choice but to peg their currencies to China’s yuan.
Protectionism has been a growing concern during the global crisis. This column examines the fourth-quarter data from the Global Antidumping Database. For the first time since the onset of the crisis, the world witnessed a substantial decrease in industry demands for temporary new import barriers through trade remedies. But this period also saw a substantial increase in new trade barriers imposed, as the trade-remedy investigations initiated earlier in the crisis concluded with new protection.
The threat of tit-for-tat protectionism is not over yet. This column presents the latest report from the Global Trade Alert and suggests the recent recovery has not slowed the protectionism wave. In the last quarter of 2009, almost every major trading nation has implemented discrimination against foreign commercial interests above trend levels.
Billions have been spent saving European banks. Should these bailouts be subject to the usual competition rules or should stability be allowed to trump ‘business as usual’? This column introduces a new CEPR report “Bailing out the Banks: Reconciling Stability and Competition” that argues for a more subtle reaction. Competition policy is critical even in crises but the rules applied must recognise the special features that mark a crisis-struck banking sector.
The global financial crisis has led many to propose regulatory measures that will reduce the idiosyncratic and systemic risk of banks. This column argues in favour of the suggestion by the Bank for International Settlements to block banks from paying dividends to shareholders or bonuses if their capital levels fall below a minimum threshold.
The Age of Mass Migration (1850-1913) was one of the largest migration episodes in history. Unlike today, during this era the US maintained an open border. This column suggests that, unhindered by entry restrictions, Europeans migrants to the US during this period were more likely to be workers with lower-productivity and poorer economic prospects.
Net interest payments on the federal debt are widely reported, yet this column argues that this misreports government borrowing costs and leaves open the possibility of manipulation. Computed correctly, the return on Treasury debt is lower on average and considerably more volatile than the official reported interest costs.
How much do institutions matter? This column provides a new insight into measuring their effects, suggesting that a survey of managers’ perceptions of the impact of institutions should be used as an estimate of the effect. It finds that the combined impact of improving public inputs in low-income countries to their level in high-income ones is equivalent to raising output by about 20%.
Just how important is consumption for growth? This column suggests that consumption trends in the G7 economies have significant short-term and long-term implications for global growth and global imbalances. For sustained rebalancing of the global economy, however, investment behaviour may be more important.
The global crisis forced economic policymakers to react in ways not anticipated by the pre-crisis consensus on how macroeconomic policy should be conducted. Here the IMF’s chief economist and colleagues (i) review the main elements of the pre-crisis consensus, (ii) identify the elements which turned out to be wrong, and (iii) take a tentative first pass at outlining the contours of a new macroeconomic policy framework.
What effects have the recent exceptional monetary policy interventions had on loans and unemployment, and what are the possible effects of phasing them out? This column provides quantitative estimates for the Eurozone, arguing that that the exceptional policies affect the economic via the spread between the policy rate and the market rate on overnight deposits rather than through their effect on the monetary base.
Was the great trade collapse due to the evaporation of credit? This column examines how the interbank lending rate across countries affected US trade during the crisis months to confirm the role of credit conditions in influencing trade patterns. It suggests the decline in trade volumes would have been about twice as large had interbank rates remained at the high levels of September 2008.
How to stop a repeat of Iceland’s crisis – both in the country and elsewhere? This column provides eleven lessons covering asymmetric information, moral hazard, better warning systems and improved regulation, preventing banks becoming “too big to fail” and restricting asset bubbles, holding creators of externalities to account, and providing safeguards on political interference.
Who should pay for the money lost by UK and Dutch citizens investing in Icesave accounts? This column presents the dispute's background and argues that the debt burden of Icesave is likely to be closer to 15% of GDP than the 50% often reported. It concludes that Iceland is not too small to repay.
Josh Lerner of Harvard Business School talks to Vox about sovereign wealth funds, which are the focus of a chapter in his new book, Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Why Public Efforts to Boost Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Have Failed – and What to Do About It. The interview was recorded in London in January 2010.
How is the global trade boom affecting wages in developing countries? Evidence from China’s first widespread experience with globalisation suggests that, under certain conditions, the skill premium can decline when developing countries open up to trade.
What is the consequence of China’s exchange rate policy? This column argues that focusing on global imbalances clouds the real costs, and that China’s exchange rate regime is a mercantilist trade policy whose costs are mainly borne by other developing and emerging market countries.
Why do people form long-lasting marital unions? This column presents new insights on what makes a family stick together. Families dominate more promiscuous pairs, in the sense that they can achieve greater survivorship and enhanced genetic fitness. The column suggests that this might provide an evolutionary explanation for the origin of religion as an institution to protect the family.
Does it matter who you went to school with? This column presents evidence from England suggesting strong peer influence among secondary school classmates. But the effects vary with gender and ability. Girls significantly benefit from more interactions with very bright peers, whereas it can impair boys – especially those with higher ability.
