Monthly Archives: February 2009

Ingram Pinn illustration

The London summit of 1933 marked the moment at which co-operative efforts to manage the Great Depression collapsed. The summit of the Group of 20 countries, in the same city, on April 2, must turn out quite differently. That may seem a simple task. It is not. The usual platitudinous communiqué would be a catastrophe. Read more

By Enrico Perotti and Javier Suarez

Securitisation was meant to reduce risk by spreading it, but in practice it created risk via regulatory arbitrage.

Banks placed long-term assets in boxes sustained by short-term wholesale funding, but with the backup of their credit lines in case of trouble. They kept a significant amount of risk, while reducing their own capital.
When subprime mortgages were repriced, the house of cards fell apart. Read more

By Patrick Honohan

Perhaps it was inevitable that this month’s announcement of the Irish government’s bank recapitalisation package was a bit of a damp squib.

What the government, and the public, look for comes down to two things: a resumed flow of credit, and the banks financially restored to the point where they can stand on their own two feet and are not going to be a continuing burden on, or threat to, public finances.  Read more

By Moritz Schularick

Over the past decade, China and other emerging markets accumulated foreign currency reserves to insure against the economic and political vagaries of financial globalisation. They were wise to do so. Countries with larger reserves are weathering the storm relatively better than those who have bought less insurance. Read more

By Gerard Caprio

The lack of clarity in the US Treasury’s plan to deal with the financial system is hardly unexpected. The administration is just one-month-old, and the specifics of this crisis, like many of its antecedents, are unique. As the plan becomes more specific, we can hope that the administration will be able to educate the public, including the supposed friends of free enterprise, that any plan for dealing with the banks must include the failure of those that are truly and deeply insolvent. Read more

The Nice – non-inflationary, consistently expansionary – decade has gone. The next decade is going to be nasty. It is time to start learning lessons. “Niceness” proved a mistake.

The UK economy has moved with brutal speed from what Andrew Haldane, the Bank of England’s new executive director for financial stability, in a brilliant paper*, calls “the golden decade” of steady growth and low volatility to its opposite. Stability has proved the economy’s nemesis, as Hyman Minsky predicted. Read more

By Charles W. Calomiris

Tim Geithner, US Treasury secretary, has his work cut out. Any successful plan to revive the financial system will have to raise banks’ asset and stock values, but helping banks is unpopular. Neither Republicans nor Democrats in Congress seem excited about spending money helping banks. And some in the Obama administration probably are counselling the president against taking the political risk of helping Wall Street. Many in the electorate are incensed by the idea of propping up banks and exposing taxpayers to risk of loss. Read more

Pinn illustration

What has Japan’s “lost decade” to teach us? Even a year ago, this seemed an absurd question. The general consensus of informed opinion was that the US, the UK and other heavily indebted western economies could not suffer as Japan had done. Now the question is changing to whether these countries will manage as well as Japan did. Welcome to the world of balance-sheet deflation. Read more

By Benn Steil

“Many of the most successful economics blogs promote communication within political groupings, not across them.  On the web you best build an audience by organising a claque and stroking its prejudices.  Extend elaborate courtesy to people you agree with and boorish contempt to those who do not get it.  Celebrate exasperation and incivility as marks of intellectual authenticity – an attitude easier to tolerate in teenagers under hormonal stress than in professors at world-class universities” (Clive Crook, FT February 8, 2009).

Two days before Clive’s column appeared, I experienced firsthand the econoblog treatment he describes.  On February 6, the FT published an op-ed by me (“Keynes and the triumph of hope over economics”) criticising the tendency of economists to invoke Keynes, rather than logic and evidence, in support of any and all forms of new deficit spending, which are now massed together under the cozy umbrella of “stimulus” – a term that closes discussion by simply assuming the merits it claims. Read more

By Ricardo J Caballero

In all likelihood, political constraints severely limited the ambition and effectiveness of the US financial stability package. Economists need to unite behind relaxing these constraints. Talking lightly about nationalisation, as is increasingly taking place, does exactly the opposite.

There are two types of arguments for nationalisation. One argument is a gut reaction that enough-is-enough and we must stop transferring resources to Wall Street’s “crooks and oligarchs.” This reaction only adds fuel to the fire and exacerbates self-destructive mob-mentality behaviour. Read more