Blog - Views on the Economy and the World

Views on the Economy and the World

A blog by Jeffrey Frankel

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:Views on the Economy and the World,” Views on the Economy and the World, https://www.belfercenter.org/publication/views-economy-and-world.

288 posts

Donald Trump has postponed until April the supposed deadline for a conclusion to China-US trade negotiations.  A good outcome for both sides would have China agree to better protect private property rights and to reduce the role of the state in its economy; the US agree to strengthen national saving and public investment; and both sides agree to reverse their recent tariff increases and the resulting shrinkage of international markets.  Unfortunately this deal is not likely to happen.

What does the US want?

US Democrats are moving to the left, we are told.  It is not yet clear that the median voter is in fact moving left, nor the median congressman who was elected last November.  But it is clear that many of the candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are experimenting with “bold new ideas”, or at least bold rhetorical formulations.  They are receiving what seems a disproportionate amount of attention for doing so.  Many of the policy proposals, if interpreted literally, are not entirely practical, either economically or politically. 

In Europe, twenty years ago this month, 11 long-standing national currencies disappeared and were replaced by the new single currency, the euro.  Since then, the euro has had its successes and failures.

Let us review the experience of the euro’s first two decades.  Where there were failures, to what extent were they the result of avoidable technical mistakes?  Of warnings not heeded?  Or were they the inevitable result of a determination to go ahead with monetary union in the absence of a political willingness to support fundamental changes necessary to make it work?

I realize that compiling a list of one’s own past forecasts is self-indulgent.  But perhaps there are readers who will indulge me too, as I run through six predictions that – it seems to me – were mostly proven right this past year.

When President George H.W. Bush was laid to rest earlier this month, the remembrances appropriately remarked on his general decency and competence.  In public commentary, the encomiums tend to be followed by a “but.”  For journalists and historians, it is “but he was only a one-term president.”  He lost the election of 1992, in part because of the recession of 1990-91.  For members of his own political party, the “but” is, “but he broke with the legacy of Ronald Reagan and with his own ‘no new taxes’ pledge.”  They have always blamed his failure to win re-election on that perceived betrayal.

But President Bush’s mistake was making the anti-tax pledge in 1988 in the first place and sticking to it in the first part of his presidency. The 1990 reversal on fiscal policy set the stage for a decade of economic growth that eventually achieved budget surpluses.

After NAFTA

| Oct. 12, 2018

Donald Trump thinks he once again pulled off a smashing victory on October 1, delivering on his oft-repeated campaign promise to terminate NAFTA, “the worst trade deal ever,“ and replace it with something much newer and better.  One is tempted to say to oneself, “Let him think that.”  The US-Mexico-Canada Agreement may not be an improvement over the status quo, but at least it is an improvement over the end to free trade in North America which he had threatened.