March 2010

Goldberg, 31 March 2010, 38393 reads

Is the dollar still the dominant international currency? This column argues that the answer is “yes”. The dollar is used as a major form of cash currency, and is the main currency for exchange rate pegs and for invoicing foreign transactions. Network externalities create inertia – everyone uses the dollar because everyone else is using the dollar.

Wyplosz, 31 March 2010, 27340 reads

Should Germany increase its spending on other Eurozone exports to help ease the region’s imbalances? This column argues that telling Germany to reduce its current account surplus is unwarranted. With an ageing population, Germany would be well-advised to save for a couple of decades – as would the rest of Europe.

De Grauwe, 30 March 2010, 24924 reads

Should governments continue with fiscal expansion or should it be cut back as soon as possible? This column compares different economic models and argues that the answer depends on the type of recession we are facing. In “normal recessions” the New Keynesian model is best, but in “abnormal recessions” it is the Keynesian model.

van Ewijk, van Leuvensteijn, 30 March 2010, 15397 reads

How can Europe increase structural growth? This column argues that labour market flexibility is key. As a major barrier to labour movement is rigidity in the housing market, abolishing transfer taxes on residential property could result in gains of up to 0.4% of GDP.

Habib, 29 March 2010, 25146 reads

Does the dollar enjoy an “exorbitant privilege”, in which US residents pay relatively low interest on their foreign liabilities while receiving relatively high returns on their foreign assets? This column argues that the answer is “yes”, while the excess returns are not explained by different risks between the US and elsewhere.

Walsh, Gelos, Rennhack, Berkman, 28 March 2010, 44849 reads

Despite the global reach of the financial crisis, some countries fared better than others. This column argues that this was due to differences in trade or financial openness, underlying vulnerabilities to external forces, or the strength of their economic policies.

Mollerstrom, 27 March 2010, 26124 reads

Global imbalances are seen by some as contributing to the global crisis – but what caused the imbalances themselves? This column argues that the popular savings glut hypothesis appears to be at odds with the data. Instead a behavioural explanation based around asset-price bubbles is a much better match for the key facts.

Ravallion, 26 March 2010, 14419 reads

The World Bank’s estimate of China’s real GDP per capita was revised down by 40% in 2005. This column explains how economic growth impacted price structures in developing countries -- impacts that had not been factored into how old PPPs were updated prior to new price surveys. It argues that large revisions could be avoided by using better economic models for predicting PPPs.

Huang, 26 March 2010, 50885 reads

Should the US follow Paul Krugman’s advice and use protectionist policies against China’s exports to encourage a revaluation of its currency? This column argues against this idea. Far from saving jobs, a revaluation of the Chinese currency might even cut global economic growth by 1.5%.

Sugden, 26 March 2010, 9466 reads

Robert Sugden talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about the new book of which he is a co-author, ‘Experimental Economics: Rethinking the Rules’. They discuss the development of experimental research in economics over the past 30 years, the design of laboratory experiments and the achievements of these methods in increasing understanding of economic behaviour. The interview was recorded in London in March 2010.

Biais, Rochet, Woolley, 25 March 2010, 21703 reads

How does economic theory need to adjust in light of the global financial crisis? This column presents a new insight on how innovation leads to rent capture, which in turn is a sign of a potential crisis. This stems from asymmetric information in the financial sector. To avoid a repeat of the crisis, policymakers need to increase transparency.

Spatafora, Tytell, 24 March 2010, 28634 reads

How do commodity-price booms affect the economic performance of commodity exporters? This column presents comprehensive new data on country-specific commodity terms of trade. It finds that, on average, countries grow nearly 2 percentage points faster during booms than during busts. But policy plays an important role – sharp currency appreciations and large government deficits are associated with lower growth.

Ghani, Iyer, 23 March 2010, 39650 reads

Is conflict a cause or a result of underdevelopment? This column presents research on South Asia – the second most violent region in the world. It argues that conflict is both a cause and an effect. To break out of the trap, policymakers need to reduce poverty while at the same time restraining conflict to enable the much needed economic growth.

Editors, 22 March 2010, 11643 reads

A new member of the Vox Consortium – the German-language site Ökonomenstimme (meaning “economists’ voice”) – goes public today. This column outlines its vision.

