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  • Author: Steve H. Hanke
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Monetary instability poses a threat to free societies. Indeed, currency instability, banking crises, soaring inflation, sovereign debt defaults, and economic booms and busts all have a common source: monetary instability. Furthermore, all these ills induced by monetary instability bring with them calls for policy changes, many of which threaten free societies. One who understood this simple fact was Karl Schiller, who was the German Finance Minister from 1966 until 1972. Schiller’s mantra was clear and uncompromising: “Stability is not everything, but without stability, everything is nothing” (Marsh 1992: 30). Well, Schiller’s mantra is my mantra. I offer three regime changes that would enhance the stability in what Jacques de Larosière (2014) has asserted is an international monetary “anti-system.” First, the U.S. dollar and the euro should be formally, loosely linked together. Second, most central banks in developing countries should be mothballed and replaced by currency boards. Third, private currency boards should be permitted to enter the international monetary sphere.
  • Topic: Debt, Foreign Exchange, Monetary Policy, Developing World, Inflation, Currency
  • Political Geography: Europe, United States of America, European Union
  • Author: Clifford F. Thies, Christopher F. Baum
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: With the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was thought that major wars had become obsolete (Mueller 1989) and perhaps regional conflicts might be brought under control (Cederman, Gleditsch, and Wucherpfennig 2017). But, while the level of violence declined, the number of wars in the world appears to have reached a new steady state. A world that was once organized by East-West rivalry is now characterized by ethno-religious conflicts, as well as by spontaneously arising transnational terrorist organizations and criminal gangs. For various reasons, economists have become interested in investigating the causes and effects of war and other armed conflict (e.g., Coyne and Mathers 2011). This article uses a consistent measurement of these forms of violence across space and time to conduct a rigorous quantitative analysis of the effect of war on economic growth.
  • Topic: Cold War, War, History, Economic growth, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Michael D Bordo, Mickey D. Levy
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The ratcheting up of tariffs and the Fed’s discretionary conduct of monetary policy are a toxic mix for economic performance. Escalating tariffs and President Trump’s erratic and unpredictable trade policy and threats are harming global economic performance, distorting monetary policy, and undermining the Fed’s credibility and independence. President Trump’s objectives to force China to open access to its markets for international trade, reduce capital controls, modify unfair treatment of intellectual property, and address cybersecurity issues and other U.S. national security issues are laudable goals with sizable benefits. However, the costs of escalating tariffs are mounting, and the tactic of relying exclusively on barriers to trade and protectionism is misguided and potentially dangerous. The economic costs to the United States so far have been relatively modest, dampening exports, industrial production, and business investment. However, the tariffs and policy uncertainties have had a significantly larger impact on China, accentuating its structural economic slowdown, and are disrupting and distorting global supply chains. This is harming other nations that have significant exposure to international trade and investment overseas, particularly Japan, South Korea, and Germany. As a result, global trade volumes and industrial production are falling. Weaker global growth is reflected in a combination of a reduction in aggregate demand and constraints on aggregate supply.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy, Economic growth, Tariffs, Industry
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Europe, Asia, South Korea, Germany, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Simon Lester, Huan Zhu
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Donald Trump was a trade “hawk” long before he became president. In the late 1980s, he went on the Oprah Winfrey show and complained about Japan “beating the hell out of this country” on trade (Real Clear Politics 2019). As president, he has continued with the same rhetoric, using it against a wide range of U.S. trading partners, and he has followed it up with action (often in the form of tariffs). While many countries have found themselves threatened by Trump’s aggressive trade policy, his main focus has been China. As a result, the United States and China have been engaged in an escalating tariff, trade, and national security conflict since July 2018, when the first set of U.S. tariffs on China went into effect and China retaliated with tariffs of its own. In this article, we explore the U.S.-China economic conflict, from its origins to the trade war as it stands today. We then offer our thoughts on where this conflict is heading and when it might end.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Tariffs, Trade Wars, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Gunther Schnabl
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Twenty years after the introduction of the euro, the European Monetary Union (EMU) is at its crossroads. Following the outbreak of the European financial and debt crisis in 2008, the European Central Bank (ECB) took comprehensive measures to stabilize the common currency. Interest rates were cut to and below zero and several asset purchase programs have inflated the ECB balance sheet (Riet 2018). Within the European System of Central Banks, large imbalances have emerged via the TARGET2 payments system, which can be seen as quasi-unconditional credit in favor of the southern euro area countries (Sinn 2018). While the ECB terminated its asset purchase program at the end of 2018 and is expected to increase interest rates in late 2019, financial instability is reemerging. Growing uncertainty about the fiscal discipline of the Italian government has triggered a significant increase in risk premiums on Italian government bonds. In particular, in Italy and Greece, but also in Germany, bad loans and assets remain stuck in the banking systems. In the face of the upcoming downswing, European banks do not seem ready for new financial turmoil. In this fragile environment, the future path of the EMU is uncertain. To enhance the stability of the EMU, a group of German and French economists has called for a common euro area budget, for a strengthening of the European Stability Mechanism as lender of last resort for euro area countries and banks, as well as for a common European deposit insurance scheme (Bénassy-Quéré et al. 2018). In response, 154 German economists have warned against transforming the EMU into what they call a “liablity union,” which systematically undermines market principles and wealth (Mayer et al. 2018). In 2018, a French-German initative to introduce a common euro area budget faced strong opposition from a group of northern European countries as well as from Italy, symbolizing the political deadlock concerning reforms of the EMU. This article explains the different views on the institutional setting of monetary policymaking in Europe from a historical perspective. It begins with a description of the economic and monetary order in postwar Germany. It then discusses the positive implications for the European integration process and the economic consequences of the transformation of postwar German monetary order. The final section offers some economic policy recommendations.
