Archive for May 21st, 2019

The Curious connection between stock trading and street photography

May 21, 2019

Tejsway Nandury has this fun piece:

Much like a trader, a street photographer is an artist, traipising on the high wire of chance.



Modern Monetary Disasters (Examples from Latin America)

May 21, 2019

Prof Sebastian Edwards of UCLA in this piece:

MMT, or some version of it, has been tried in several Latin American countries, including Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela. All had their own currency at the time. Moreover, their governments – almost all of which were populist – relied on arguments similar to those used by today’s MMT supporters to justify huge increases in public expenditure financed by the central bank. And all of these experiments led to runaway inflation, huge currency devaluations, and precipitous declines in real wages.

Four episodes in particular are instructive: Chile under President Salvador Allende’s socialist regime from 1970 to 1973; Peru during President Alan García’s first administration (1985-1990); Argentina under Presidents Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner from 2003 to 2015; and Venezuela since 1999 under Presidents Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro.

In all four cases, a similar pattern emerged. After the authorities created money to finance very large fiscal deficits, an economic boom immediately followed. Wages increased (helped by substantial minimum-wage hikes) and unemployment declined. Soon, however, bottlenecks appeared and prices skyrocketed, in some cases at hyperinflationary rates. Inflation reached 500% in Chile in 1973, some 7,000% in Peru in 1990, and is expected to be almost ten million percent in Venezuela this year. In Argentina, meanwhile, inflation was more subdued but still very high, averaging 40% in 2015.

The authorities responded by imposing price and wage controls and stiff protectionist policies. But the controls did not work, and output and employment eventually collapsed. Worse still, in three of these four countries, inflation-adjusted wages fell sharply during the MMT-type experiment. In the periods in question, real wages declined by 39% in Chile, 41% in Peru, and by more than 50% in Venezuela – hurting the poor and the middle class.

In each case, the central bank was controlled by politicians, with predictable results. In Chile, the money supply grew by 360% in 1973 alone, helping to finance a budget deficit equivalent to an astonishing 24% of GDP. In Peru in 1989, money growth was 7,000%, and the fiscal deficit exceeded 10% of GDP. In Argentina in 2015, the deficit was 6% of GDP, with the annual rate of money creation surpassing 40%. And Venezuela currently has a deficit of 32% of GDP, with the money supply estimated to be growing at an annual rate of more than 1,000%.

As inflation increased in these countries, people greatly reduced their holdings of domestic money. But because governments required taxes to be paid in local currency, it did not completely disappear. Instead, the speed at which money changed hands – what economists call “velocity of circulation” – increased dramatically. No one wanted to be holding paper money that lost 20% or more of its value every month.

When the demand for money collapses, the effects of money growth on inflation are amplified, and a vicious circle develops. One serious consequence is that the currency depreciates rapidly in international markets. MMT supporters conveniently ignore the simple fact that demand for local money declines drastically when its value tumbles. Yet this is perhaps one of the theory’s biggest weaknesses, and one that makes it extremely risky for any country to implement.

The experience of Latin America should serve as a clear warning for today’s MMT enthusiasts. In a variety of countries, and at very different times, fiscal expansions that were financed by printing money resulted in an uncontrollable loss of economic stability. Economic-policy ideas are often as dangerous in practice as they are flawed in theory. MMT may be a case in point.


One key thing which MMT bashers miss is the context. MMT is being suggested in countries such as  US where despite record deficit levels, interest rates on government bonds have been low. Another point is this whole governance bit. In Latin America kinds of cases lot of this money was used not for any economic gains but for politicians gains and was a very different political game. Third, it is unlikely US Dollar will depreciate as sharply as it did in these economies. Most of US borrowings are in their own currency and depreciation will not effect them as much as it affected all these Latam countries.

MMT has its limitations for sure. But so is it the case with mainstream macroeconomics. Infact, both have similar diagnosis. The mainstream macroeconomics guys also say despite record debt levels, interest rates remain low. Hence, fiscal policy can be expanded to take advantage of this situation with central banks playing a supporting role.  MMT folks say the same and bring central bank directly into the picture.

Why do central bankers buy and collect art?

May 21, 2019

Jens Weidmann of Bundesbank in this speech:

It gives me great pleasure to join you here today in opening this exhibition of artworks from the collections of the National Bank of Belgium and the Deutsche Bundesbank. I must say, this is an impressive and exceptionally pleasing space for an exhibition of this kind. We jumped at the chance of sending exhibits from our collection on a journey to Brussels, to our friends at the National Bank of Belgium in the capital city of Europe. It’s a premiere for us – never before have we shown our works outside Germany.

Both the National Bank of Belgium and the Bundesbank have been avid collectors of art for many decades now. Over the years, we have each gathered quite sizeable collections which shed some light on how art has evolved in Belgium and Germany. But why do central banks collect art in the first place? There are two reasons for that. First, because we’re looking to engage with society at large. As public institutions, we have a sense of commitment to the arts and culture in our respective countries. Second, we also feel that it is crucial to incorporate art into working life, because that brings our colleagues, and our guests and visitors, too, face to face with artistic expression. So over the years, collecting and exhibiting art has become part of our institutions’ DNA.

Encountering artworks on an everyday basis makes art part of our routine, a commonplace occurrence in our daily lives. Not just that: art also has the ability to surprise, challenge and inspire us. It lets us see things from a different angle and opens up a world beyond our own horizons. And in my experience, it can quite often be a cue for some fascinating conversations.

This exhibition now marks our own attempt to spark a special type of dialogue. Not just between visitors and the artworks, but also between two art collections which have evolved at two similar institutions in neighbouring countries. And that’s what makes the title of this exhibition – “Building a Dialogue” – so apt.

In this day and age, it’s certainly not a question of finding out what aspects of the collections are “typically Belgian” or “typically German”. Not least because artists in Europe, as we know, have been seeking to build a dialogue across national borders for centuries now. And yet for all that, it’s interesting to observe how well the works from the respective collections complement each other, and how the individual artistic statements interact.

Well, central banks also have the money!

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