Prados de la Escosura, Rosés, Sanz Villarroya, 22 March 2010, 27865 reads

Is democracy essential for economic growth? This column presents new evidence from General Franco’s 1959 Spanish Stabilisation Plan showing that a dictatorship can successfully implement major policy reforms. This also sheds light on the effectiveness of structural adjustment policies. Without the reforms, Spanish GDP per head in 1975 would have been lower by as much as one third.

Haddad , Lim, Saborowski, 21 March 2010, 21167 reads

Does openness increase volatility? This column argues that it doesn’t when countries are sufficiently diversified. These results amount to a powerful argument in favour of export differentiation policies as a means of deriving larger benefits from trade openness and shielding against global shocks.

Saint-Paul, Corsetti, Hassler, Guiso, Sinn, Sturm, Vives, Devereux, 21 March 2010, 19442 reads

Public distrust of bankers and financial markets has risen dramatically with the financial crisis. This column argues that this loss of trust in the financial system played a critical role in the collapse of economic activity that followed. To undo the damage, financial regulation needs to focus on restoring that trust.

Behrens, Corcos, Mion, 21 March 2010, 20624 reads

World trade fell dramatically during 2009, as widely documented on this site and elsewhere. But there has been little econometric analysis of the different explanations put forward. This column uses data from Belgium to argue that a fall in demand was the main culprit. It is not a trade crisis – it is a trade collapse.

Hoffmann, 20 March 2010, 11323 reads

If a European Monetary Fund does happen, how would it work? This column proposes a European Sovereign Insurance Scheme to sell bond insurance on EMU members' sovereign debt. In good times the insurance fees would allow the EMF to build up a capital cushion. In bad times, the EMF could use these funds to facilitate an orderly unwinding of the default – while imposing tough conditions.

Wyplosz, 20 March 2010, 14775 reads

As the debate over a European Monetary Fund continues, this column argues that Germany’s enthusiasm for the new fund lies in its desire to impose fiscal discipline on countries it didn’t want in the Eurozone in the first place. The EU is not Germany and despite its dysfunctional diversity, the avoidance of a currency crisis in Greece shows that it works.

Sánchez, Pérez, 20 March 2010, 13744 reads

Do public sector wages have an influence on private sector wages? This column presents new evidence from the Eurozone in the 1990s suggesting that the relationship changes over time and across countries. Within a particular year, however, public sector wages play a “signalling role” in influencing private sector wages.

Chwieroth, 19 March 2010, 9822 reads

Jeffrey Chwieroth of the London School of Economics talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about the evolution of economic ideas at the International Monetary Fund, drawing on his book, ‘Capital Ideas: The IMF and the Rise of Financial Liberalization’. They discuss changes in IMF thinking about capital controls, the Tobin tax and macroeconomic policy – as well the possibility of IMF intervention in Greece. The interview was recorded in London on 16 March 2010.

Castelletti, Dayton-Johnson, Melguizo, 19 March 2010, 27982 reads

The economic effects of immigration are often controversial. This column introduces the preliminary findings from a new database on immigration in Latin America and the Caribbean. While immigrants do not seem to displace domestic workers, they are often working in sectors unsuitable for their skills. Better policy could help the destination countries as well as the immigrants themselves.

Carrillo, Brocas, 18 March 2010, 29085 reads

Why do people persistently make seemingly irrational decisions? This column introduces neuroeconomic theory, which uses neuroscience and neurobiology to try to shed light on the black box of human decision-making.

Suominen, 17 March 2010, 13499 reads

Discussions over a European Monetary Fund have gained momentum over the last week. This column argues that regionalising the IMF is sub-optimal. But discussions over a European Fund offer an opportunity for a complementary fund, which can offer a reference for Asian countries.

Micossi, 16 March 2010, 9567 reads

Policymakers and commentators have suggested that large banks should be broken up. This column argues that such an idea risks the very existence of a global financial system. It outlines an alternative framework in which deposit insurance should be covered by banks not taxpayers, banks should not be guaranteed a bailout, and regulators should be mandated to step in when the warning signs begin.

Gros, Mayer, 15 March 2010, 24343 reads

Europe was caught totally unprepared for the pressure on public debt that followed the global crisis. This column outlines a proposal for a European Monetary Fund with which, it argues, the EU would be much better prepared to face these difficult times.

