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.
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Originally posted 17 November 2007, this Vox column is more relevant than ever arguing that adopting the euro is effectively irreversible. Leaving would require lengthy preparations, which, given the anticipated devaluation, would trigger the mother of all financial crises. National households and firms would shift deposits to other Eurozone banks producing a system-wide bank run. Investors, trying to escape, would create a bond-market crisis. Here is what the train wreck would look like.
Official statistics for US high school graduation rates mask a growing educational divide. This column presents research showing that a record number of Americans are going to university – while an increasing number are dropping out of high school. This poses major social challenges for the United States.
Eurozone policy seems driven by market sentiment. This column argues that fear and panic led to excessive, and possibly self-defeating, austerity in the south while failing to induce offsetting stimulus in the north. The resulting deflation bias produced the double-dip recession and perhaps more dire consequences. As it becomes obvious that austerity produces unnecessary suffering, millions may seek liberation from ‘euro shackles’.
Debt is the crux of advanced economies’ current policy debates. Some argue for fiscal expansion to avoid recession and deflation. Others claim that you can’t solve a debt-created problem with more debt. This column explains the core logic of a new model by Eggertsson and Krugman in which debt shocks and policy reactions can be examined. Relying on heterogeneous agents, the model naturally produces the paradox of thrift but also finds new supply-side paradoxes, those of toil and flexibility. The model suggests that most economists have been misthinking the issues and that actual policy in the US and EU is misguided.
Most of Africa spent two generations under colonial rule. This column argues that, contrary to some recent commentaries highlighting the benefits of colonialism, it is this intense experience that has significantly retarded economic development across the continent. Relative to any plausible counterfactual, Africa is poorer today than it would have been had colonialism not occurred.
It is still not clear among economic historians why the Industrial Revolution actually took place in 18th century Britain. This column explains that it is the British Empire’s success in international trade that created Britain’s high wage, cheap energy economy, and it was the spring board for the Industrial Revolution.
A recent ECB household-wealth survey was interpreted by the media as evidence that poor Germans shouldn’t have to pay for southern Europe. This column takes a look at the numbers. Whilst it’s true that median German households are poor compared to their southern European counterparts, Germany itself is wealthy. Importantly, this wealth is very unequally distributed, but the issue of unequal distribution doesn’t feature much in the press. The debate in Germany creates an inaccurate perception among less wealthy Germans that transfers are unfair.
The CEPR Press eBook on secular stagnation has been viewed over 80,000 times since it was published on 15 August 2014. The PDF remains freely downloadable, but as the European debate on secular stagnation is moving into policy circles, we decided to also make it a Kindle book. This is available from Amazon; all proceeds will help defray VoxEU expenses.
Slavery, according to historical accounts, played an important role in Africa’s underdevelopment. It fostered ethnic fractionalisation and undermined effective states. The largest numbers of slaves were taken from areas that were the most underdeveloped politically at the end of the 19th century and are the most ethnically fragmented today. Recent research suggests that without the slave trades, 72% of Africa’s income gap with the rest of the world would not exist today.
Despite the revolutionary technological advance of the printing press in the 15th century, there is precious little economic evidence of its benefits. Using data on 200 European cities between 1450 and 1600, this column finds that economic growth was higher by as much as 60 percentage points in cities that adopted the technology.
It’s no longer safe to assert that trade’s impact on the income distribution in wealthy countries is fairly minor. There’s a good case that it is big, and getting bigger. I’m not endorsing protectionism, but free-traders need better answers to the anxieties of globalisation’s losers.
Obesity and teenage sex have become social and public health issues in developed countries. This column looks at the effects of being overweight on attitudes to sex among teenage girls in the US. While obesity is associated with less vaginal intercourse, overweight teenage girls are at least 15% more likely to have had anal sex, with a high chance of sexually transmitted disease.
The house and equity price busts on top of a credit crunch make this an unprecedented crisis for the modern US economy; its real economy effects are thus difficult to assess. This column provides insights based on evidence from 122 recessions in 21 advanced nations since 1960. Findings suggest recessions in such circumstances are much costlier and slightly longer. But the outcome can be affected by policy, and it’s high time that policymakers act swiftly and decisively.
The European economy is in its deepest recession since the 1930s. This column says that swift policy response avoided a financial meltdown, but turning the ongoing recovery into sustained growth requires action on five challenges: boosting potential output, enhancing labour market flexibility, preparing fiscal consolidation, facilitating intra-EU adjustment, and unwinding global imbalances. Europe also needs an improved crisis-management framework, lest this happen again.
Do children do better if they start school later? Contrary to the great concerns of many parents, this column says that the age at which kids start school matters little.
World poverty is falling. This column presents new estimates of the world’s income distribution and suggests that world poverty is disappearing faster than previously thought. From 1970 to 2006, poverty fell by 86% in South Asia, 73% in Latin America, 39% in the Middle East, and 20% in Africa. Barring a catastrophe, there will never be more than a billion people in poverty in the future history of the world.
We may just have started to feel the pain. Asset price drops – including housing – are common markers in all the big banking crises over the past 30 years. GDP declines after such crises were both large (-2% on average) and protracted (2 years to return to trend); in the 5 biggest crises, the numbers were -5% and 3 years. This column, based on the author’s testimony to the Congress, picks through the causes and consequences. It argues that when it comes to ‘cures,’ it would be far better to get the job done right than get the job done quickly.
The effects of of globalisation on income distributions in rich countries have been studied extensively. This column takes a different approach by looking at developments in global incomes from 1988 to 2008. Large real income gains have been made by people around the median of the global income distribution and by those in the global top 1%. However, there has been an absence of real income growth for people around the 80-85th percentiles of the global distribution, a group consisting of people in ‘old rich’ OECD countries who are in the lower halves of their countries’ income distributions.
A revised and updated version of the 13 August column on the basic how's and why's of what the Fed has been doing to calm financial markets.
The top 1% of US earners now command a far higher share of the country's income than they did 40 years ago. This column looks at 18 OECD countries and disputes the claim that low taxes on the rich raise productivity and economic growth. It says the optimal top tax rate could be over 80% and no one but the mega rich would lose out.
One of the world’s leading international economists explains how the euro could surpass the dollar as the premier international currency and examines the geopolitical implications of such a shift.
Societies characterised by a high transmission of socioeconomic status across generations are not only more likely to be perceived as ‘unfair’, they may also be less efficient as they waste the skills of those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. Existing evidence suggests that the related earnings advantages disappear after several generations. This column challenges this view by comparing tax records for family dynasties (identified by surname) in Florence, Italy in 1427 and 2011. The top earners among the current taxpayers were found to have already been at the top of the socioeconomic ladder six centuries ago. This persistence is identified despite the huge political, demographic, and economic upheavals that occurred between the two dates.
The 'Scramble for Africa' – the artificial drawing of African political boundaries among European powers in the end of the 19th century – led to the partitioning of several ethnicities across newly created African states. This columns shows that partitioned ethnic groups have suffered significantly longer and more devastating civil wars. It also uncovers substantial spillovers as ethnic conflict spreads from the historical homeland of groups partitioned to nearby areas where non-split ethnicities reside.
What do we know about the spread of protectionism during the Great Depression and what are the implications for today’s crisis? This column says the lesson is that countries should coordinate their fiscal and monetary measures. If some do and some don’t, the trade policy consequences could once again be most unfortunate.