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”

ECB should give money directly to citizens

The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament recently launched “Leer Geld”, an initiative led by MEP Sander Loones, to raise awareness about the effects of the monetary policy conducted by the European Central Bank (ECB).

The initiative is to be welcomed: monetary policy is too often overlooked by civil society, yet its impact on our lives has never been greater. Under its “quantitative easing” programme (QE), the ECB has been buying large quantities of government bonds since 2015. Surely injecting the equivalent of 20 percent of GDP into the eurozone finance sector cannot be without consequences. (continue)

You can read the full article written by me and Eric Lonergan at EUobserver.

Central bank liabilities and profits

Central banks (CentBs) have drastically expanded their balance sheets in the wake of the global financial crisis. The Federal Reserve (Fed) and the European Central Bank (ECB) followed the example of the Bank of Japan (BOJ) by buying trillions of dollars and euros worth of long-term bonds, a policy known as quantitative easing (QE).

The CentBs make these purchases by “base money”, i.e. cash and reserves1. Neglecting legal restrictions, CentBs can create base money at will.

There is a lot of controversy among economists about QE and its consequences for the balance sheets of central banks.

This post discusses the question of whether or not base money should be considered a liability of the central bank. After that issue is understood, we can clarify when the CentB can book a profit and how this affects government finances.

One of the stated goals of QE is to raise inflation. Some worry that once this happens, rising interest rates will cause massive losses to the central bank, resulting in unspecified “bad things”. I argue that these fears are unjustified. Continue reading “Central bank liabilities and profits”

Helicopter money part III: economic stimulus

What is helicopter money (HM)1 supposed to accomplish? Advocates of HM believe that HM acts as a stimulus which increases the level of economic activity. In this post, I construct a simple model and show in detail how it works. The steady state economy – an economy with a constant aggregate nominal income and expenditure per time – is described first. Next, the effect of reduced spending and income of the agents is illustrated. And then it is discussed how the economy can be returned to its previous steady state of spending.

What are the assumptions behind the model? And what is the scope of this post?

  • The economy is closed, there are no inflows from or outflows to the “rest of the world”
  • There is one single currency
  • Only nominal amounts and flows of money are considered in this post.

The effects of stimulus on prices and exchange rates will be discussed in later posts.

Easy numerical examples are used throughout this blog post. As I wrote before, this avoids the hidden inconsistencies that many words-only economic commentaries suffer from. The reader can check the logic of the model and expand it further for his own use. This should make it a powerful analytic tool for economists. I am planning to frequently use this model for further research, to answer questions regarding balance of payments and transfers between economic classes2.

Continue reading “Helicopter money part III: economic stimulus”

Helicopter money part II: politics

Helicopter money (HM) is money printed by the central bank that is given to the people. Figuratively speaking, Mario Draghi1 would fly over the Eurozone and drop new €50 bills out of a helicopter to the population below. In the first part of this series, I explored the possible sources of HM. The current post looks at the political constraints that prevent the ECB from firing up the engines of its helicopters. Continue reading “Helicopter money part II: politics”

Helicopter bonds – A reply to Nick Rowe

It is not my ambition to police the blogosphere, but since helicopter money is such a hot topic, this post will point out some inconsistencies in yesterday’s post of Nick Rowe. Keep in mind that I do not criticize him as a person! I have a lot of respect for people who are open about their thinking process, free for the whole world1 to see. Especially when they have a professional stake in this (Dr. Rowe is a professor of economics).

I have copied Nick’s post below in its entirety and put it in italics. The pictures and normal text are mine. For ease of discussion in the comments or on Twitter, I have labeled the pictures as Cases. Continue reading “Helicopter bonds – A reply to Nick Rowe”

Helicopter money part I: where does it come from?

There is a lot of talk about helicopter money on economics blogs and in newspapers lately. As usual, accounting and drawing pictures to explain their ideas are not economists’ strong suit. The predictable result are heated discussions, but not much enlightenment1. This post gives an introduction into what helicopter money is and how it affects the balance sheets and income of economic agents. In a future post, I will explain what helicopter money is supposed to achieve and under which conditions it can be an appropriate macroeconomic policy.

The idea of helicopter money is exactly as the name suggests: money is thrown from helicopters, free for all to take. Formulated a bit less poetically, somebody gives all citizens of a country a certain sum of money. This immediately raises two questions: who throws the money, and where does the money come from? Continue reading “Helicopter money part I: where does it come from?”