Raddatz, 15 March 2010, 21936 reads

How did a seemingly small shock to the US financial markets manage to spread so far, so quickly? This column argues that the heavy reliance on short-term wholesale funding is to blame. It follows that the discussions of regulatory reform should focus on the risks associated with the liability structure of banks.

Görg, Halpern, Muraközy, 14 March 2010, 25994 reads

Why are the prices of exports higher for countries that are further away – even when transport costs are excluded? This column suggests that this is partly because firms choose to ship out their best quality goods, just like a brewery with its “export” brands.

Burda, 13 March 2010, 15498 reads

Greece’s recent deficit-cutting budget was met with planned strikes and protests in the streets. This column argues that the painful fiscal adjustments could turn out to be a good thing for Europe’s political integration, but the region has to take the next step and set up a European Monetary Fund.

Bertocchi, Torricelli, Brunetti, 13 March 2010, 23381 reads

Does marriage make people less averse to risk? This column argues that this is the case for women, but not for men. But married women's different attitude towards risk has fallen over time as the prevalence of marriage in society has faded. For women who work, marriage makes no difference.

Kostova, Ross, Blecher, Markowitz, 12 March 2010, 52463 reads

Do higher cigarette prices deter smoking? This column finds that policymakers in developing countries could reduce cigarette consumption by youths by raising taxes. A 10% increase in the price will reduce youth cigarette demand by 18.3%.

Lerner, 12 March 2010, 10958 reads

Josh Lerner of Harvard Business School talks to Vox about the policies that governments employ to encourage venture capital and entrepreneurial activity, drawing on the findings in his 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.

Scott, 11 March 2010, 18005 reads

The high levels of government debt have raised concern among policymakers and commentators. But this column argues that markets have financed much larger levels of debt than are currently predicted for the UK and US. Given the enormous financial shock these economies have experienced, they might actually be better off with high debt for a long period of time.

Mongelli, 11 March 2010, 19681 reads

Why would countries share a single currency? This column introduces a new CEPR Policy Insight and argues that some aspects are missing in the current debate on the merits of the EMU. Benefiting from monetary union is a matter of time, perseverance, and seizing opportunities.

Brollo, Tabellini, Nannicini, Perotti, 10 March 2010, 24992 reads

Is the discovery of natural resources necessarily a good thing? Examining data from Brazil, this column finds that a 10% windfall in government revenues leads to a 12 percentage point increase in corruption and a 3 percentage point reduction in the probability that politicians have a degree. The chance that an incumbent is reelected raises by over 4 percentage points.

Leigh, 09 March 2010, 28440 reads

Olivier Blanchard, the IMF’s Chief Economist, recently broached the idea that central banks should target an inflation rate of 4% during the good times to leave more room for nominal rate cutting during bad times. This column supports this view, presenting new research showing that a higher inflation target could have halved the output loss of Japan during its “Lost Decade.”

Eichengreen, O'Rourke, 08 March 2010, 1037714 reads

This column updates the original Vox columns by Barry Eichengreen and Kevin O’Rourke comparing today’s global crisis to the Great Depression. The three previous columns have shattered all Vox readership records with over 450,000 views. This latest edition covers up to February 2010 showing that, while there is cause for optimism, there is no room for complacency.

Vandenbussche, Zanardi, 08 March 2010, 16508 reads

The global crisis has raised fears that governments would engage in a protectionist spiral. This column argues that, while countries have by and large kept their promises not to raise barriers to trade, antidumping has crept up. Far from being a “small price to pay”, the new tough users of antidumping laws such as Brazil, India, Mexico, Taiwan, and Turkey have 5.9% fewer annual imports as a result.

Jin, Chen, Yue, 07 March 2010, 22499 reads

What determines mass migration within countries? Examining data from China – the biggest internal migration experience in human history – this column finds that migrants from the same village tend to cluster at the same destination for the same occupation. This pattern is driven by social networks within villages that reduce the moving costs for future migrants, such as the risk of not finding a job.

Auboin, 07 March 2010, 30765 reads

Trade finance is an essential facility for world trade. But this column argues that the safe, short-term, and self-liquidating character of trade finance has not been properly recognised under the Basel II framework and the proposed revised rules ("Basel III") seem to raise additional hurdles to trade finance. Both trade financiers and regulators should strive to avoid this.