  • Topic: Economics, History, Monetary Policy, Reform, European Union, Banks, Currency
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany
  • Author: Sebastian Edwards
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: dea has emerged in economic policy circles in the United States: “Modern Monetary Theory” (MMT). The central tenet of this view is that it is possible to use expansive monetary policy—money creation by the central bank (i.e., the Federal Reserve)—to finance large fiscal deficits, and create a “jobs guarantee” program that will ensure full employment and good jobs for everyone. This view is related to Abba Lerner’s (1943) “functional finance” idea, and has become very popular in progressive spheres. According to MMT supporters, this policy would not result in crowding out of private investment, nor would it generate a public debt crisis or inflation outbursts.
  • Topic: Debt, Monetary Policy, Populism, Banks, Economic Policy, Inflation
  • Political Geography: Latin America
  • Author: Tobias Adrian
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In the decade since the global financial crisis, there has understandably been great concern about potential threats to global financial stability, and policymakers have wisely remained vigilant in watching for warning signs of possible economic risk. At the International Monetary Fund (IMF), we remain committed to providing our 189 member countries with farsighted analyses of trends in the financial markets, thus guiding them toward sound policy choices that help maintain economic stability.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Global Recession, Financial Crisis, Economy, Economic growth, Risk, IMF, Financial Stability
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Daniel Griswold
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: President Trump has delivered on his promise to shake up Washington, arguably nowhere more so than in the policy space of international trade. President Trump’s trade agenda has challenged more than seven decades of bipartisan policy commitment to seeking lower trade barriers at home and abroad through negotiated agreements. While President Trump pays lip service to pursuing free trade and eliminating tariffs, his trade policies so far have been marked by higher U.S. duties on a range of products, from washing machines to steel. Under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, the administration has imposed duties on $250 billion of imports from China, with those duties set to escalate in 2019 absent an agreement with China. And under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, the president is threatening to impose a 25 percent duty on imported automobiles in the name of national security. The Trump administration has renegotiated existing trade agreements with Canada, Mexico, and South Korea, but its modifications are as likely to restrict trade as expand it. One of the president’s first actions after assuming office was to withdraw the United States from the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have eliminated almost all duties with 11 trading partners around the Pacific Rim, including Japan.
  • Topic: Economy, Tariffs, Trade, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: P. H. Yu
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: As confrontation looms over Washington and Beijing, it is critical to identify the true nature of this challenge from an international relations perspective before any attempt to devise a counter measure. Wrong presumptions or prejudicial interpretations may lead to dire consequences of unforeseeable magnitude. One past example would be the U.S. government’s belief that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) before the American invasion in 2003. A more current example would be the American nuclear anxiety on North Korea and how President Trump bypassed conventional American strategic thinking and circumvented hawkish threats of preemptive nuclear annihilation to resolve a “draconian crisis” via “smart diplomacy.” These examples may shed light on a pathway to resolution for the current U.S.-China trade conflict. The United States and China have ample experience of weathering a crisis on the brink of war, whether it was on the Korean Peninsula or in Indochina. China today remains on the U.S. sanctions list for certain high-tech products and military equipment. Both the Trump administration and Congress continue to criticize China regularly, ranging from human rights to religious rights, from the rule of law to the autocratic political system, from the state-owned banks to restrictive market access to foreign corporations, and from currency manipulation to unfair trade practices.
