Are Inflation Fears Justified?
In the near term, markets should not be too worried about a possible spike in demand driving up inflation and interest rates, causing asset prices to fall across the board. But longer-term inflation risks are skewed much more to the upside than many investors and policymakers seem to realize.
The Perils of an Uneven Global Recovery
Heightened global economic risks mean that many poorer countries could take years to return to their pre-pandemic growth trajectories. And if higher inflation leads the US Federal Reserve to raise rates somewhat sooner than it currently plans, emerging markets will be hit particularly hard.
A Fairer Way to Help Developing Economies Decarbonize
Global carbon pricing is an essential part of any long-term solution to the climate crisis. But advanced economies also need to provide the developing world with highly concessional financing and technical expertise to help it decarbonize – all guided by a World Carbon Bank.
Fast and Slow in “The Queen’s Gambit”
Super-fast computer programs and massive databases have had a profound impact on professional chess in recent years. But, despite the threat of cheating, the game is currently in remarkable creative and economic health – not least because it is fantastically suited to the online world.
The Infrastructure Spending Challenge
Macroeconomists broadly agree that productive infrastructure spending is welcome after a deep recession, especially when interest rates are at record lows. But in advanced economies, any new project typically requires navigating difficult right-of-way issues, environmental concerns, and objections from apprehensive citizens.
The Calm Before the Exchange-Rate Storm?
Core dollar exchange rates have so far been surprisingly stable during the pandemic, most likely because major central banks’ policy interest rates are effectively frozen at or near zero. But although the current stasis could last awhile, it will not last forever.
The Stock-Market Disconnect
The best explanation for why stock markets remain so bullish despite a massive recession is that major publicly traded companies have not borne the brunt of the pandemic's economic fallout. But having been spared by the virus, they could soon find themselves squarely in the sights of a populist backlash.
The Uncertainty Pandemic
Policymakers’ most important task is to try to reduce the massive lingering uncertainty regarding COVID-19 while continuing to provide emergency relief to the hardest-hit individuals and economic sectors. But the insecurity fueled by the pandemic is likely to weigh on the global economy long after the worst is in the past.
Will Universities Learn from Lockdowns?
The COVID-19 crisis is likely to bring about further rapid and far-reaching shifts in the economic ground beneath us. But we need not view these changes with dread if the pandemic also propels a transition to better and more universal higher education.
Deglobalization Will Hurt Growth Everywhere
Even if the United States turns a blind eye to deglobalization’s effects on the rest of the world, it should remember that the current abundant demand for dollar assets depends heavily on the vast trade and financial system that some American politicians aim to shrink. If deglobalization goes too far, no country will be spared.
The Case for Deeply Negative Interest Rates
Only monetary policy addresses credit throughout the economy. Until inflation and real interest rates rise from the grave, only a policy of effective deep negative interest rates, backed up by measures to prevent cash hoarding by financial firms, can do the job.
Mapping the COVID-19 Recession
Until there is a better sense of when and how the COVID-19 public-health crisis will be resolved, economists cannot even begin to predict the end of the recession that is now underway. Still, there is every reason to anticipate that this downturn will be far deeper and longer than that of 2008.
That 1970s Feeling
Policymakers and too many economic commentators fail to grasp how the next global recession may be unlike the last two. In contrast to recessions driven mainly by a demand shortfall, the challenge posed by a supply-side-driven downturn is that it can result in sharp drops in production, generalized shortages, and rapidly rising prices.
Fantasy Fiscal Policy
Many leading central bankers now argue that, instead of just playing its traditional role of deciding the allocation of government spending, investment, taxes, and transfers, fiscal policy must substitute for monetary policy in economic fine-tuning and fighting recession. That would be a big mistake.
The Inequality Debate We Need
The scientific evidence increasingly indicates that the world may soon reach a point of no return regarding climate change. So, rather than worrying almost exclusively about economic and political inequality, rich-country citizens need to start thinking about how to deal with global energy inequality before it’s too late.
How to Support Developing Countries in Energy Transition
Despite the severity of the climate-change crisis, much of the debate in advanced economies is entirely inward-looking, without recognizing that the real growth in carbon dioxide emissions is coming from emerging Asia. In fact, Asia already accounts for a higher share of global emissions than the United States and Europe combined.
The IMF After Argentina
It’s high time to ask how to refocus the International Monetary Fund’s mandate for dealing with emerging-market debt crises. How can the IMF be effective in helping countries regain access to private credit markets when any attempt to close unsustainable budget deficits is labeled austerity?
The Benefits of a Progressive Consumption Tax
Many economists already favor a consumption-based tax system for raising revenue on grounds of efficiency and simplicity. In an environment where wealth inequality is rising inexorably, the case for doing so has become increasingly compelling.
The Case for a World Carbon Bank
To the dismay of many energy experts, the World Bank recently rather capriciously decided to stop funding virtually all new fossil-fuel plants. But phasing out readily available coal is a move that most major developing countries simply cannot afford without adequate incentives.
As Populists Rise, Latin America’s Economies Will Fall
In the space of a year, populists with autocratic tendencies have taken office in Mexico and Brazil, and laid the groundwork to return to power in Argentina. With the three largest economies in Latin America destined for further mismanagement, the prospects for growth in the region are dim.
