“legally”

In a recent episode of the Macro Musings podcast, David Beckworth talked to professor and author Laurence M. Ball about his new book The Fed and Lehman Brothers: Setting the Record Straight on a Financial Disaster.

Starting around minute 45 of the podcast, they discuss the role of Henry Paulson, the Secretary of the Treasury. Professor Ball notes that “It was Paulson1 who was making the decisions. That’s a little bit odd, because legally, under the Federal Reserve Act, it was the Federal Reserve’s job to decide whether or not they made loans. The Treasury Secretary legally didn’t have any more role than the Secretary of Agriculture or the Governor of Maryland. But Henry Paulson just arrived at the New York Fed and started saying what was gonna happen and people did what he said”.

This doesn’t surprise me one bit. In times of crisis, you cannot avoid politics.

In ‘The next crisis’, the final chapter of Bankers are people, too, I wrote

“It remains to be seen how long regulations will keep risks in check. When a major (shadow) bank fails in spite of all the monitoring and supervision, the value of the institutional framework will become clear. Because of the importance of banking to the economy, I am sure that the highest officials
in government will be involved if a too big to fail bank is about to collapse, whether or not that is against the law.”

So much for legal constraints during a major crisis.

Can we avoid another financial crisis?

Can we avoid another financial crisis? Ten years after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), we’ll hear the opinions of countless pundits about the likelihood of a new crisis. However, few commenters will be able to answer the question as profoundly as professor Steve Keen. Keen elaborated his views in the 2017 book with the appropriate title Can we avoid another financial crisis? Continue reading “Can we avoid another financial crisis?”

Stop bike-shedding, ECB

Last week, Positive Money Europe celebrated its launch with an event in Brussels: Time to rethink the European Central Bank.

Several speakers noted that it is important for central banks to communicate with society, not only with the financial sector.

One of the people in the audience remarked that it is not enough that the ECB explains what it is doing. It also needs to respond to the needs of society.

The representative of the ECB replied that his institution has become more transparent in response to feedback from the public. For example, the meeting notes of its board are published.

However, this is a classic case of bike-shedding. Publishing notes is a trivial gesture. The real problems in the euro area are massive unemployment in the southern countries and the poor performance of the European economies compared to the US. A genuinely responsive central bank should do much more to support the well-being of Europe’s citizens.

The ECB should care about boosting economic growth, not the color of its bike shed.

So I agree, it is time to rethink the ECB. Let’s break some political taboos and rev up the engines.

Central banking analogies

Economists are fond of analogies to describe technical ideas.

Most of those analogies are confusing and/or useless. As I wrote in the introduction of Bankers are people, too:

Economists and journalists writing for lay audiences tend to use metaphors when explaining financial concepts. For example: ‘Cheap credit is like heroin. Itโ€™s addictive, and the economy can overdose from it.โ€™ That may sound nice, but what does it even mean?

Continue reading “Central banking analogies”

Grazie mille, dottore Draghi!

ECB President Mario Draghi has answered a number of questions from the public. People could tweet #AskDraghi to join.

I’m honored that the ECB also picked one of mine ๐Ÿ™‚

The website Debating Europe has listed all the replies of Dr. Draghi.

I only wish the ECB President would have responded to this question as well ๐Ÿ˜€

The Magic of Money

This is a review of a book written over 50 years ago by a central banker.

Based on that introduction, even most finance geeks will probably think “boring!” or “irrelevant!”. Until you learn it has Nazis, hyperinflation and the Nuremberg trials in it. And those are not even the interesting parts. Continue reading “The Magic of Money”

Negative rates: a massive transfer from savers to bank shareholders and governments with little impact on economic growth. (Post in response to Miles Kimball)

This post explores the consequences of deeply negative interest rates set by the ECB, as proposed by professor Miles Kimball. It’s a shorter version of my previous post, plus an estimation of the economic stimulus of the proposal. Continue reading “Negative rates: a massive transfer from savers to bank shareholders and governments with little impact on economic growth. (Post in response to Miles Kimball)”

Carrot or stick? The Lonergan-Kimball debate

Update 1, 12/12/2017: Prof. Kimball replied on Twitter. I have added his remarks just before the discussion section.

Update 2, 12/12/2017: See my follow-up post with more details on the distributional and stimulative effects of deeply negative ECB rates.

Central banks around the developed world have been struggling to meet their inflation targets. Economists are divided on what the Fed, the ECB or the Bank of Japan should do.

Massive amounts of quantitative easing have proven to be ineffective at boosting inflation. Some economists have proposed that central banks raise inflation expectations.

At the 5th Bruegel – Graduate School of Economics, Kobe University conference1, Eric Lonergan and professor Miles Kimball advocated their preferred solutions: helicopter money and deep negative interest rates, respectively. Continue reading “Carrot or stick? The Lonergan-Kimball debate”

Green infrastructure bonds with macro strings attached: How the ECB could fulfill its mandate by fighting climate change

This is the paper I submitted to the Central Banking and Green Finance workshop organized by the Council on Economic Policies (CEP) and De Nederlandsche Bank. I wrote it to stimulate a discussion about how central banks can contribute to the fight against climate change. The text does not necessarily reflect my personal opinion. Continue reading “Green infrastructure bonds with macro strings attached: How the ECB could fulfill its mandate by fighting climate change”

My beef with bitcoin bulls

Everybody has heard of bitcoin by now. The price of the cryptocurrency is hitting all-time highs. John McAfee has bet that one bitcoin will be worth $500,000 in the year 2020. Bank chief Jamie Dimon called bitcoin a fraud. His statements were (predictably) followed by articles saying that bankers should be afraid of cryptocurrencies.

It seems there are two bitcoin camps: the true believers and the naysayers. Izabella Kaminska from FT Alphaville in particular has been explaining for years why cryptocurrencies are not the utopia some imagine them to be. In this post, I summarize my own reasons why I donโ€™t think bitcoin is a credible threat to the banking industry.1 Continue reading “My beef with bitcoin bulls”