  • Topic: International Relations, Bilateral Relations, Trade Wars, Trade
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: James A. Dorn
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: 1978 has been erratic, with many interruptions along the way. The end result, however, has been eye opening: the Middle Kingdom has become the world’s largest trading nation, the second largest economy, and more than 500 million people have lifted themselves out of poverty as economic liberalization removed barriers to trade. One of the enduring lessons from China’s rise as an economic giant is that once people are given greater economic freedom, more autonomy, and stronger property rights, they will have a better chance of creating a harmonious and prosperous society (see Dorn 2019). Nevertheless, China faces major challenges to its future development. There is still no genuine rule of law that effectively limits the power of government, no independent judiciary to enforce the rights promised in the nation’s constitution, no free market for ideas that is essential for innovation and for avoiding major policy errors, no competitive political system that fosters a diversity of views, and a large state sector that stifles private initiative and breeds corruption. China’s slowing growth rate, its increasing debt burden, environmental problems, and the increasing tension in U.S.-China relations compound the challenges facing Beijing.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, History, Trade Liberalization
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: David Bier
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Trump administration has proposed a new regulation that would greatly expand an old rule banning legal residence to immigrants deemed “likely to become a public charge”—that is, someone who the government has the responsibility to care for (USCIS 2018). The rule does not, nor could it, change eligibility for welfare programs for noncitizens in the United States. Instead, it requires applicants to prove that they are not likely, in the future, to become so dependent on welfare that they become a “public charge.” Therefore, the question regarding this regulation is not whether it is appropriate for noncitizens to become dependent on welfare, but whether the government will accurately predict their likelihood of doing so.
  • Topic: Immigration, Welfare, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Andrew Liu
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In 2016 alone, China saw $9 trillion in mobile payments—in contrast to a comparably small $112 billion of mobile payments in the United States (Abkowitz 2018). The use of mobile payment systems such as Alipay and WeChat Pay are widespread in China, with users ranging from beggars to lenders to criminals. Previously, the mobile payments landscape was largely untouched and unregulated by the Chinese government because of its relative insignificance in the Chinese economy. However, with the explosive growth in mobile payment transactions, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) implemented a new mobile payment regulation on June 30, 2018. Most notably, the government will require all mobile payments to be cleared through the PBOC, and hence, all mobile payment transactions will begin to touch the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) (Hersey 2017). The PBOC’s stated reasoning for implementing this regulation is to curb money laundering and fraud. While those are valid concerns, it is unlikely that there are not additional motivations for the new regulation. In this article, I analyze the effects this new regulation has had and will likely have on the various mobile payment system stakeholders, competitors, and users, and also uncover what underlying motives the PBOC has in implementing the regulation.
  • Topic: Government, Regulation, Economy, Banks, Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Yiping Huang, Tingting Ge
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: When China began economic reform in 1978, it had only one financial institution, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), which, at that time, served as both the central bank and a commercial bank and accounted for 93 percent of the country’s total financial assets. This was primarily because, in a centrally planned economy, transfer of funds was arranged by the state and there was little demand for financial intermediation. Once economic reform started, the authorities moved very quickly to establish a very large number of financial institutions and to create various financial markets. Forty years later, China is already an important player in the global financial system, including in the banking sector, direct investment, and bond and equity markets. However, government intervention in the financial system remains widespread and serious. The PBOC still guides commercial banks’ setting of deposit and lending rates through “window guidance,” although the final restriction on deposit rates was removed in 2015. Industry and other policies still play important roles influencing allocation of financial resources by banks and capital markets. The PBOC intervenes in the foreign exchange markets from time to time, through directly buying or selling foreign exchanges, setting the central parity, and determining the daily trading band. The regulators tightly manage cross-border capital flows, and the state still controls majority shares of most large financial institutions.
  • Topic: Economics, Foreign Exchange, Reform, Financial Markets, Banks
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Roger Pilon
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: It is perhaps not impertinent to suggest that American constitutional theory and history, owing to the longevity of the document that is their subject, hold lessons for constitutionalism everywhere, but especially for European constitutionalism—the more recent and ever evolving treaties that serve as a “Constitutional Charter” for the European Union. An American constitutionalist looking east today, seeing everything from Brexit to Grexit plus the reactions in European capitals, must be struck by the tension in the EU between exclusion and inclusion in its many forms, including individualism and collectivism. Those themes underpin my discussion here. The issues surrounding them are universal. They are at the heart of the human condition.
