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  • Author: Alan Reynolds
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Estimates of the elasticity of taxable income (ETI) investigate how high‐​income taxpayers faced with changes in marginal tax rates respond in ways that reduce expected revenue from higher tax rates, or raise more than expected from lower tax rates. Diamond and Saez (2011) pioneered the use of a statistical formula, which Saez developed, to convert an ETI estimate into a revenue‐​maximizing (“socially optimal”) top tax rate. For the United States, they found that the optimal top rate was about 73 percent when combining the marginal tax rates on income, payrolls, and sales at the federal, state, and local levels. A related paper by Piketty, Saez, and Stantcheva (2014) concluded that, at the highest income levels, the ETI was so small that comparable top tax rates as high as 83 percent could maximize short‐​term revenues, supposedly without suppressing long‐​term economic growth. Such studies could be viewed as part of a larger effort to minimize any efficiency costs of distortive taxation while maximizing assumed revenue gains and redistributive benefits.
  • Topic: Economics, History, Tax Systems, High-Income People
  • Political Geography: North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Isabella M. Pesavento
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Adoption, particularly adoption out of foster care, has not been well studied within the field of economics. Researchers may avoid this topic because the adoption market greatly deviates from a typical market, and the system and data collection are highly fragmented, with relatively little federal coordination. Rubin et al. (2007) and Thornberry et al. (1999) show that instability in foster care placements produces negative welfare outcomes, and Hansen (2006), Barth et al. (2006), and Zill (2011) demonstrate that adoption out of foster care is socially and financially beneficial. Yet, children waiting to be adopted out of foster care are in excess supply, which has been exacerbated in recent years. I hypothesize that this is, in part, due to misaligned incentives of government officials and the contracted foster care agencies. I show that earnings are prioritized over ensuring permanent child placement, which hinders the potential for adoption, and government oversight fails to correct such iniquities because of career interests.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets, Children, Incentives, Foster Care, Adoption
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Tanner Corley, Marcus M. Witcher
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In Arkansas, the barber profession has been regulated and licensed for more than 80 years, and until recently, the issue was mostly absent from the political debate. During a regular session of Arkansas’s 92nd General Assembly in 2019, however, state Sen. John Cooper presented a bill to “repeal the [1937] Arkansas Barber Law” and to “abolish the State Board of Barber Examiners” (Briggs 2019). The average Arkansan probably was not aware of the bill, but occupational licensing reformers saw this as a great opportunity for Arkansas to pave the way for other states to reform their own license laws. If Cooper’s bill had passed, Arkansas’s economy would have likely benefited (Timmons and Thornton 2010, 2018). By removing restrictive requirements to becoming a barber, the bill would have allowed more Arkansans to enter the profession. This reform would have ­provided people with more economic opportunities, increased competition, and benefited consumers.
  • Topic: Regulation, Business , Public Health, Licensing
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anna Bocharnikova
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This article investigates the dynamics of individual economic well‐​being in Estonia and Finland over three periods: (1) 1923–1938, when both countries were similarly situated; (2) 1960–1988, during which Estonia was under Soviet control; and (3) 1992–2018, after Estonian independence. Economic well‐​being is calculated using the purchasing power of wages in terms of the affordability of a minimal food basket. The results show that, in 1938, the purchasing power of wages in Estonia was 4 percent lower than in Finland; in 1988, it was 42 percent lower; and, by 2018, the gap had fallen to 17 percent. Consequently, as measured by the purchasing power of wages, well‐​being in Estonia and Finland was similar before the Soviet occupation, widely diverged during Soviet rule, and converged after Estonian independence, with the transition from plan to market.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Politics, History, Culture
  • Political Geography: Europe, Finland, Estonia
  • Author: Diego A. Diaz, Cristian Larroulet
