Throughout history, most states have functioned as kleptocracies and not as providers of public goods. This column analyses the diffusion of legal institutions that established Europe’s first large-scale experiments in mass public education. These institutions originated in Germany during the Protestant Reformation due to popular political mobilisation, but only in around half of Protestant cities. Cities that formalised these institutions grew faster over the next 200 years, both by attracting and by producing more highly skilled residents.
Jeremiah Dittmar, Ralf R Meisenzahl, 26 April 2016
Matthias Busse, Daniel Gros, 04 April 2016
Through the Eurozone rescue mechanisms, Germany provided the periphery with hundreds of billions in debt at very low rates. There is a widely held notion that these savings would have been better used at home. This column challenges this notion, presenting evidence that Germany’s net asset position held up well, remaining much higher than domestic returns. The main reason is that Germany’s part in the rescue operations was actually much smaller than its claims towards the periphery.
Alex Cukierman, 30 March 2016
The quantity theory of money implies that sustained inflation requires a sustained increase in the money supply. It does not, however, imply that the reverse is also true. This column explores and illustrates this issue by comparing inflation in the US following the collapse of Lehman Brothers with Germany’s hyperinflation experience after WWI. A key factor explaining the vastly different inflation experiences is how the monetary expansion translated into demand. The Fed’s base expansion did not translate into demand for goods and services, whereas the German monetary expansion was motivated by the government’s hunger for seigniorage revenues.
Lars P Feld, Christoph M Schmidt, Isabel Schnabel, Volker Wieland, 22 March 2016
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. In the midst of a crisis, it is of course very hard to understand causality. This column uses the benefit of hindsight to present a nuanced view of the causes of the Eurozone Crisis as seen by members of the German Council of Economic Experts. To prevent the same crisis happening again, the Maastricht Treaty needs to be revitalised to enhance the future stability of the Eurozone and relieve the ECB of its role as crisis manager.
Wolfgang Dauth, Sebastian Findeisen, Jens Südekum, 21 February 2016
A common theme of recent trade theory models is that globalisation-related shocks induce worker sorting across industries, labour markets, and plants. However, there is little empirical evidence of shocks causing such endogenous mobility responses. This column explores how rising international trade exposure affected the job biographies and earnings profiles of German manufacturing workers since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Individuals are found to systematically adjust to globalisation, with a notable asymmetry in the individual labour market responses to positive and negative shocks. Critically, the push effects out of import-competing manufacturing industries are not mirrored by comparable pull effects into export-oriented branches.
Scott Ross Baker, Nicholas Bloom, Steven J. Davis, 15 December 2015
The recent influx of refugees to Europe has stoked security fears and created anxiety about the social and economic consequences. This column provides new quantitative indicators for the intensity of migration-related fears and policy uncertainty, based on newspaper articles. The indices are presented for the US, UK, France, and Germany, and extend back to 1995. They show that recent levels of concern and uncertainty in European countries about migration are unprecedented.
Dominika Langenmayr, 13 November 2015
Voluntary disclosure programmes offer tax evaders the opportunity to come clean with reduced penalties. This column uses data from the US and Germany to examine the merits of such programmes. They are found to increase tax evasion, but also to significantly lower administrative costs, leading to a net increase in tax revenues.
Gerlinde Sinn, Hans-Werner Sinn, 01 November 2015
With a European transfer union on the cards, we can learn a lot from Germany’s reunification – a transfer union of sorts. This column takes us through various lessons, concluding that transfers would cement southern Europe’s lack of competitiveness and drive Europe into permanent stagnation.
Michael Burda, 23 September 2015
Many analysts believe that German economists hold a very different view of macroeconomics. This column presents a personal view why this belief is wrong. The fact that Europe still consists of sovereign nations and that most Europeans still want to keep it that way informs much of what happens inside German economists' heads.
Timothy W. Guinnane, 13 August 2015
Greece’s crisis has invited comparisons to the 1953 London Debt Agreement, which ended a long period of German default on external debt. This column suggests that looking back, the 1953 agreement was unnecessarily generous given that Germany’s rapid growth lightened the debt repayment burden. Unfortunately for Greece, the motivations driving the 1953 agreement are nearly entirely absent today.
