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  • Author: Weiying Zhang
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: History and casual observations suggest that ideas and leadership are the two most important forces in all institutional changes. However, they have been absent or downplayed in conventional economic analysis of institutional changes. Conventional economics has exclusively focused on the notion of “interest” in explaining almost everything, from consumers' choices to public choices to institutional changes. IN particular, institutional changes have been modeled as a game of interests between different groups (such as the ruling and the ruled), with the assumption that there is a well-defined mapping from interests into outcomes.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: China
  • Author: Randall G. Holcombe
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Political capitalism is an economic and political system in which the economic and political elite cooperate for their mutual benefit. The economic elite influence the government's economic policies to use regulation, government spending, and the design of the tax system to maintain their elite status in the economy. The political elite are then supported by the economic elite which helps the political elite maintain their status; an exchange relationship that benefits both the political and economic elite.
  • Topic: Economics, War
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Ryan H. Murphy
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Contemporary economic policy debates are dominated by concerns regarding the rise in inequality (Stiglitz 2012, Piketty 2014). Primarily, this has led to a focus in re-invigorating redistribution. For instance, Robert Shiller (2014) has recently argued for indexing top marginal tax rates to inequality and using the revenues to fund transfer payments. Secondarily, there are the longstanding objections to “neoliberalism” in general, which has encouraged globalization and the liberalization of markets. To the extent that liberal reforms have improved economic institutions, might today's inequality subsequently derail them?
  • Topic: Economics, Markets
  • 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: Rebecca U. Thorpe
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In The American Warfare State, Reecca Thrope attempts to answer what she calls “the fundamental puzzle” of American politics: “Why a nation founded on a severe distrust of standing armies and centralized power developed and maintained the most powerful military in history.”
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Geoffrey Black, D. Allan Dalton, Samia Islam, Aaron Batteen
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Over 50 years ago, in "The Problem of Social Cost," Ronald Coase (1960) attempted to reorient the economics profession's treatment of externalities. He wanted to draw economists' attention away from the world of pure competition as a policy standard and investigate the consequences of transaction costs and property rights for the operation of markets. In 1991, he was awarded the Nobel prize in economics "for his discovery and clarification of the significance of transaction costs and property rights for the institutional structure and functioning of the economy" (Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 1991). The Academy cited both his 1960 article and his 1937 article "The Nature of the Firm."
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: New York
  • Author: John Merrifield, Barry W. Poulson
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Economic downturns expose unsustainable fiscal practices. Widespread fiscal crises create opportunities to compare policy options that address especially adverse circumstances, especially progrowth fiscal constraints that can stabilize state budgets over the business cycle. Our policy option assessments depart from the normal practice of assessing rules and policies independently. Our premise is that the fiscal policy mix determines its outcomes. We include dynamic scoring to provide a richer view of the policy interactions.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: California
  • Author: George S. Tavlas
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This issue of the Cato Journal is dedicated to Anna Jacobson Schwartz, who passed away on June 21, 2012, at the age of 96. Anna was an economic historian whose scholarship was marked by, among other things, dedication, tenacity, and perseverance. Her career spanned three quarters of a century. When Anna was about 90, her son Jonathan complained (somewhat tongue-in-check) that he had thought about retiring, but did not feel comfortable doing so while his mother was still working. In 1936, she began collaborating with A. D. Gayer and W. W. Rostow on a study of fluctuations in the British economy between 1790 and 1850. The study was not published until 1953, although most of the work on the study had been completed by the early 1940s. Anna joined the National Bureau of Economic Research in 1941 and remained there for the rest of her life, continuing to go to her office until shortly before her death. She published her first NBER paper in 1947 with Elma Oliver, and her last with Michael Bordo and Owen Humpage in 2012. Her collaboration with Milton Friedman on A Monetary History of the United States, 1867–1960 began in 1948 and was not completed until 1963. The underlying objective of Anna's scholarship throughout her career was to use historical evidence, which she assembled with meticulous attention to accuracy, to understand the workings of the economy better.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Charles I. Plosser
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The last five years have been an extraordinary time for the global economy and monetary policymakers. The financial crisis and the severe global recession that followed have tested our resolve, our patience, and our economic theories. To restore the health of ailing financial markets and economies, central banks have driven shortterm interest rates to essentially zero, expanded their balance sheets to unprecedented levels, and engaged in market interventions that have blurred the lines between monetary policy and fiscal policy.
