Antonio Fatás, Beatrice Weder di Mauro, 07 May 2018

Economists have been dismissive of cryptocurrencies, but fintech entrepreneurs and enthusiasts continue to see their disruptive potential. This column considers the theoretical and practical arguments on both sides of the debate. Traditional currencies are overwhelmingly superior as forms of money, and cryptocurrencies’ advantage in terms of lax regulation is unlikely to last. There remains, however, ample potential for innovation in payment systems.

K. Kıvanç Karaman, Sevket Pamuk, Seçil Yıldırım-Karaman, 24 February 2018

There is a notable lack of long-run analyses of monetary systems and their stability. This column addresses this gap by looking at the monetary systems of major European states between 1300 and 1914. The evidence collected suggests that, despite many switches between standards and systems, fiscal capacity and political regimes ultimately shaped patterns of monetary stability. Theories of monetary stability that rely on the mechanics of monetary systems perform poorly when such a long-run perspective is taken.

Biagio Bossone, 25 January 2017

Electronic money – digital payment instruments that store value – can be seen simply as a technological innovation for holding and accessing regular money. This column argues that how it is used and regulated will determine whether e-money instead serves as a replacement for existing money, and discusses the regulatory implications.

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.

Dirk Niepelt, 21 January 2015

Recent experience with the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates, and the use of high-denomination notes by criminals and tax evaders, have led to revived proposals to phase out cash. This column argues that abolishing cash may be neither necessary nor sufficient to overcome the zero lower bound problem, and would severely undermine privacy. Allowing the public to hold reserves at central banks could reduce the need for deposit insurance, although the transition to the new regime and the effects on credit supply must be carefully considered.

Alan Taylor, Moritz Schularick, 08 December 2009

Are credit bubbles dangerous? This column presents long-run historical data showing that, over the past 140 years, episodes of financial instability were often the result of "credit booms gone wrong". Recent years witnessed an unprecedented expansion in the role of credit in the macroeconomy. It is a mishap of history that – just as credit matters more than ever before – the reigning doctrine gives it no role in central bank policies.

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