Archive for the ‘Blogs to Read’ Category

Why study and research numismatics?

November 14, 2017

Nice post by Hillery York, Jennifer Gloede, and Emily Pearce Seigerman:

Whenever we tell friends and family where we work, their first response is typically, “What is Numismatics?” Of course, they pronounce it anywhere from “numismatic” to “gnomimatic!” The National Numismatic Collection (NNC) is the Smithsonian’s collection of monetary and transactional objects. It houses approximately 1.6 million objects spanning thousands of years and a great variety of materials. One of the best parts of our jobs is getting to share the collection with the world! Numismatics is a far-reaching field, and we’ve found connections to military history, facial hair, woman suffrage, and even Game of Thrones! We often share things about our favorite objects, but here are a few large, notable collections that you may not know are housed within the NNC. We’re making these available online, and researchers are welcome to contact us regarding their research in these areas.

Greco-Roman Collection

Ancient coins have long been collected because of their beauty, age, history, and sometimes rarity. Even dating back to the Renaissance, aristocrats and royals sought to add ancient coins to their collections. It makes sense then that the NNC would also have an extensive collection of these fascinating coins donated by various collectors over the years. Scholars recently dove into the collection to assess its strengths as compared to other notable museum collections. In doing so, they created a detailed listingof the holdings and discovered the collection contains approximately 26,900 Greek and Roman coins! These coins offer a great opportunity to study economics, art history, ancient coin production, classics, and more.

Numismatics is simply fascinating . It should be part of teaching monetary economics as it tells you so much about the monetary history and even politics around it…

We should move beyond just assembling these coins and put them in a museum. The idea should be to research and figure why certain coins were changed/modified, introduction of new coins and so on. Central banks should sponsor research on numismatics as there is much more to research than the usual “download data and run models”…


How Newton learned about financial gravity the hard way…

November 13, 2017

Interesting post by Jason Zweig (HT. V. A. Nageshwaran).

Zweig picks this paper by Andrew Odlyzko of  University of Minnesota which looks at Newton’s investments and eventual losses in South Sea Bubble :


Global real interest rates since 1311: Renaissance roots and rapid reversals

November 6, 2017

Superb insights by Paul Schmelzing in Bankundergound blog.

With core inflation rates remaining low in many advanced economies, proponents of the “secular stagnation” narrative –that markets are trapped in a period of permanently lower equilibrium real rates- have recently doubled downon their pessimistic outlook. Building on an earlier post on nominal rates this post takes a much longer-term view on real rates using a dataset going back over the past 7 centuries, and finds evidence that the trend decline in real rates since the 1980s fits into a pattern of a much deeper trend stretching back 5 centuries. Looking at cyclical dynamics, however, the evidence from eight previous “real rate depressions” is that turnarounds from such environments, when they occur, have typically been both quick and sizeable.

Despite much research into the causes of real rate distortions in recent years, the discussion has arguably suffered from a lack of long-term context. Key additions – such as the  influential BoE staff working paper confirming the role of excess savings and lower investment preferences – typically trace back their observations to the late Bretton Woods period, or at best to Alvin Hansen’s time in the interwar period. Hamilton et al. and Eichengreen are rare exceptions in their inclusion of 19th century data.

Therefore, the majority of work on secular stagnation– and with it the debate regarding bond market valuations  – fails to consider the deeper historical rate trends. In contrast, a  multi-century dataset  offers the opportunity to look at cyclical behavior and the dynamics of reversals from earlier real rate depressions.

Quite a few charts and details there…Conclusion:

On aggregate, then, the past 30-odd years more than hold their own in the ranks of historically significant rate depressions. But the trend fall seen over this period is a but a part of a much longer ”millennial trend”. It is thus unlikely that current dynamics can be fully rationalized in a “secular stagnation framework”. Meanwhile, looking at past cyclical patterns, the evidence suggests that when rate cycles turn, real rates can relatively swiftly accelerate.


Is the so called new economic thinking, same old stale stuff?