Acemoglu, Yared, 07 March 2010, 30814 reads

Is globalisation inevitable and irreversible? This column argues that globalisation is a policy choice. It examines the relationship between military expansion and international trade flows, finding that increased nationalist and militarist sentiments are negatively associated with trade. A 10% increase in military spending between 1985 and 2005 is associated with a reduction in the trade share of GDP of around 2%.

de la Torre, Levy Yeyati, Schmukler, 06 March 2010, 27864 reads

The fiscal crisis in several European countries has led many commentators to suggest novel solutions, including a holiday from the euro. This column examines the much-cited example of Argentina and argues that such ideas look better on paper than in practice. What these countries need is a “good old bailout” – conditional on “getting the house in order”.

Olsen, 06 March 2010, 14600 reads

Why should high-frequency finance be of any interest to policymakers interested in long-term economic issues? This column argues that the discipline can revolutionise economics and finance by turning accepted assumptions on their head and offering novel solutions to today’s issues.

Clark, Vincent, Boivin, 06 March 2010, 18087 reads

How much of a change in exchange rates is required to redress global imbalances? This column presents new evidence from online bookstores suggesting that neither shoppers nor retailers react to price differences across borders. This implies that realignment of cross-country consumption levels may require large and persistent exchange rate changes.

van Ours, 05 March 2010, 27357 reads

Ageing populations are a concern for many developed countries, with increasing dependence on the working population expected. Despite this, there is relatively little research on how productivity changes with age. This column argues that while older people do not run as fast, there is no evidence of a mental productivity decline and little evidence of an increasing pay-productivity gap. The negative effects of ageing on productivity should not be exaggerated.

Van Reenen, 05 March 2010, 33243 reads

How important are management practices in driving the performance of firms and the productivity of nations across Asia, Europe and North America? John Van Reenen, director of the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) at the London School of Economics, talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about CEP’s research programme on the economics of management and productivity. The interview was recorded in London in February 2010.

Sinn, 04 March 2010, 15674 reads

A return of the Glass-Steagall Act has been suggested by US policymakers and commentators as a way to reduce risk in financial markets. This column argues that the legacy of separate commercial and investment banks actually made the crisis worse. Europe should not follow these proposals but should instead concentrate on strengthening the capital reserves of its banks.

Leonardi, Pica, Messina, 04 March 2010, 18513 reads

How do financial crises alter the effects of employment protection legislation? This column argues that firms with insufficient access to credit are even less able to rationalise their costs by switching from labour to capital – reinforcing the negative effects on productivity. But policymakers should also consider that, in countries with less-developed financial markets, employment protection provides insurance against labour-market risk.

Cappiello, Protopapa, Sørensen, Kadareja, 03 March 2010, 23274 reads

How important is credit availability to the real economy? This column examines evidence from the Eurozone and suggests that a change in loan availability has a positive and statistically significant effect on GDP. This provides support for the policies taken by central banks to alleviate pressures on the banking system.

Aizenman, Pasricha, 03 March 2010, 29638 reads

The crisis led to significant fiscal stimulus efforts by the US government to offset the downturn. But this column argues that, properly adjusted for the declining fiscal expenditure of the fifty states, the aggregate stimulus was close to zero in 2009. While a net decline was avoided, the stimulus did not raise aggregate expenditure above its predicted mean. This can explain the anaemic reaction of the US economy to the alleged “big federal fiscal stimulus”.

Brahmbhatt, Canuto, 02 March 2010, 21611 reads

How important are primary commodities for economic development? This column suggests that primary commodity prices are likely to ease over the next five years. Nevertheless, commodity revenues will remain high, raising challenges that, if not addressed, can harm long-run development. With good governance, however, such revenues can also be a valuable resource to help accelerate overall development.

White, 02 March 2010, 12340 reads

Where do the real causes of the global financial crisis lie? This column argues that that a dispassionate examination is needed in order to properly reform the banking system. As the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 illustrates, a mad dash for regulation where special interests can manipulate popular outrage is a recipe for cooking up the next financial disaster.

Coibion, Gorodnichenko, 01 March 2010, 32853 reads

How long will US interest rates remain so low? This column argues that estimates using the 1993 Taylor rule are concentrating on the output gap, whereas in reality the Fed places much greater emphasis on output growth. Using an updated Taylor rule, this column favours the market view that rates will rise towards the end of 2010.