The ECB Creates Jobs for Central Bankers Instead of Safeguarding Financial Stability

by Karl-Friedrich Israel and Gunther Schnabl

The ECB’s zero and negative interest rate policy continues despite the economic upswing. An interest rate hike is not expected before autumn 2019. The extensive purchases of government and corporate bonds will have reached €2,600 billion by the end of the year. The ECB’s financial market supervision as part of the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), which was created in 2014 in response to the crisis, is proliferating. Most recently, ECB vice president Luis de Guindos has expressed the intention to monitor the investment fund sector.

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Distributional Effects of Monetary Policy: An Opportunity for Austrian Economics

by Sebastian Müller

For a long time, Austrian macro had a unique selling point in what might be called the ‘money matters’ view: referring to the notion that changes in the money supply by their very nature can never be said to be neutral. Yeager (1997) and Horwitz (2000) describe the Austrian stance as a “fluttering veil”. On the one hand, it incorporates the belief that prosperity cannot be generated through an expansion of the money supply in the long-run (long-run neutrality of money). On the other hand, changes in the money supply have real effects (short-run non-neutrality).

This proposition can be traced back to the works of classical economists such as Hume (1970), Mill (1909), Cairnes (1873), and Cantillon (1755).[i] In his essay on economic theory, Cantillon (1755) points out that an expansion of the money supply necessarily entails distributional effects as first receivers of the newly created money benefit compared to those ones further down the line.

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Ten Years After Lehman (4): Chinese Imports

by Edward Chancellor*

Interest rates in China may never have turned negative, as they did in neighbouring Japan. Yet China’s economy has also become distorted by the decade of easy money since the 2008 financial crisis. As in the West, low interest rates in China are responsible for inflating asset prices, misallocating capital, aggravating inequality and undermining financial stability.

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Ten Years After Lehman (3): The Haves

by Edward Chancellor*

The Greek philosopher Aristotle attacked the charging of interest on grounds that lenders demanded more money in return than they supplied. This ancient prejudice against interest lingers in the French economist Thomas Piketty’s claim that inequality increases when the return on capital, a quantum which includes the rate of interest, is higher than that of economic growth. Yet the overwhelming evidence from the easy money that followed Lehman Brothers’ demise shows that inequality really takes off when interest rates are maintained at artificially low levels.

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Ten Years After Lehman (2): Bubbles Galore & Zombies

by Edward Chancellor*

In 1776, the English man of letters Horace Walpole observed a “rage of building everywhere”. At the time, the yield on English government bonds, known as Consols, had fallen sharply and mortgages could be had at 3.5 percent. In the “Wealth of Nations”, published that year, Adam Smith observed that the recent decline in interest had pushed up land prices: “When interest was at ten percent, land was commonly sold for ten or twelve years’ purchase. As the interest rate sunk to six, five and four percent, the purchase of land rose to twenty, five-and-twenty, and thirty years’ purchase.” [i.e. the yield on land fell from 10 percent to 3.3 percent].

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Ten Years After Lehman: An Interest-Rate Perspective

by Edward Chancellor*

Back in November 2002, Ben Bernanke, then a governor of the Federal Reserve, attended Milton Friedman’s 90th birthday party. In his writings, the legendary monetarist had pinned the Great Depression on policy failures of the American central bank. Bernanke was a keen disciple and apologised to Friedman on behalf of his employer, vowing that the Fed wouldn’t make the same mistake again. Less than six years later, Bernanke found himself at the helm of the Fed on that fateful day, Sept. 15, 2008, when Lehman Brothers collapsed. Another Great Depression beckoned. But now the Fed chairman was ready to make good on his promise. Continue reading

The Irrelevance of Deposit Creation for Prices and Allocation: Comments on Selgin

by Arash Molavi Vasséi

In a previous post, Andreas refers to George Selgin’s recent discussion of the place of fractional reserve banking in the Austrian Business Cycle Theory (ABCT). There, Selgin takes a swipe at the monetary pillar of the ABCT. According to the Austrian model, fractional reserve banking is inclined to create money out of “thin air” and, therewith, admits investment spending in excess of “voluntary saving”. This imbalance, allegedly induced by a decline in reserve ratios, is reflected in a Wicksellian interest rate gap, which is supposed to impact prices and the allocation in a systematic way (the real pillar of the ABCT). Selgin argues that fractional reserve banking does not account for the Austrian business cycle, and Andreas expresses sympathy for this view.

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The Ride-Hailing Vehicle Cap

by Liya Palagashvili

About two weeks ago, City Council in New York City voted to ban ride-hailing services (Uber, Lyft, Via, Juno) from adding new drivers for a year—with the exception of wheelchair accessible vehicles. The main justification for this cap is that ride-hailing services have been leading to reductions in vehicular speeds and causing road congestion in Manhattan’s busiest areas.