Elizabeth Warren’s Big Ideas on Big Tech
The debate about how to regulate the tech sector is eerily reminiscent of the debate over financial regulation in the early 2000s. Fortunately, one US politician has mustered the courage to call for a total rethink of America's exceptionally permissive merger and acquisition policy over the past four decades.
Modern Monetary Nonsense
A number of leading progressive US politicians advocate using the Federal Reserve's balance sheet to fund expansive new government programs. Although their arguments have a grain of truth, they also rest on some fundamental misconceptions, and could have unpredictable and potentially serious consequences.
Financial Stability in Abnormal Times
Despite improvements in the financial system since the 2008 crisis, the piecemeal reforms that have been enacted fall far short of what is needed. And an inexorably growing financial system, combined with an increasingly toxic political environment, means that the next major financial crisis may come sooner than you think.
Risks to the Global Economy in 2019
Over the course of this year and next, the biggest economic risks will emerge in those areas where investors think recent patterns are unlikely to change. They will include a growth recession in China, a rise in global long-term real interest rates, and a crescendo of populist economic policies.
Central Bankers’ Fiscal Constraints
With policy interest rates near zero in most advanced economies (and just above 2% even in the fast-growing US), there is little room for monetary policy to maneuver in a recession without considerable creativity. But those who think fiscal policy alone will save the day are stupefyingly naive.
Betting on Dystopia
The right way to think about cryptocurrency coins is as lottery tickets that pay off in a dystopian future where they are used in rogue and failed states, or perhaps in countries where citizens have already lost all semblance of privacy. That means that cryptocurrencies are not entirely worthless.
Crazy Rich Asia
With an unexpected hit on its hands, perhaps Hollywood will use more films like “Crazy Rich Asians” to illustrate key concepts about a region that is the biggest economic success story of the last several decades. There are many more stories about that story to be told.
A decade after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the start of the global financial crisis, it is clear that many lessons have been learned, while many economic misconceptions remain embedded in the public consciousness. If economic history teaches us anything, it is to be mindful of our own limitations in a world of infinite uncertainties.
The Regional Costs of Venezuela’s Collapse
The refugee crisis generated by the country's economic implosion is comparable to that in Europe in 2015. In response, US President Donald Trump has floated the idea of military intervention, when what the US should be doing is increasing financial and logistical aid to Venezuela's neighbors.
Are Trump’s Policies Hurting Long-Term US Growth?
When it comes to economic performance, US presidents have considerably more influence over long-term trends than over short-term fluctuations. And it is by this standard that Donald Trump's administration should be judged.
Are Emerging Markets the Canary in the Financial Coal Mine?
Economists who assure us that advanced-economy debt is completely “safe” sound eerily like those who touted the “Great Moderation” – the supposedly permanent reduction in cyclical volatility – a generation ago. In many cases, they are the same people.
Will China Really Supplant US Economic Hegemony?
As artificial intelligence reshapes the global economy, economists who once argued that China's massive population would propel it to superpower status should rethink that assumption. In fact, as the global economy reaches higher stages of development, China's labor advantage today could become a handicap tomorrow.
Economists vs. Scientists on Long-Term Growth
Artificial intelligence researchers and conventional economists may have very different views about the impact of new technologies. But right now, and forgetting the possibility of an existential battle between man and machine, it seems quite plausible to expect a significant pickup in productivity growth over the next five years.
When Will Tech Disrupt Higher Education?
Universities pride themselves on producing creative ideas that disrupt the rest of society, yet higher-education teaching techniques continue to evolve at a glacial pace. Given education’s centrality to raising productivity, shouldn’t efforts to reinvigorate today’s sclerotic Western economies focus on how to reinvent higher education?
The US Is Exporting Obesity
Left unchecked, rapidly rising obesity rates could slow or even reverse the dramatic gains in health and life expectancy that much of the world has enjoyed over the past few decades. And by forcing its food culture on countries like Mexico and Canada, the US is making the problem worse.
Donald Trump’s Federal Reserve
Jerome Powell, US President Donald Trump's pick to succeed Janet Yellen as Fed Chair, will face some extraordinary challenges at the outset of his five-year term. But the greatest challenge of all will be to stay out of Trump's shadow and uphold the Fed's independence.
The price of Bitcoin is up 600% over the past 12 months, and 1,600% in the past 24 months. But the long history of currency tells us that what the private sector innovates, the state eventually regulates and appropriates – and there is no reason to expect virtual currency to avoid a similar fate.
Trump’s 3% Growth for the 1%
Even if US President Donald Trump hits his growth targets in 2018 and 2019 – and he just might – only the stock market may be cheering. Policies that produced more broadly shared and environmentally sustainable growth would be far better than policies that perpetuate current distributional trends and exacerbate many Americans’ woes.
Protectionism Will Not Protect Jobs Anywhere
As US and European political leaders fret about the future of quality jobs, they would do well to look at the far bigger problems faced by developing Asia. There, the same angst that Americans and Europeans have about the future of employment is an order of magnitude higher.
Shaking Russia’s Weak Economic Hand
Despite the steep drop in oil prices that began in 2014, Russia has managed to escape a deep financial crisis. But while the economy is enjoying a modest rebound after two years of deep recession, the future no longer seems as promising as its leadership thought just five years ago.