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  • 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: 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: 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: Edmund S. Phelps
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In his most recent tome, Edmund Phelps, the 2006 Nobel Laureate in Economic Science, addresses a topic crucial to successful national capitalist systems: the dynamics of the innovation process. Phelps develops his thesis around three main themes: In part one, he explains the development of the modern economies as they form the core of early—19th century societies in the West; in part two, he explores the lure of socialism and corporatism as competing systems to modern capitalism; and, in part three, he reviews post-1960s evidence of decline in dynamism in Western capitalist countries.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe
  • Author: Harris Dellas
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The entry of Greece into the euro zone in 2001 was widely expected to mark a transformation in the country's economic destiny. During the decade of the 1980s, and for much of the 1990s, the economy had been saddled with double-digit inflation rates, double-digit fiscal deficits (as a percentage of GDP), large current-account imbalances, very low growth rates, and a series of exchange rate crises. Adoption of the euro—the value of which was underpinned by the monetary policy of the European Central Bank (ECB)—was expected to produce a low-inflation environment, contributing to lower nominal interest rates and longer economic horizons, thereby encouraging private investment and economic growth. The elimination of nominal exchange-rate fluctuations among the former currencies of members of the euro zone was expected to reduce exchange rate uncertainty and risk premia, lowering the costs of servicing the public sector debt, facilitating fiscal adjustment, and freeing resources for other uses.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Wolfgang Munchau
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: It was one of the author's predictions in 1998 that the euro zone would end up teaching us more about economics compared to what economics could teach us about the euro zone. While many of the author's predictions of that year did not hold, including the forecast that the euro would challenge the dollar as the world's foremost reserve currency, this particular prediction ultimately turned out to be correct. A monetary union is a hybrid between a fixed exchange rate system and a unitary state, one that is fully captured neither with closed-economy macro models nor classical international macro models of fixed exchange rates.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr.
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: We remain in an economic crisis and financial crisis, one that Gary Gorton has named “The Panic of 2007” (Gorton 2008). The thesis of this article is that monetary policy has played a pivotal role. Under Alan Greenspan and now Ben Bernanke, the Fed has conducted monetary policy so as to foster moral hazard among investors, notably in housing (O'Driscoll 2008a). More generally, the crisis is the product of a “perfect storm” of misguided policy. Policies to encourage affordable housing fostered the growth of subprime lending and complex financial products to finance that lending. Regardless of the desirability of the social goal, the financial super- structure depended on housing prices never falling. Housing prices do fall sometimes, and did so decisively beginning in 2007 (Gorton 2008: 50).
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, New Zealand
  • Author: Andrei Illarionov
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: One day I asked Milton Friedman a question. That question was in my mind every time we met: “Could he have achieved the same status he did in America if he had lived in Russia—not only in terms of his research, but in shaping his outlook on life and in his under-standing of freedom?” Having kept silent for a moment, he answered: “no.”
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, America, Europe, Asia