October 25, 2017

Frances Coppola writes a scathing critique of recently held Festival for New Economic Thinking in Edinburgh by Institute for New Economic Thinking.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop opposite Haymarket Station in Edinburgh. Just up the road, the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) is holding its conference. I’m supposed to be there, as I was yesterday and the day before. But I am not at all sure I want to go. The last two days have left a very bitter taste.

This conference, grandly entitled “Reawakening”, is supposed to be a showcase for the “new economic thinking” of INET’s name. I hoped to hear new voices and exciting ideas. At the very least, I expected serious discussion of, inter alia, radical reform of the financial system, digital ledger technology and cryptocurrencies, universal basic income (recently cautiously endorsed by the IMF), wealth taxation (also recently endorsed by the IMF), robots and the future of work. And I looked forward to the contributions not only from the speakers, but from the young, intelligent and highly educated attendees.

Not a bit of it. In the last two days we have had panel after panel of old white men discussing economic theories developed by old white men, many of them dead. Economic beliefs that I thought had been comprehensively debunked have reappeared, dressed up as “new thinking”.

She revisits all the panels and in unimpressed by most.

In the end:

For me, the ultimate insult came in the form of an announcement yesterday. INET is creating an Independent Commission on Global Economic Transformation. “Call for New Thinking and New Rules for the New World Economy; Final Report will Outline Solutions for Emerging and Developed Countries”, says the announcement. Here’s the remit of the new commission:

And here are the members of the Commission, so far:

  • Robert Johnson, President of INET and Former Chief Economist of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee;
  • Lord Adair Turner, Chairman of INET and former chairman of the UK Financial Services Authority;
  • Kaushik Basu, Professor of Economics at Cornell University and former Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist of the World Bank;
  • Peter Bofinger, Professor of Monetary and International Economics at Würzburg University and a member of the German Council of Economic Experts;
  • Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International executive director; former member of the Ugandan Parliament, African Commission and Director of Gender and Development at the United Nations Development Program;
  • Mohamed El-Erian, Chief Economic Advisor, Allianz, and former chair of U.S. President Obama’s Global Development Council;
  • Dr Gaël Giraud, Economist and senior researcher at C.N.R.S. (French national center for scientific research); 
  • James Manyika, Director of the McKinsey Global Institute;
  • Rohinton Medhora, President of the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI);
  • Danny Quah, Professor of Economics at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore;
  • Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and President-Elect of the International Economic Association;
  • Eisuke Sakakibara, Professor of Economics at Keio University and former Japanese Vice Minister of Finance for International Affairs;
  • Beatrice Weder di Mauro, Professor of Economics, Chair of Economic Policy and International Macroeconomics at the University of Mainz, Germany and former member of the German Council of Economic Experts;
  • Yu Yongding, former president of the China Society of World Economics and director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; former member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the People’s Bank of China.

Now, there are some wonderful people on this list. But collectively, they represent the elite establishment that I mentioned before: senior academics, rich businessmen, former and current public servants and policymakers. There are no new voices here, no-one from the heterodox economic community, no-one who has their feet in the real world. Everyone is at the top of an establishment hierarchy. How dare these people presume to take to themselves the responsibility for creating a radically new economic paradigm, when they have benefited so enormously from the existing one?

This is not “new economic thinking”. This is the establishment, reasserting itself at the behest of the elite, which fears the loss of its status and its privileges as the threat of populist revolt rises. The young crowd round the elite, hoping to be picked as their proteges: and the old scan the young to pick out the ones most like them. So the system perpetuates itself.  
And I, like the rest of the creatures outside, look “from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again.” But already it is hard to say which is which. 

I had similar reactions on seeing the panel members. It looked quite similar to the Growth Commission floated a decade ago.

How perverse incentives led to a soccer match teams scored self-goals in order to qualify!

October 24, 2017

Superb post in Managerial Econ blog:

Presumably, the primary goal of any sport governing body is to provide adequate incentive for competitors to do battle on the field (court, pitch, etc.), each striving for victory. Things don’t always turn out that way. 

My all time favorite example of the strangest (incentive-driven) spectacle in sport is from the 1994 Shell Caribbean Cup involving a match between Barbados and Grenada. 