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The number and impact of natural disasters are increasing because of climate change and more people living in urban areas (Sanderson and Sharma 2016). The mechanism is simple, at least when considering climatic events: higher temperatures lead to higher rates of water evaporation, which increases the chance of flooding events (Wallace et al. 2014; IPCC 2001). The number of hot days has increased and the number of cold days has decreased in land areas, with model projections indicating that extreme precipitation events will continue to increase, resulting in more floods and landslides. At the same time, mid‐​continental areas will get dryer, which will increase the chance of droughts and wildfires (Van Aalst 2006). The course of action taken by humanity in the next decades will likely play a pivotal role since extreme differences in projections are expected if global temperatures rise 2°C in comparison to 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels (Allen et al. 2019). What are the economic impacts of natural disasters? This question has been addressed to a large extent in the literature, but it still does not have a conclusive response. The seemingly natural reasoning that destruction cannot lead to a net benefit for society was explained almost two centuries ago by Bastiat (1850) in his famous broken window fallacy. A shopkeeper’s son, Bastiat relates, breaks a pane of glass in his father’s store. The father, angry due to the boy’s careless action, is offered consolation by the spectators, who claim that the event is positive for the economy since it provides labor to glaziers. While Bastiat acknowledges that the accident brings trade to the glazier since the shopkeeper has to replace the window, regarding the event as wealth‐​increasing conveys a narrow perspective. The shopkeeper ends up poorer since he cannot spend the same money elsewhere, and if the boy had not broken the window, then the labor and other materials that were used to repair the damage would have been used elsewhere, potentially making the tangible wealth of the community grow.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Natural Disasters, Crisis Management, Institutions, Urban
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Scott Lincicome
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Labor market and cultural disruptions in the United States are real and important, as is China’s current and unfortunate turn toward illiberalism and empire. But pretending today that there was a better trade policy choice in 2000—when Congress granted China “permanent normal trade relations” (PNTR) status and paved the way for broader engagement—is misguided. It assumes too much, ignores too much, and demands too much. Worse, it could lead to truly bad governance: increasing U.S. protectionism; forgiving the real and important failures of our policymakers, CEOs, and unions over the last two decades; and preventing a political consensus for real policy solutions. Indeed, that is happening now.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, Markets, Bilateral Relations, Trade, Protectionism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Kam Hon Chu
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In addition to foreign investment absorption, Hong Kong plays a pioneering role in the internationalization of the renminbi (RMB). Despite the lack of comprehensive statistics on the volume of offshore RMB transactions, Hong Kong is for sure one of the largest, if not the largest, global centers for offshore RMB businesses. According to the Triennial Central Bank Survey (BIS 2019), for instance, Hong Kong was the largest global offshore RMB foreign exchange market, with an average daily turnover of US$107.6 billion as of April 2019, considerably higher than the US$56.7 billion for London and the US$42.6 billion for Singapore.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Investment, Financial Development
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Hong Kong
  • Author: George S. Tavlas
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: During the fall of 2009, George Papandreou headed the ticket of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, known by its acronym PASOK, against the then‐​governing conservative party, New Democracy, in the Greek national elections. Papandreou ran on a platform that featured highly expansive fiscal spending. During a press conference on September 13, 2009, he was asked where he would find the money to fund his party’s spending proposals. His answer was that given in the above quotation, by which he meant that Greece had abundant fiscal space to increase government spending; he believed that tax revenues could be sharply raised through stricter enforcement of laws against tax evasion. On October 4, PASOK won a landslide electoral victory, garnering 43.9 percent of the popular vote, compared with 33.5 percent for the second‐​place, incumbent New Democracy party, with the result that Papandreou became Greece’s prime minister. In the following months, a sovereign‐​debt crisis erupted in Greece that, within a year, engulfed much of the euro area through contagion. In November 2011, Papandreou resigned the premiership, becoming the first Greek prime minister in almost 50 years to be forced out of office by his own cabinet. An article in the Financial Times, reporting on his ouster, stated: “George Papandreou will be remembered by Greeks with more than a trace of bitterness as the man who smilingly declared ‘the money’s there’ ” (Hope 2011). In the next Greek elections, held in June 2012, PASOK won only 12.3 percent of the vote.