Francesco D'Acunto, Daniel Hoang, Michael Weber, 09 June 2015
Theory suggests that higher inflation expectations increase the likelihood that people will buy durable goods. This column presents evidence showing that this works for more educated, working-age, high-income, and urban households. A natural experiment from Germany shows us that the effect of inflation expectations on readiness to spend is causal and that monetary and fiscal policies that increase inflation expectations can therefore successfully spur aggregate consumption in the short run.
Niklas Gadatsch, Tobias Körner, Isabel Schnabel, Benjamin Weigert, 03 June 2015
There is a broad consensus that financial supervision ought to include a macroprudential perspective that focuses on the stability of the entire financial system. This column presents and critically evaluates the newly-created macroprudential framework in the Eurozone, with a particular focus on Germany. It argues that, while based on the right principles, the EU framework grants supervisors a high degree of discretion that entails the risk of limited commitment and excessive fine-tuning. Further, monetary policy should not ignore financial stability considerations and expect macroprudential policy to do the job alone.
Francesco D'Acunto, Marcel Prokopczuk, Michael Weber, 26 February 2015
Discrimination can be costly for both victims and perpetrators. This column uses the variation of historical Jewish persecution across German counties to proxy for localised distrust in financial markets. Persecution reduces the average stock market participation rate of households by 7.5%–12%. This striking effect is stable over time, across cohorts, and across education levels. The effect survives when comparing only geographically close counties. It suggests that the persecution of minorities may negatively affect societal wealth even far into the future through the channel of intergenerationally transmitted investment norms.
Philip Jung, Moritz Kuhn, 04 February 2015
Given the pressing need for labour market reforms in Europe, policymakers are looking to the Hartz I-IV reforms conducted in Germany in the mid-2000s for inspiration. To successfully apply their lessons one must understand why they worked. This column argues that the success of the Hartz reforms lay in improving matching efficiency between unemployed workers and vacancies – particularly effective in Germany where employment inflows are the main driver of labour market adjustment, in contrast to the US, where outflows play the primary role.
Arnaud Chevalier, Olivier Marie, 08 November 2014
Children born in crises face different initial conditions. Data on children born in East Germany just after the Berlin Wall came down confirms that this corresponds to worse adult outcomes. ‘Children of the Wall’ have 40% higher arrest rates, are 33% more likely to have repeated a grade by age 12, and are 9% more likely to have been put into a lower educational track. This column argues that these negative outcomes can be explained by the lower average parenting skills of those who decided to have children during a period of high economic uncertainty.
Harold James, 09 July 2014
The 1907 panic affected the world, demonstrating the fragility of the international financial system. This column discusses the steps the US and Germany took in fortifying their financial systems following 1907. There is a link between the financial crisis and the escalation of diplomatic relations that led to war in 1914. And this link has implications for today as the world is recovering from the 2008 crisis.
Holger Görg, Olivier N. Godart, Aoife Hanley, Christiane Krieger-Boden, 08 July 2014
Many firms are replacing traditional working hours with more flexible arrangements, reflecting new thinking on employee motivation. This column presents evidence from Germany that trust-based working time is associated with increased innovation. However, trust-based working hours also contribute to the blurring of workers’ professional and private lives, and may lead to excessive overtime. Careful design of trust-based working arrangements is required to reap the innovations gains while avoiding the health pitfalls.
Joshua Aizenman, 03 July 2014
After a promising first decade, the Eurozone faced a severe crisis. This column looks at the Eurozone’s short history through the lens of an evolutionary approach to forming new institutions. German dominance has allowed the euro to achieve a number of design objectives, and this may continue if Germany does not shirk its responsibilities. Germany’s resilience and dominant size within the EU may explain its ‘muddling through’ approach to the Eurozone crisis. Greater mobility of labour and lower mobility of under-regulated capital may be the costly ‘second best’ adjustment until the arrival of more mature Eurozone institutions.
Jacques Melitz, 02 July 2014
As the Eurozone cautiously implements stabilising reforms, Germany is forced to go further with concessions than it would prefer. This column suggests that it would be beneficial for discontented members to consider the formation of a second monetary union. The second euro can be constructed better than the first, bringing the discontented members exchange-rate adjustments relative to Germany, and avoiding competitive devaluations.
Mark Harrison, 03 June 2014
The Great War offers lessons for today. But this column argues from recent research that many so-called lessons are misunderstood. Secretive, authoritarian regimes become dangerous when they fear the future. Deterrence matters. Other aspects also demand re-evaluation.