A very poorly-conceived (though well-intentioned) tournament rule stipulated that any goals scored in overtime (and, by virtue of a sudden-death rule, there could only be one) would count double, as if the team scored two goals. The idea was to reward teams in close matches. This simple rule led to a very strange match.

Read the post in details…

Happy Diwali wishes to all Mostly Economics visitors.

October 19, 2017

Wishing all Mostly Economics visitors a very Happy Diwali. Celebrate and have a great year!

The ubiquitous Spanish dollar—a photo essay

October 13, 2017

Superb post by JPK. How he keeps coming up with these gems is a mystery.

Fascinating to learn how Spanish Dollar was used across so many countries in really interesting ways…


Reforming the central bank boards: Case of New Zealand…

October 3, 2017

Central banks and their followers focus a lot on monetary policy, financial stability and so on (rightly so given all the noise). What is not understood is how little attention is paid towards governance  of these central banks. How these central banks are organised and how they make decisions under a Board and so on are as important. Central bank reforms have been limited to whether they target inflation or not but not towards whether they are governed properly or not.

Michael Reddell writes on reforming RBNZ Board:

Last Friday, the Reserve Bank’s Annual Reports were published.  There were two of them, both required by law.   But most people wouldn’t know that.

There was the outgoing Governor’s own report on the Bank’s performance, the annual accounts etc.  That warranted a press release, and some modest media coverage.  But buried inside the Bank’s annual report was the, quite separate, statutory Annual Report of the Reserve Bank’s Board.    It has no separate place on the Bank’s website, it wasn’t accompanied by a press release from the chairman, although this year it did actually get passing mention in the “acting Governor”‘s press release.

The Reserve Bank Board isn’t a real board, in the sense known either in the private business sector, or in the government sector.  As the Board itself notes “the Board is a unique governance body in the public sector”.  The Board largely controls the appointment of the Governor, and has some say over the recommended dividend.  But otherwise, its powers are all supposed to be about providing a level of scrutiny and monitoring of the Bank –  and in particular the Governor personally – on behalf of the Minister of Finance and the public.  In practice, at least with a public face on, the Board tends to be emollience personified –  nothing to worry about here chaps –  that has very effectively served the interests of successive Governors.


 I’ve written previously about the role of the Bank’s (now) deputy chief executive –  who attends all Board meetings –  in these matters.   But the Board’s Annual Report simply records the heart-warming fact that the new superannuation fund chair “kept the Board informed of the work associated with the development of a new Deed for the Trust”.  On the principle that when you things you know about are wrong, it leaves one worried about the other material that one doesn’t know in detail.  On this occasion, there was no “new deed”, but some amendments to the rules (largely) to allow the superannuation fund to comply with the new Financial Markets Conduct Act.   As part of those changes, trustees were about to left in the lurch by the Bank –  unremunerated and yet with no liability insurance.    Only threats that the new rules would not be executed (requires all trustees to sign) and a written protest to the Board helped secure a backdown.  And the more serious issues, of past rules breaches, and mistakes in past rule changes, still look set to head to the courts next year.  Millions of dollars are potentially in dispute.

As I’ve written (repeatedly) before, the Reserve Bank’s Board doesn’t really serve much of a useful function.  A thoroughgoing reform of the goverance of the Reserve Bank (including the role of the Board) is well overdue, and there are signs now that whoever forms the next government it may well happen (although I am less optimstic of that if National leads the next government as even if they favour some change, they may not favour changes New Zealand First –  or the Greens if you must –  would support).   If the Board is to retain a role as an accountability and monitoring body, it too will need a shake-up.  Independent resourcing would help, but much of what is really needed is a different mindset, in which the Board finally serves the public, not acting as guardians of the Governor.  My own preference would be for the monitoring and accoutability functions to be undertaken by a Macroeconomic Advisory Council, established formally at arms-length from the Bank, the Treasury and the Minister of Finance.


We need similar assessment for RBI Board too..

Did Reserve Bank of New Zealand outgoing chief give himself a big pay rise? On what grounds?