  • Topic: Monetary Policy, Conservatism, Political Parties, Socialism
  • Political Geography: Europe, Greece
  • Author: John A. Allison
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Covid‐​19 pandemic greatly increased the scope and power of the Federal Reserve. The Fed created a number of new emergency lending facilities, which allowed it to make off‐​balance sheet loans and buy the debt of corporations and municipalities through special purpose vehicles backstopped by the Treasury under the CARES Act. Meanwhile, the Fed’s large‐​scale asset purchase program, known as quantitative easing (QE), was put on steroids after the pandemic struck in March 2020. The Fed has been purchasing longer‐​term Treasuries and mortgage‐​backed securities amounting to $120 billion per month, pushing the size of its balance sheet to an astonishing $7 trillion.
  • Topic: Economics, Monetary Policy, Federal Reserve, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Diego Zuluaga
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: When the Libra Association first announced its plan to launch a private digital currency for domestic and cross‐​border payments — then consisting of a single token backed by a mix of stable fiat currencies — financial inclusion was a big part of its business case. With 1.7 billion people globally lacking a bank or mobile money account, Libra thought it was imperative for some of the world’s largest companies, including the leading social media platform, to join forces and bring cheap payments to the world’s “unbanked.” And while this project has faced a rocky reception from central bankers and regulators — for reasons good and bad — even they often frame the case for their own, public digital currencies (CBDCs) in terms of bringing cheap and fast electronic payments to the greatest possible number of people, as cash use and cash acceptance decline.
  • Topic: Finance, Banks, Inclusion , Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Charles W. Calomiris
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: What we use as our medium of exchange is subject to dramatic change over time, and sometimes bank regulation has accelerated such changes. The national banking system, founded in 1863, envisioned the creation of a uniform medium of exchange in the form of national bank notes, which replaced the preexisting system of state bank note issuance. But the creation of the national banking system soon resulted in the diminished importance of bank notes as a medium of exchange. Under the new system, state banks faced a prohibitive tax of 10 percent per year on any notes they issued, and national banks had to maintain collateral at the Treasury for their outstanding national bank notes equal to 111 percent of their outstanding notes, and also had to maintain an additional 5 percent in required government‐​currency (“greenback”) cash reserves on hand. That meant that if a bank wanted to make loans, it had to find an alternative to bank notes as a funding source for those loans. Deposits had been growing in importance leading up to the National Banking Act of 1863, but the act accelerated the growth of deposits markedly, and they became the primary funding vehicle for loans. As Comptroller Eckels remarked in 1896: “And thus it has come about that deposit taking is now the feature, and the issuing of circulating notes but the incident, in national banking, instead of, as in the early history of the system, the note‐​issuing function being the feature and deposit banking but the incident” (Eckels 1896: 565; emphasis added).
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Finance, Banks, Loans
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Michael J. Casey
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: For all the upheaval of 2020, it’s perhaps not surprising that the 50‐​year anniversary of a major piece of financial legislation came and went with little fanfare. But the 1970 U.S. Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) deserves much scrutiny.1 In mandating that financial institutions maintain customer identity records and report illicit activity to government agencies, the BSA was a landmark statute by any measure. It paved the way to an ever‐​expanding system of international surveillance that’s a cornerstone of U.S. economic power.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Finance, Surveillance
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Dong He
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The globalized economy now moves at the speed of electrons — and the future of money is inexorably going digital, too. New forms of digital money, such as central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and so‐​called global stablecoins, are shaping the future of money and payments. CBDCs are a digital form of fiat currency issued by a central bank. Some central banks started exploring CBDCs a few years ago, and those explorations have gathered momentum since Facebook and its partners announced their intention to launch the Libra stablecoin in June 2019. Because the stablecoins issued by large technological companies or platforms (Big Techs) have the potential to be adopted by businesses and households everywhere, they are called “global stablecoins,” or GSCs, in shorthand.
  • Topic: Geopolitics, Global Political Economy, Money, Currency, Trade
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: David Andolfatto
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The literature examining the question of central bank digital currency (CBDC) has grown immensely in a very short time. Much progress has been made since I first learned of the idea in a blogpost authored by J. P. Koning in 2014. That modest article soon led me to openly speculate on the merits of a central bank cryptocurrency in a talk I delivered at the International Workshop on P2P Financial Systems in Frankfurt (Andolfatto 2015). My audience, which consisted mainly of entrepreneurs, seemed to receive my talk with a polite mixture of bemusement and anxiety. Surely, I couldn’t be serious? To be honest, I’m not sure that I was. But then the threat of Facebook’s Libra came along, and central bankers around the world suddenly began to take the idea very seriously indeed.