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The Virtues of the Market: Wilhelm Röpke as a Cultural Economist

Patricia Commun / Stefan Kolev (eds.): Wilhelm Röpke (1899-1966). A Liberal Political Economist and Conservative Social Philosopher, Springer, Cham 2018, 272 pages, 123 Euro.

by Erwin Dekker

Neo-liberalism is often associated with an excessive focus on the market at the expense of both the state and society. This new book, which is the outcome of a conference held to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Röpke’s death, demonstrates that precisely this imbalance was one of the main worries of many ordoliberals, and in particular of Wilhelm Röpke.

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Don’t Trust the CPI – Inflation is Hidden Somewhere Else!

by Gunther Schnabl

Both in Europe and in the US, interest rates have fallen to still very low levels and central banks have used unconventional measures to stimulate the economy. Nevertheless, officially measured inflation rates have remained low. While central bankers are proud of the high degree of price stability, many citizens feel their purchasing power diminishing. How does this fit together?

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Fed Policy

by Jerry O’Driscoll

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell testified to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. It was the semi-annual testimony mandated by the Humphrey–Hawkins Act.  Powell’s testimony was anodyne. He repeated and reiterated the Fed’s planned policy moves with respect to interest rates, and added suitable caveats on economic growth, inflation, and tariffs. Trade policy is a new factor for Fed policymakers. Continue reading

Reflections on the NYU Experience for Mario Rizzo’s 70th Birthday

by Robert P. Murphy

Like many others, I have been enjoying the birthday wishes offered to Mario. (Happy birthday Mario!) But these notes of congratulation have also included reminiscences of the Austrian Colloquium. As a PhD student on the Austrian fellowship at NYU from 1998-2003, I have some of my own reflections to share. (Disclaimer: I am fairly confident in these memories, but these events happened almost 20 years ago so proceed with caution.)

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Tanti auguri, professore!

by Malte Dold

Two of my favorite articles by Mario Rizzo are “Abstract Morality for an Abstract Order: Liberalism’s Difficult Problem” (Supreme Court Economic Review, 2015) and “Behavioral Economics and Deficient Willpower: Searching for Akrasia” (The Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, 2016). Both of these recent articles wonderfully illustrate the depth, breadth, and originality of Mario’s thinking. On one hand, they reflect his deep knowledge of the history of economic and philosophical thought. On the other hand, they deal with contemporary challenges in economic, legal, and psychological theory.  Many of my co-congratulators correctly emphasized how well-read Mario is in economics and philosophy. Personally, I love and admire his ventures into psychology.

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Many happy returns to a 21st century Whig

by Nick Cowen

I met Mario Rizzo in person for the first time just two years ago when I joined the Classical Liberal Institute. I have since had the pleasure of teaching alongside him on his course on Classical Liberalism at the NYU School of Law. For much longer, I have benefitted from his influence from his public writing and through the academic networks that he has helped establish.

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Happy birthday to Mario, my longtime friend and associate

by Larry White

Mario and I go back many years. Decades, if truth be told. When we first met (summer 1975 Austrian Economics conference in Hartford, CT, if I recall correctly) he was a graduate student and I was an undergraduate. Six years later we became colleagues at New York University, where we shared the privilege of working with Israel Kirzner. Mario managed to stay at NYU (and it’s hard to imagine him in any other city); I had to move on in 1988. These days we frequently cross paths in New York and Fairfax and at conferences elsewhere.

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AD MAIORA, Mario!

by Giandomenica Becchio

On this special birthday, I wish Mario Rizzo all the best and I praise him for being a great Austrian economist and a great scholar. I always learn a lot when reading his works. Also, a special thanks for having been always supportive and helpful to me. Tanti auguri caro Mario, best birthday wishes, dear Mario. You are a special person.

On behalf of the Roman Empire children, Let me claim: “we are proud of you.”

Mon ami, Mario…

by Frederic Sautet

I first met Mario Rizzo in 1995 while he was lecturing at a seminar in the US. I remember an evening I spent at his dinner table along with other students. I was shy and remained silent almost the entire time, listening to him talk about a variety of subjects. At the end, however, we started to chat, notably of his liking of Europe and especially of Italy and France — he has been a regular attendee of the Université d’été in Aix-en-Provence for a long time. Eventually, he encouraged me to come to NYU to study, which I did in January 1996. To make a long story short, I ended up writing my doctoral dissertation under his auspices, with the help of Pete Boettke and Israel Kirzner. I then spent another year at NYU as a post-doc.

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Happy Birthday, Mario

by Steve Horwitz

I’m not sure when I first met Mario, but it was probably when I was in grad school at GMU in the late 80s. Mario probably remembers it better than I do, mostly because, as Pete Boettke and Dave Prychitko can confirm, I was not shy about imposing myself on more senior scholars. (Frankly, neither were they, but somehow I got the bad reputation.) Whatever the circumstances under which we first met, they were not reason to shun me in succeeding years.

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Birthday Greetings from an NYU Disciple

Dear Mario,

Felicitations on your birthday. Your leadership and dedication have been a blessing to many in need of friendship and support. Your kindness and goodwill have helped our networks succeed. Your scholarship and teaching have advanced liberal understanding. You’re making a great difference, and your birthday is a great day to say: Thank you!

Warm sincere regards, Dan Klein