September 29, 2017

Michael Reddell, the ever alert commenetator on NZ economy and their revered central bank has a startling piece:

….someone emailed me suggesting that the Reserve Bank Annual Report implied that the (now former) Governor, Graeme Wheeler had had a big pay rise.  And that did interest me, because outside the halls of the Reserve Bank Board it isn’t clear who would have thought that Wheeler had done something even approaching a stellar job as Governor.

Wheeler started at the Bank in September 2012, so we can’t get a read on his initial salary in the (June year) 2012/13 accounts.   But there are four years of annual reports when he will clearly have been the top earner in the Bank.    The relevant tables show the top earner received as follows during these financial years:


Bitcoin vs Dollars: Which One is a Fraud? Which One is a Ponzi Scheme?

September 29, 2017

Mistalk blog reflects on Jamie Dimon calling Bitcoin a fraud:

Dimon’s statement on Bitcoin represents the irony of the year. Euros, dollars, etc. are precisely fabricated out of thin air.

That was not always the case for dollars. They were once exchangeable for gold. But euros right from the start were a complete fabrication.

The Eurozone problems we see today are a direct result of the fraudulent nature of Target2 guarantees on top of the fraudulent nature of the euro itself.

🙂 Even if thin air is not fully right, all these currencies are just based on government order. One can increase and decrease the currency at govt will and create mega monetary theories to justiify whatever they do: inflation target, Taylor rules and so on.

He says things like modern finance are a bigger fraud:

In an article that I wish I had written myself, Viktor Shvets, head of Macquarie’s AsiaPac equity strategy, accurately explains “Modern Finance”, Not Bitcoin, Is The Real Fraud.

If one describes Bitcoin as a fraud, how would one describe a ‘financial cloud’ that is at least 4x-5x larger than the underlying economies? It is unlikely that US$400 trillion+ of financial instruments circulating around the world would ever be repaid and most are now backed by assets that are already either worthless or are diminishing in value. How does one describe rates and the yield curve that are either directly determined by Central Banks (BoJ or PBoC) or heavily influenced by them (Fed or ECB)?

While we maintain that despite the presence of US$7.5 trillion of excess reserves (amongst G4+Swiss central banks), global deflationary pressures are so strong that break-out of inflationary pressures is unlikely. However, if public sectors continue to insist on suppressing business/capital market cycles, then some form of full credit market nationalization and/or currency debasement becomes inevitable.

Even fractional reserve lending:

If someone had a Yap Island stone and wanted to lend out three of them, that would not be possible. Nor can one have $100,000 worth of gold or Bitcoin and legally lend out $1,000,000 of it.

If someone tried to do so they would be convicted of fraud. Yet, via fractional reserve lending, banks can lend out money they do not have, and few think anything of it.

There are two distinct problems with fractional reserve lending as it exists today.

  1. Duration Mismatches
  2. Money Creation Out of Thin Air

CDs provide an easy to understand example duration mismatches. A person buying a 5-year CD gives up the right to use his money for 5-years in return for an agreed upon interest rate. Bank can and do lend out such money for 20 years.

Historically, borrowing short and lending long caused numerous bank runs and financial crises. Note that there are no reserves on savings accounts. Banks can lend that money out while guaranteeing you availability. If everyone tried to get their money at once, the system would implode. We have seen numerous examples in Europe recently.

It is a pity that much of this so called modern finance tools have become so ingrained in our textbooks and thinking, that we hardly question them. Infact these are the most admired jobs and calling anything which challenges the status quo is called as fraud. But then those whose houses are made of glass should not throw stones at others..


Given the technology at hand, why don’t the equity markets move to a T+0 settlement cycle?

September 28, 2017

This blog pointed earlier to how US is moving to a T+2 settlement in equity markets whereas India had it more than a decade ago.

JP Koning asks why don’t we move to a T+0 settlement cycle given we have the technology now? He says there is a reason why these systems are slower. The idea is to settle and net transactions at the end of the day rather than immediate to avoid repitition:


The truth about the Indian economy…

September 19, 2017

The GoldStandard blog by Anantha Nageshwaran has 4 posts on truth/state of Indian economy. In the process, he links to several articles/pieces on Indian economy (which is also the trademark of his blog).


What is also interesting to note is how quickly the narrative changes. All this while, we were saying things are stable in Indian economy and so on. Demon is a blip. GST is a blip etc etc.

