Archive for the 'macroeconomics' Category

“Modern Market” Monetarism?

October 17, 2012

by Mario Rizzo

Douglas Irwin, a very fine economist at Dartmouth College, has a very puzzling opinion piece in yesterday’s Financial Times. The root of the puzzle is that Irwin seems to accept what I consider the naïve monetarist view, yet calling it by a new name “market monetarism,” that the effectiveness of monetary policy largely revolves around portfolio adjustment effects that are induced by an increase in real balances. (Isn’t this warmed over Pigou, and 1970s monetarism?)

What seems to be new is the “Divisa monetary indexes” which weight the different components of the monetary aggregates by their monetary services. In principle, this is what Milton Friedman talked about in his course “Money: The Demand Side” in the early 1970s. He said then that he thought it would be a good idea to weight the various components of the money supply by their “degrees of moneyness.” He did wonder, as I recall, if these weights would be stable over time.

Now, by this new measure, monetary policy has been tight. In fact, the money supply is no higher today than in early 2008. Read the rest of this entry »

O’Driscoll and Rizzo Got There First

February 15, 2012

by Gene Callahan

I had believed that Tony Carilli and Greg Dempster (“Expectations in Austrian Business Cycle Theory: An Application of the Prisoner’s Dilemma,” The Review of Austrian Economics, 2001) made a major advance in Austrian Business Cycle Theory by hitting upon the correct solution to the challenge presented by, for instance, Gordon Tullock, who once wrote:

“The second nit has to do with Rothbard’s apparent belief that business people never learn. One would think that business people might be misled in the first couple of runs of the [Austrian] cycle and not anticipate that the low interest rate will later be raised. That they would continue unable to figure this out, however, seems unlikely.” (“Why the Austrians Are Wrong about Depressions”)

By posing the situation as a prisoner’s dilemma, where businessmen are rational to exploit the short-term profit opportunities offered by the boom phase (since if they don’t their competitors will) Carilli and Dempster adequately answered Tullock’s complaint. (I especially liked their solution because I independently had hit upon the same idea, which I was working out while writing my book, Economics for Real People. Well, I wasn’t the first to print, but at least I was the first to reference their paper!)

But yesterday, while editing someone else’s work, I discovered that Gerald O’Driscoll and Mario beat us to the basic insight by several decades, although they did not give it a game-theoretical formulation:

“[T]here are profits to be made from exploiting temporary situations. . . . Though entrepreneurs understand [the macro-aspects of a cycle] they cannot predict the exact features of the next cyclical expansion and contraction. . . . They lack the ability to make micro-predictions, even though they can predict the general sequence of events that will occur. These entrepreneurs have no reason to foreswear the temporary profits to be garnered in an inflationary episode. . . . From an individual perspective, then, an entrepreneur fully informed of the Austrian theory of economic cycles will face essentially the same uncertain world he always faced. Not theoretical or abstract knowledge, but knowledge of the circumstances of time and place is the source of profits.” O’Driscoll and Rizzo, The Economics of Time and Ignorance

Note: I still think what Carilli and Dempster did, in giving this a game-theoretic formulation, is great work. I just see it is not quite as original as I had thought.

Keynes, the Future and Present Austerity

January 2, 2012

by Chidem Kurdas

In 1930, John Maynard Keynes dashed off an amazing prophecy. Extrapolating from the productivity gains of the past centuries, he came to the bold conclusion that the fundamental economic problem of scarcity would fade away in 100 years or so. Thanks to technological innovation and the accumulation of capital, the ancient condition of limited resources to satisfy competing wants would give way to a new age of plenty. Human beings would then face a very different quandary, namely what to do with themselves once they no longer have to work in order to survive.

Eighty-one years into the timeline Keynes suggested in his article, “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren,” scarcity shows no sign of disappearing. Where did he go wrong? Read the rest of this entry »

Yes, Paul: It is Hayek versus Keynes

December 7, 2011

by Mario Rizzo

Although by the standards of contemporary economics, I am a historian of economic thought, I am not a historian of economic thought, properly considered. Thus my major interest in F.A. Hayek’s business cycle theory is not from the point of view of a historian. My interest is only incidentally in how Hayek’s contributions were perceived in the 1930s and 1940s, especially in light of John Maynard Keynes’s Treatise on Money and General Theory.

I am interested in Hayek’s business cycle theory because I believe it has much to teach us today – both in the style of reasoning it embodies and for its substantive points. Of course this is not to say that Hayek’s approach cannot be improved upon and revised in light of more recent theoretical and empirical developments.

But now comes Paul Krugman with his sometimes-echo Brad Delong (or is it vice versa?). Krugman thinks that Hayek was not an important “macro” economist; certainly not the rival or alternative to Keynes, either in the 1930s or today.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Crisis in the EU

November 4, 2011

by Jerry O’Driscoll

I addressed the Greek situation and the wider EU debt crisis in an op ed in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, November 2nd (“Why We Can’t Escape the Eurocrisis”). It is also posted today on the Cato homepage. I explain the linkages between the US and the EU, particularly among financial institutions.

