Blog - Views on the Economy and the World

Views on the Economy and the World

A blog by Jeffrey Frankel

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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.

10 posts

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Inequality has been on the rise within the United States and other advanced countries since the 1980s and especially since the turn of the century.  The possibility that trade is responsible for the widening gap between the rich and the rest of the population has of course become a major political preoccupation

As the G-7 Leaders gather in Ise-Shima, Japan, on May 26-27, the still fragile global economy is on their minds.  They would like a road map to address stagnant growth. Their approach should be to talk less about currency wars and more about fiscal policy.Fiscal policy vs. monetary policyUnder the conditions that have prevailed in most major countries over the last ten years, we have reason to think that fiscal policy is a more powerful tool for affecting the level of economic activity, as compared to monetary policy.

U.S. federal courts have ruled that Argentina is prohibited from making payments to fulfill 2005 and 2010 agreements with its creditors to restructure its debt, so long as it is not also paying a few creditors that have all along been holdouts from those agreements.  The judgment is likely to stick, because the judge (Thomas Griesa, in New York) told American banks on June 27 that it would be illegal for them to transfer Argentina’s payments to the 92 per cent of creditors who agreed to be restructured and because the US Supreme Court in June declined to review the lower court rulings.

Cuba: A Trip Back to 1959

| Nov. 25, 2012

I recently visited Cuba for the first time, to participate in scholarly meetings.  For an American citizen this short voyage requires a leap through hyperspace.   It was my third attempt over ten years to get there.  Obstacles had included both the US government and the Cuban government.This was a trip back in time, to 1959.   For one thing, a majority of the (few) autos on the street in Havana are large American cars from the 1950s.  Most are beautiful.   One hears about the cars, but I had thought the reports must be exaggerated.

Emerging markets have performed amazingly well over the last seven years. They have outperformed the advanced industrialized countries in terms of economic growth, debt-to-GDP ratios, and countercyclical fiscal policy.  Many now receive better assessments by rating agencies and financial markets than some of the advanced economies.As 2012 begins, however, emerging markets may be due for a correction, triggered by a new wave of “risk off” behavior among investors. Will China experience a hard landing? Will a decline in commodity prices hit Latin America? Will the sovereign-debt woes of the European periphery spread to neighbors such as Turkey in a new “Aegean crisis”?Engorged by large capital inflows, some emerging market countries were in an overheated state a year ago.

In 2008, the global financial system was grievously infected by so-called toxic assets originating in the United States. As a result of the crisis, many have asked what fundamental rethinking will be necessary to save macroeconomic theory. Some answers may lie with models that have in the past been applied to fit the realities of emerging markets — models that are at home with the financial market imperfections that have now unexpectedly turned up in industrialized countries. The imperfections include default risk, asymmetric information, incentive incompatibility, procyclicality of capital flows, procyclicality of fiscal policy, imperfect property rights, and other flawed institutions.

During much of the last decade, U.S. fiscal policy has been procyclical, that is, destabilizing.   We wasted the opportunity of the 2003-07 expansion by running large budget deficits.   As a result, in 2010, Washington now feels constrained by inherited debts to withdraw fiscal stimulus at a time when unemployment is still high.   Fiscal policy in the UK and other European countries has been even more destabilizing over the last decade.  Governments decide to expand when the economy is strong and then contract when it is weak, thereby exacerbating the business cycle.

         My last blog post listed some policies and institutions with which various small countries around the world have had success — innovations that might be worthy of emulation by others.  Of course there are plenty of other examples of policies and institutions that have been tried and that are to be avoided.    The area of agricultural policy is rife with them.   Many start with a confused invoking of the need for “food security.”           The recent run-up in wheat prices is a good example.

     Two decades ago, many thought the lesson of the 1980s had been that Japan’s variant of capitalism was the best model, that other countries around the world should and would follow it.   The Japanese model quickly lost its luster in the 1990s.        One decade ago, many thought that the lesson of the 1990s had been that the US variant of capitalism was the best model, that other countries should and would follow.   The American model in turn lost its attractiveness in the decade of the 2000s.

Nicholas Kristof’s column in the New York Times today, “Better Roses than Cocaine,” says it all.   There is no good reason for the US Congress to continue to hold up the free trade agreement that the Administration has negotiated with Colombia.    Free trade with Colombia can’t have anything to do with loss of US jobs:   Colombia’s exports already enter the US duty-free.   Rather, the Free Trade Agreement would reduce remaining Colombian barriers to imports from the US.