Now, one is reading quite a few pieces on the need to pass fiscal stimulus to shore Indian economy! For instance see this, this and this. Once the government bites the fiscal bullet and things go haywire (as they usually do with most governments), the same articles will start criticising the Government! Some will say eased too much, some will say too soon and some will suggest that instead of easing this component, that component should have eased..

So much so for all the macro analysis which keeps going in circles….

Did Free Banking Stabilize Canadian NGDP?

September 15, 2017

Interesting post by Prof George Selgin. Selgin counters view of a blogger who says that Free banking between 1867-1935 in Canada did not stabilize its GDP.

About a month ago, a Facebook post drew my attention to an attempt, by Casey Pender of Prague’s CEVRO Institute, to test my thesis that free banking contributes to NGDP stability using statistical evidence from Canada, which had a relatively free banking system between 1867, the year of Canada’s confederation, and 1935, when the Bank of Canada was established.

In “Some Odd Data on Free Banking in Canada,” a blog post discussing his preliminary findings, Pender reports that he had hoped to

be able to show that Canada, from 1867-1935, had a more stable NGDP percent change from year to year than the U.S. And I thought this would be an easy and quick historical example that I could use to bolster my underlying theory. But things seem like they just ain’t so.

Instead, in comparing the fluctuations of Canadian and U.S. NGDP using data from the Macrohistory database, Pender found that Canadian NGDP was not less but more volatile. Moreover that conclusion held not just for the full 1870-1935 sample period, but also for the sub-period 1870-1914, which omits various extraordinary Canadian government interventions during WWI and the Great Depression.

Here is Pender’s chart showing his results from the full sample period:









Having now been made privy to these findings, I suppose that you are looking forward to seeing ol’ Doc Selgin eat humble pie. Well, you can quit holding your breath ’cause that won’t be happening anytime soon. In fact, for the moment at least, I remain thoroughly impenitent.

He says one must not just look at changes in NGDP but look at the relationship between those fluctuations and underlying changes in Canada’s monetary base. He shows that this relationship is much stronger in Canada than US…

In the end:

In brief, both our Canadian regression results themselves, and a comparison of those results with results using U.S. data, seem fully consistent with the theory that free banking helps to stabilize the relationship between NGDP and the monetary base.

Does that mean they confirm the theory? Alas, it doesn’t. Freedom in banking is but one of many differences between the pre-WWI Canadian system and its U.S. counterpart. Furthermore, even if Canada’s more stable NGDP-M0 relationship were in fact due to its having had a relatively free banking system, it wouldn’t follow that my theory is correct. Free banking could well have contributed to the stable relationship in question for reasons apart from the one my theory points to. We know, for example, that branch banking — itself an element of free banking — made Canada’s system less fragile, and therefore less vulnerable to financial crises, than the U.S. system. We also know that financial crises tend to involve a collapse in bank credit and spending. So the relative stability of the Canadian NGDP-M0 relationship, instead of reflecting a tendency for changes in M to offset opposite changes in V, may instead simply have reflected a relative lack of banking crises and associated increases in the ratio of bank reserves to bank credit.  Although all this is still good news for fans of free banking, it leaves my particular hypothesis unproven.

In short, while my theory has yet to be discredited, it also has yet to be confirmed. I hope that either Mr. Pender or some other enterprising econometrician will eventually settle the matter, one way or the other.


Importance of understanding legal aspects of central banks: Case of appointment at Reserve Bank of New Zealand…

September 11, 2017

The role of economics and law especially in central banking is becoming an increasingly an important topic. But as economic students, we hardly study law and whatever little is mostly for contracts etc.

Given how central banks are basically a legal entity and what is broadly does is defined under law, there should be much more attention on central bank act, its governance and highly crucial appointment rules.  Things like appointment rules immediately raise the question of how and why central bank statutes differ across countries? The answers lie in political economy and other aspects which we just miss.

Croaking Cassandra blog has been writing on how the appointments of chief of New Zealand are not as per law. The crux of the matter is the currenct Gpvernor term is getting over and NZ is facing elections. The Government has decided to appoint an interim Governor and appoint a full-term one only after elections. But the central bank law does not allow this.