Banks within the EU finance the deficits of their governments. It is not just that Greek banks buy Greek sovereign debt, but French banks lend to Greek banks. And French banks buy the bonds of the Italian government. US banks lend to EU banks. Less well known, US money market funds hold a good amount of debt issued by EU banks. And the Fed is backstopping dollar funding of EU banks.

Sovereign defaults over there will have a big impact over here. And, then, there is our own public debt problem. And it is not just public-sector debt that afflicts both economies, but, to varying degrees, excessive leverage in the household and nonfinancial corporate sectors.

Last night, Judge Napolitano interviewed me for a segment on “Freedom Watch.”

The Judge was interested in not only the economic issues, but also political issues.

The lead segment was with John Allison, former CEO of BB&T, who decried the crony capitalism that is at the root of the crisis here and there. It was enjoyable to hear a former banker denounce rent seeking by banks. He even used the word “rents.”

No Way to Escape for the Swiss National Bank

September 15, 2011

by Andreas Hoffmann and Gunther Schnabl

It came as a surprise to many: the Swiss National Bank announced an exchange rate target. Accordingly, the Swiss franc will be held above the level of 1.20 francs per euro. Switzerland gives up a part of its sovereignty, when the ECB makes bad press in buying trash-rated euro area government bonds to support unsustainable national budgets.

But, particularly in an environment of global excess liquidity originating in too-easy monetary policies in major advanced economies, small open economies have incentives to stabilize exchange rates. Read the rest of this entry »

“A Divine Miracle”

September 1, 2011

by Jerry O’Driscoll  

In the August 24th Wall Street Journal, Harvard Professor Robert Barro penned a hard-hitting op ed: “Keynesian Economics vs. Regular Economics.” He contrasts the lessons of standard economics with some of the unsubstantiated claims of Keynesian economics. He zeroes in on the idea that transfer payments provide economic stimulus.

Transfer payments in the guise of food stamps, unemployment benefits, and income redistribution generally have been the centerpiece of this administration’s policy to stimulate the economy. Barro quotes Agriculture Secretary Vilsack’s claim that the multiplier effect of food stamps is close to 2.

Trouble is, as Barro notes, “there is zero evidence that deficit-financed transfers raise GDP and employment – not to mention evidence for a multiplier of two.” Read the rest of this entry »

A Moment of Truth in the Debt-Ceiling Impasse?

July 30, 2011

by Mario Rizzo

The difference between a conservative and a classical liberal/libertarian once again is manifest.

The conservative wants to get the debt crisis over with even at the cost of some tax increases and not so reliable budget cuts. He thinks that, in the end, there will be some budget cuts, the deficit will be lowered and we can go on to real reform some way down the road.

The radical classical liberal realizes that the government keeps expanding over the long run and that the ordinary politics of compromise has not changed the fundamental course. We now have a moment of truth or perhaps simply of anxiety. This can be used to “force” the system toward real change. The danger, of course, is that the debt ceiling won’t rise in time. In time for what? Read the rest of this entry »

Where is the Bubble?

July 23, 2011

by Jerry O’Driscoll  

The monetary analysis of the housing bubble focuses on the impact of low – even negative – real rates of interest on housing demand.  That theory suggests the Fed must be inflating new bubbles with its continued policy of a near-zero federal funds rate. Skeptics ask where are the bubbles?

In today’s Wall Street Journal Business World column, Holman Jenkins answers with “Plane Crazy.” He specifically points to the recently announced deal in which debt-burdened and unprofitable American Airlines will take delivery of 460 new planes.  How did American pull this off?

Boeing and Airbus will share the order and each will finance a substantial portion of the purchase. “Think about it this way: Two rival banks get together and offer you a ‘no-doc’ mortgage for 115% of the value of your home,” writes Jenkins. He characterizes this as an opportunity for a “go-for-broke shot at a turnaround” for American. It’s an offer the airline could not refuse.

There are an ample number of other candidates for a bubble: gold, oil, farmland in the Midwest and perhaps the S&P. The entire world is awash in cheap dollars and much of the impact of the Fed’s policy has been to inflate bubbles overseas. That can be seen directly with the AA deal. More than half the order is going to Airbus, a European company.

The Fed’s easy-money policy was supposed to stimulate the U.S. economy and produce jobs for Americans. Fed policy has produced prosperity and jobs, just not in the United States.

Resource Allocation Distortions in the Great Recession: Empirical Evidence

July 18, 2011

by Mario Rizzo

The recent annual report of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has focused attention on the sectoral imbalances in the previous boom that resulted in the Great Recession. This is a refreshing change from the excessively aggregative analyses of the Keynesian-stimulus crowd.   Read the rest of this entry »

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