  • Topic: Finance, Social Media, Central Bank, Currency, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: George Selgin
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Various proposals for a central bank digital currency (CBDC) involve different technical solutions to as many distinct problems. My concern is with the monetary policy implications of those (e.g., Bordo and Levin 2019; Ricks 2020) that would allow anyone to place deposits in a Fed Master Account, directly or using ordinary banks as brokers.
  • Topic: Monetary Policy, Banks, Central Bank, Financial Stability, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jesús Fernández‐​Villaverde
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The monetary arrangements of societies are the result of the interplay of technology and ideas. Technology determines, for example, which coins can be minted and at what cost. For centuries, minting small‐​denomination coinage was too costly to induce Western European governments to supply enough small change (Sargent and Velde 2002). Only the arrival of steam‐​driven presses fixed this problem (Doty 1998). Simultaneously, ideas about private property and the scope of government determined whether private entrepreneurs were allowed to compete with governments in the supply of small change (Selgin 2008). Technology and ideas about money engage dialectically. Technological advances shape our ideas about money by making new monetary arrangements feasible. Ideas about desirable outcomes direct innovators to develop new technologies.
  • Topic: Economics, Science and Technology, Monetary Policy, Cryptocurrencies
  • Political Geography: Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Caitlin Long
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Stablecoins are financial obligations issued on a blockchain. They are generally fully collateralized with either fiat currency deposits at a bank, or with short‐​term government bonds held at a custodian. They’re issued only by nonbanks, although FINMA in Switzerland does allow Swiss banks to issue Swiss franc–denominated stablecoins. Usually stablecoins do not pay interest, and they are designed to trade at par with the fiat currency. Because they are issued on a blockchain, they usually settle in minutes, with irreversibility, and — critically — they are “programmable,” which means users can build their own software applications to interact with them.
  • Topic: Monetary Policy, Banks, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Martin Chorzempa
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Digital currency and fintech have been some of the most powerful forces for freedom and personal liberty in China for the past decade, but their future influence is uncertain. Starting as a disruptive force that gave Chinese unprecedented autonomy in their financial lives, connected either to global cryptocurrency networks or local tech ecosystems built by private firms, a new chapter is beginning. In this new era, one speech urging an emphasis on innovation instead of regulation can seemingly bring the full force of the Chinese state to bear onto a firm that once disrupted state banks with impunity. Technologies like blockchain first embraced by libertarians and cryptography enthusiasts as freeing money from dependence on the state look poised to become tools for governments to increase their ability to monitor and shape financial transactions. Meanwhile, disruptive fintech tools have become symbiotic with the major state banks, which will retain their role as the core of the financial system.
  • Topic: Economics, Science and Technology, Finance, Digital Currency , Transactions
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Alex Gladstein
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The future of currency is digital. The majority of transactions made every day are already electronic and controlled by banks or tech companies. These payments are easily surveillable, confiscatable, and censorable. Physical cash still functions as an essential savings mechanism and privacy tool for millions of people worldwide. With cash, individuals can buy goods and services or save without sharing their identity with a third‐​party merchant or custodian. But as banknotes fade from daily use, the future of financial freedom and privacy comes into serious jeopardy.
  • Topic: Finance, Privacy, Freedom, Digital Currency , Cash
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jill Carlson
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Possessions, or property, have been reiterated as a human right over the course of the centuries since Locke first wrote — enshrined in everything from the U.S. Declaration of Independence to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights (1948: 217, A III). Nevertheless, executives, judiciaries, legislative bodies, and central banks around the world have continually broken their social contract on this front: not only failing to defend the natural rights of possessions and property, but often actively harming individuals’ ability to hold value and to freely transfer and exchange assets. Access to a free, open, and functional financial system is a fundamental human right. One that is continuously violated by states and policymakers globally.
  • Topic: Economics, Finance, Money, Economic Rights
  • Political Geography: South America, Venezuela