In its recent post, Cassandra again raises the issue:


If Fiscal councils are just advisers to Governments, should central banks/MPC also do the same?

September 5, 2017

Interesting piece by Prof Simon Wren-Lewis on his blog.

He says Fiscal councils are just advisory bodies but monetary policy is a delegated control body. Why can’t we have monetary policy committee/central banks do the same?

With fiscal councils (or Independent Fiscal Institutions) now commonplace in advanced economies, a natural question arises. Why are all these councils advisory, while independent central banks have control over monetary policy? For fiscal policy we seem to have delegated advice [1], while for monetary policy we have delegated control. In this post I want to focus on control over how policy instruments are changed, and not control of the goals of policy. For clarity assume that governments still control the ultimate goals of monetary policy (e.g. an inflation target) and fiscal policy (e.g. a target for the deficit in 5 years time).
As fiscal councils are the less familiar, it is natural to try and answer this question by asking why fiscal councils are not given control over fiscal policy. I am, of course, not talking about controlling the detail of government spending or taxes, but instead setting a target for the projected deficit which governments should aim to achieve in a budget. There are lots of potential answers to that question, which I have written about elsewhere.
However we could ask the question the other way around, and I cannot remember anyone asking it this way. Why are there no independent advisory central banks? In the UK, for example, imagine having the MPC meeting, and then immediately advising (in secret for a short time) the Chancellor of their recommendation for interest rates. The Chancellor would very quickly (within an hour or day?) decide whether to accept that recommendation or do something different. After that, the decision and the MPC’s recommendation would be announced.
He says this could happen in US but much more difficult in other countries:
Two straightforward points. First, a system of that kind could only work in the US if Congress gave the President the power to accept the Fed’s recommendation or impose the President’s own decision: perhaps not something we would want to contemplate right now. In the Eurozone the ECB would have to give recommendations to Ecofin, which might make it both impractical and perhaps undesirable. Second, this form of delegation is obviously weaker than giving complete control to the central bank, and that in itself may be a reason why it is not adopted.
Nevertheless, for a country like the UK, it would be a mistake to underestimate the political pressure the Chancellor would be under to accept the central bank’s public advice. The Chancellor or Treasury minister would be entirely responsible from deviating from the recommendation given to them, and if it went wrong they would incur a considerable political cost. In these circumstances, it would be understandable for governments to reason that there was little to be gained from having the power to overrule central bank advice. They would get it in the neck if they overruled this advice and turned out to be wrong, but equally if the MPC make mistakes they would also have ultimate responsibility for accepting this advice. If in practice nearly all of the time they are going to accept the central bank’s recommendations, why not give them complete control so that at least you are not implicated when things go wrong.
Of course many governments used to be happy to control monetary policy, as long as the advice they were getting was secret. But if that advice is public, as surely we all agree it should be, would even formally advisory central banks start to in effect control monetary policy because governments would never incur the risk of going against their advice? In which case, why so much fuss about independent central banks that do control monetary policy being undemocratic?
I stress again that I’m talking about control of month to month interest rate changes, and not the goals of monetary policy (inflation targets or NGDP targets). I think those should be democratically decided (as in the UK, but not the US or EZ), and that central banks should be accountable in a meaningful way if they do not achieve these goals. But for the day to day business of setting rates, I cannot see that much would be gained by putting those under democratic control. 
I think secrecy is the key. India is an interesting example here as well. History of RBI tells you how government pretty much controlled monetary policy till 1991. Some might say it was till 1997 when the Government stopped automatic financing of deficits via the adhoc Treasury bills.
The Government could pretty much run the monetary policy with RBI just playing an advisory role as there was much secrecy. Once we moved towards sharing more details with financial media and so on, the previous model broke down. RBI was now given a delegated control role…
Lots to think about in the post. Political economy of central banking…

Blogging on a break..

August 24, 2017

This blog is on a short break. I will try and blog but unlikely to happen.

Hope to resume next Tuesday. Keep sending your comments and suggestions..

Thanks for visiting and motivating to keep the blog going..


