Category Archives: The dismal science

The New Normal of Monetary Policy

Yves here. This post describes the “new normal” of the role bank reserves play in hitting short-term policy rate targets in the US. The author ends on a cheery note about how the abnormal-looking situation we have, in particular super-low interest rates, could persist for a very long time. The author contends that the way one reacts to these new procedures and their results will reflect your monetary aesthetics, as in your beliefs about the way central bank balance sheets and reserves should look. However, given the way that negative short-term real interest rates are stoking financial speculation at the expense of real economy investment (a trend that was already well underway even before the crisis containment program turbo-charged it), one can hardly see a continuation of the new normal of low growth and redistribution to top earners as a positive development.

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G20 Finance Ministers Reveal Impotence in the Face of Rising Stresses

Yves here. It’s hardly uncommon for big international pow-wows like the G20 to produce grand-sounding statements that when read carefully call for unthreatening, which usually means inconsequential, next steps. But this G20 just past was revealing, in a bad way, about the state of international political economy.

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Is Rising Inequality Inevitable?

Yves here. In the wake of increased debates over rising inequality, particularly income inequality, many economists take the point of view that high levels of disparity are a state of nature. But that’s a terribly uninformed way to look at the question. Economies of any complexity are not natural; even modern capitalism comes in many forms. This post looks at developing economies that have done a better job of dampening inequality to see what they have in common.

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Steve Keen: The ECB’s Eurozone Medicine is Nonsense

Yves here. While the impetus for Steve Keen’s post is the ECB’s latest pretense that it can and is doing something to combat deflation, he provides an excellent and short debunking of two widespread misconceptions about money and banking. The first myth is the money multiplier and the second is that reserves are the basis for bank lending.

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Are Advanced Economies Mature Enough to Handle No Growth?

Economists occasionally point out that societies generally move to the right during periods of sustained low growth and economic stress. Yet left-leaning advocates of low or even no growth policies rarely acknowledge the conflict between their antipathy towards growth and the sort of social values they like to see prevail. While some “the end of growth is nigh” types are simply expressing doubt that 20th century rates of increase can be attained in an era of resource scarcity, others see a low-growth future as attractive, even virtuous, with smaller, more autonomous, more cohesive communities.

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Philip Pilkington: The Efficient Markets Hypothesis Has Been Proved Wrong But Economists Do Not Want to Listen

Yves here. The Efficient Markets Hypothesis, along with the Capital Assets Pricing Model, is one of the cornerstones of financial economics. Pity both are wrong.

Actually, it’s worse than a pity, since financial economics informs not only how professional investors construct their investment portfolios, but similarly is the foundation for orthodox thinking among retail investors. And the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and the Capital Assets Pricing Model both understate market risk, so following their dictates leads investors to take on more risk than they intended to.

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The ECB as Enabler: Doubles Down on Failed Monetary Policies

The ECB took a few surprise measures on Thursday mainly as a signal that central banks are willing to Do Something, even when sort of somethings they can do are at best unproductive. But the weak tea of lowering the benchmark rate by 10 basis points to 0.05% and announced it would be implementing a watered-down version of QE, in which it will start buying asset backed securities and covered bonds nevertheless pleased investors initially. bu the enthusiasm proved to be short lived; in the US, the modest stock market lift in the morning had gone into reverse by the close of trading. The announcement did produce one tangible positive outcome for the flagging European economy, which was to lower the value of the euro.

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