  • Topic: Markets, History, European Union, Constitution
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Charles I. Plosser
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: It is a pleasure to be back here at Cato and to be invited to speak once again at this annual conference. This is one of the premier ongoing monetary policy conferences, and the participants, both at the podium and in the audience, attest to its prominence. This is a session on international monetary arrangements, and there has already been an interesting discussion. I find myself in substantial agreement with the comments of John Taylor, so I do not wish to repeat his points. What I will try to do is put the rules-based approach to international monetary policy coordination in a context that I hope will help us understand some of the past failures so we might avoid them in the future. In many ways, I will simply be reminding us of some principles we all have known for some time, yet which we seem to forget all too frequently.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Monetary Policy, Banks
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Judy Shelton
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: How often do we hear references to the notion that we live in a rules-based global trading system? Addressing the World Economic Forum at Davos in January 2017, British Prime Minister Theresa May praised liberalism, free trade, and globalization as “the forces that underpin the rules-based international system that is key to our global prosperity and security” (Martin 2017). Chinese President Xi Jinping likewise extolled the virtues of a rules-based economic order at Davos, winning widespread praise for defending free trade and globalization (Fidler, Chen, and Wei 2017). But could someone please explain: What exactly are those rules? Because if we are going to invoke the sentimentality of Bretton Woods by suggesting that the world has remained true to its precepts, we are ignoring geopolitical reality. Moreover, we are denying the warped economic consequences of global trade conducted in the absence of orderly currency arrangements. We have not had a rules-based international monetary system since President Nixon ended the Bretton Woods agreement in August 1971. Today there are compelling reasons—political, economic, and strategic—for President Trump to initiate the establishment of a new international monetary system.
  • Topic: Economics, International Cooperation, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: John B. Taylor
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Over the past few years I have been making the case for moving toward a more rules-based international monetary system (e.g., Taylor 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016a, 2016b, 2017). In fact, I made the case over 30 years ago in Taylor (1985), and the ideas go back over 30 years before that to Milton Friedman (1953). However, the case for such a system is now much stronger because the monetary system drifted away from a rules-based approach in the past dozen years and, as Paul Volcker (2014) reminds us, the absence of a rulesbased monetary system “has not been a great success.” To bring recent experience to bear on the case, we must recognize that central banks have been using two separate monetary policy instruments in recent years: the policy interest rate and the size of the balance sheet, in which reserve balances play a key role. Any international monetary modeling framework used to assess or to make recommendations about international monetary policy must include both instruments in each country, the policy for changing the instruments, and the effect of these changes on exchange rates. Using such a framework, I show that both policy instruments have deviated from rules-based policy in recent years. I then draw the policy implications for the international monetary system and suggest a way forward to implement the policy.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy, Central Bank
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Ryan Murphy, Robert A. Lawson
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This article uses newly gathered and available data and autoregressive methods to create an economic freedom index for the 1950s and 1960s for up to 95 countries. The resulting index allows not only for a longer time series but also for a larger sample of countries than has been previously available.
  • Topic: Economics, History, Economic growth
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Benjamen Powell
  • Publication Date: 10-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The economic case for free immigration is nearly identical to the case for free trade. They both rely on a greater division of labor based on comparative advantage to ensure that allowing the free movement of goods and services or the free movement of people results in greater global wealth. Estimates of the global gains that could be achieved by the global adoption of an open immigration policy are massive, ranging from 50 to 150 percent of world GDP (Clemens 2011). Even a migration of just 5 percent of the world’s poor to wealthier countries would boost world GDP by more than could be gained by completely eliminating all remaining trade barriers to goods, services, and capital flows (Clemens 2011).
  • Topic: Economics, Immigration
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Ning Wang
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The ultimate success of China’s search for economic prosperity, cultural renaissance, and a “peaceful rise” depends, in large part, on whether a free market for ideas can reemerge and flourish in China. The concept of the “market for ideas” (sixian shichang) was first introduced to a Chinese audience by Ronald Coase and myself in How China Became Capitalist (Coase and Wang 2012, see also Coase 1974). It quickly won acceptance among academics and the media. China is the only leading economy where the production and communication of ideas remains under strict state control. Universities, the primary venue where new ideas are produced, are run by the state. Newspapers, radio and TV stations, and publishers are all controlled by the state; ideas unwelcome by the state have a hard time to see the light of day. Because the freedom to supply ideas, choose ideas, and criticize ideas is severely limited, the creativity of the Chinese people is underutilized and their innovative potential undertapped.
  • Topic: Economics, History, Freedom of Press
  • Political Geography: China, Asia