What is Dictionary Money? When Governments can change value of unit of account almost at will..

July 24, 2017

Most books on monetary economics tell you there are three functions of money:

  • Store of value
  • Unit of account
  • Medium of exchange

All these are taught really mechanically and one is always struggling to figure the differences and meanings of the three terms. What we and our textbooks forget is that all these ideas have evolved historically and the story is hardly as linear.

The superb JP Koning in his new blogpost takes us through the history of unit of account idea. Earlier, we hardly had a fixed unit of account as today. Kings were free to announce and change value of the coins as and when. This was in a way like dictionary money where the meaning of money changed everyday:


Who Would Be Affected by More Banking Deserts (branchless banking)?

July 18, 2017

Learnt about this new term from St Louis Fed blog: banking deserts:

Although technology has made it easy to bank from almost anywhere, personal and public benefits are still derived from bank branches. In areas without branches—commonly referred to as “banking deserts”—the costs and inconveniences of cashing checks, establishing deposit accounts, obtaining loans and maintaining banking relationships are exacerbated.

As expected, the deserts ill impact the poor:


Tibet’s really colorful currency notes (which were demonetised in 1959)…

July 14, 2017

JP Koning points to this interesting article on history of Tibet currency notes in 1912-59. The article has pictures of many notes during the period but they are not clear. Seperately, Koning puts the picture of one of the notes:


Was Neoliberal Overreach Inevitable?

July 7, 2017

Prof Simon Wren-Lewis has a post  on neoliberal overreach:

I’m not going to speculate whether and by how much this neoliberal overreach will prove fatal: whether Corbyn’s ‘glorious defeat’ marks the ‘death throes of neoliberalism’ or something more modest. Instead I want to ask whether overreach was inevitable, and if so why. Many in the centre ground of politics would argue that it would have been perfectly feasible, after the financial crisis, to change neoliberalism in some areas but maintain it in others. It is conceivable that this is where we will end up. But when you add up what ‘some areas’ would amount to, it becomes clear that it would be hard to label the subsequent regime neoliberal.
I think it is quite possible to imagine reforming finance in a way that allows neoliberalism to function elsewhere. Whether it is politically possible without additional reforms I will come to. If we think about populism, one key economic force behind its rise has been globalisation (see Dani Rodrik here for example). If we want to retain the benefits of globalisation, then counteracting its negative impact on some groups or communities becomes essential. Whether that involves the state directly, or indirectly through an industrial strategy, neither of those solutions is neoliberal.
Then consider inequality. I would argue that inequality, and more specifically the extreme wealth of a small number of individuals, has played an important role in both neoliberal overreach (in the US, the obsession within the Republican party with tax cuts for the wealthy) and populism (the financing of the Brexit campaign, Trump himself). More generally, extreme wealth disparities fuel political corruption. Yet ‘freeing’ ‘wealth creators’ of the ‘burden’ of taxation is central to neoliberalism: just look at how the loaded language in this sentence has become commonplace.
Indeed it could well be that gross inequality at the very top is an important dynamic created by neoliberalism. Piketty, Saez and Stantcheva have shown (paper) how reductions in top rates of tax – a hallmark of neoliberalism in the 1980s – may itself have encouraged rent seeking by CEOs which makes inequality even worse. Rent extractors naturally seek political defences to preserve their wealth, and the mechanisms that sets in place may not embody any sense of morality, leading to the grotesque spectacle of Republican lawmakers depriving huge numbers of health insurance to be able to cut taxes for those at the top. It may also explain why the controls on finance actually implemented have been so modest, and in the US so fragile.
The other key dynamic in neoliberal overreach has to be the ideology itself. In the UK surveys suggest that fewer than 10% of the population favour cutting taxes and government spending to achieve a smaller state (see my next post). There is equally no appetite to privatise key state functions: indeed renationalisation of some industries is quite popular. Yet the need to reduce the size and scope of the state has become embedded in the political right. Given that, it is not hard to understand the motivation behind the twin deceits of austerity and immigration control by Conservative led governments.
The dynamic consequences of extreme inequality and an unpopular ideology both suggest that neoliberal overreach may not be a bug but a feature.


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