Is the Nordic model an asset or a liability? The global crisis has seen GDP in the region decline by between 4.5% and 7%. This column argues that the Nordic model, with its welfare state and high rate of investment in human capital, can, properly implemented, be part of the solution.
Policymakers and commentators have recently argued for downsizing banks that are “too big to fail.” This column argues that the logic is based on an illusion. A 2006 list of institutions considered “too big to fail” would not have included Northern Rock, Bear Sterns, or even Lehman Brothers. Instead, regulators should aim to make the financial system less sensitive to error in the markets’ estimate of risk.
The latest turn in the global financial crisis has ensnared the debt of some European nations. The fact that these nations are members of a monetary union has generated much confused comment. Here one the world’s leading experts on Eurozone monetary and financial matters sets the record straight, debunking 10 myths and setting forth 10 frequently overlooked facts.
Is the WTO doomed? This column argues that the WTO’s credibility is waning and that to get it back it needs to reign in China’s erratic governance. China’s failure to enforce trade laws threatens the concept of mutual benefit that underpins the WTO. China is broken, and a broken China could break the WTO.
How can policymakers provide unemployment insurance while minimising adverse incentives? This column presents new evidence from Chile suggesting unemployment insurance savings accounts can increase job-finding rates. This provides a strong endorsement of the savings account component to reform traditional unemployment insurance programmes.
How safe are the banks? This column provides new evidence on what determines the likelihood of an EU bank experiencing distress, suggesting that bank risks have converged across EU members, and that a more tightly integrated financial regulation should reflect this. The results also call for a greater role for market discipline.
Obama’s plans for bank taxation took markets, policymakers, and academics by surprise, leaving all parties now debating its merits. This column suggests an alternative. By raising a Pigouvian tax based on banks’ individual contribution to systemic-risk creation, the policy would target the externality caused by funding fragility while raising the cost of opportunistic risk creation in good times.
Will the dollar lose its dominant role in international transactions? This column argues that this will happen quite slowly, if at all. It presents new evidence that in developing economies, demand for dollars hinges much more on historical factors than on recent experience. The highest inflation rate recorded within a country over the past 30 years explains flows of cash dollars more compellingly than recent inflation rates.
Did the bans on short selling achieve their stated purpose of restoring order to the stock market and limiting unwarranted drops in prices? This column presents new evidence from 30 countries arguing that the effect on stock prices was at best neutral, the impact on market liquidity was clearly detrimental – especially for small-cap and high-risk stocks, and that the ban slowed down price discovery.
What is the connection between China’s one-child policy and its savings glut? This column provides a pioneering explanation. China’s surplus of men has produced a highly competitive marriage market, driving up China’s savings rate and, therefore, global imbalances.
Joel Mokyr of Northwestern University talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his book, The Enlightened Economy, which argues that we cannot understand the Industrial Revolution without recognising the importance of the intellectual sea changes of Britain’s Age of Enlightenment. They discuss the importance of cultural beliefs for the pursuit of economic growth in today’s developing countries. The interview was recorded in San Francisco in January 2009.
The staggering growth in public debt as a result of the financial crisis has led many to call for significant fiscal retrenchment. This column argues that such looming expenditure cuts will actually enhance the effectiveness of today’s fiscal stimulus. But if monetary policy is constrained by the zero lower bound on policy rates, the spending cuts should not come too early.
Production-based CO2 emission targets can give rise to carbon leakage, as firms relocate to countries without carbon policies. This column shows that Kyoto countries’ embodied CO2 imports have been increasing by about 50% since the Protocol was signed. Climate policies may have lead to additional carbon imports without sizeable domestic reductions. Consumption-based targets should therefore play a more prominent role in climate policies.
Are sovereign wealth funds substantially different in their investment choices from other types of institutional investor? This column compares the holdings of two groups of sovereign and mutual funds – and finds a few differences. Contrary to popular belief, evidence suggests that sovereign and mutual funds’ investments do not differ when looking at the political profile of targeted countries.
The unemployment rate has dominated economic headlines, but recessions raise numerous problems. This column warns that recessions raise earnings inequality and income inequality, absent mitigating government programmes. The current recession has indeed raised such inequality, but consumption inequality has surprisingly declined.
Does gender-stereotyping in the workplace cut both ways? This column presents evidence from Australia suggesting that employers in occupations with more women discriminate against male applicants, perhaps preferring to conform to perceived social norms. As with discrimination against women, this raises concerns for both equity and efficiency.
Should monetary policy and banking regulation be conducted by separate bodies? This column proposes a new policy framework whereby the central bank chooses short-term interest rates and the aggregate equity ratio while banking regulation and supervision, including the determination of bank-specific capital requirements, would be left to separate bank-regulatory authorities.