  • Topic: Economics, Health
  • Author: David Malpass
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This article describes the Federal Reserve's monetary policy, examines its economic impact, and discusses possible exits. Federal Reserve policy is on the wrong course: it is harming economic growth, hurting savers, damaging markets, setting dangerous precedents and misallocating capital away from job-creating parts of the economy. The Fed's September 2012 policy change, in which it announced a third round of quantitative easing (QE3), was a major increase in the aggressiveness of monetary policy and, in my view, another drag on economic growth.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Author: Robert L. Hertzel
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Any effort to avoid future recessions must rest on an organized way to learn from the past. However, the absence of such efforts within central banks renders such learning problematic and makes likely the recurrence of episodes of recession and financial market turmoil. Critical to learning is the use by policymakers of models to evaluate the past performance of monetary policy. These models should not be the complicated, multiequation models favored by the forecasting departments of central banks. Rather, they should be simple models that require policymakers to take a stand on the basic issues in monetary economics: the nature of the price level (monetary or real) and how well the price system works to maintain output at potential (full employment). They should serve as a safeguard to the understandable tendency of central bankers to attribute economic disturbances exclusively to real shocks rather than monetary shocks.
  • Topic: Economics
  • 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: Yukong Huang, Clare Lynch
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The last time a Chinese currency was used as an international medium of exchange was four centuries ago, when China's share of global GDP in PPP terms was nearly 30 percent (about twice its current level), the country was a major global trading power, and Chinese copper coins circulated throughout East Asia to India and even beyond (Horesh 2011). In the following centuries, silver dollars and paper bills replaced copper coins and China's share of external trade declined. Now, with China's return to the position of largest global trader and second-largest economy in the world, it is not surprising that discussion of internationalizing China's currency has resumed.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: China, East Asia
  • Author: Zhiwu Chen
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Since reforms started in 1978, China has made commendable progress in achieving capital freedom and individual liberty. Prior to 1978, private enterprises with more than eight employees were prohibited and there were no capital markets. Private entrepreneurs were labeled “Capitalist tails,” and political movements were launched frequently to “cut the capitalist tails.” For several decades, Chinese citizens could only obtain employment and economic means from government organizations and state-owned enterprises, which strictly limited individual liberty. Today there are more than 10 million privately owned enterprises, making up more than 80 percent of each year's employment growth. As a result of less regulation and more room for entrepreneurship, it is relatively easy to register and start a business. Public equity offering opportunities and bank financing are also increasingly available to private firms as well. Chinese, young and old, can choose among jobs provided by government organizations, SOEs, private businesses, and foreign-owned firms. As capital freedom has increased, the rise of the individual and liberty is one of the highlights achieved in China's development over the past 35 years.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: China
  • Author: Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The U.S. government has attempted for more than two decades to put a stop to unauthorized immigration from and through Mexico by implementing "enforcement-only" measures along the U.S.-Mexico border and at work sites across the country. These measures have failed to end unauthorized immigration and have placed downward pressure on wages in a broad swath of industries.
  • Topic: Economics, Immigration
  • Political Geography: United States, Mexico
  • Author: Anthony de Jasay
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Rational choice presupposes that people do what they like better than any available alternative. If, however, we mistrust what they declare to like or what psychology is supposed to tell us about it (a pardonable enough mistrust), we can only infer what they like from observing what they do. We must be content with revealed preference. The theory of choice is locked into the tautology of “they do what they like because they like what they do,” and requiring their preferences to be orderly and consistent is of little practical help. In its elegance, modern choice theory, as represented in neoclassical economics, is too smooth and slippery to be very useful.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Author: Leo Melamed
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The story is fairly well known. In 1971, as chairman of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, I had an idea: a futures market in foreign currency. It may sound so obvious today, but at the time the idea was revolutionary. I was acutely aware that futures markets until then were primarily the province of agriculture and—as many claimed—might not be applicable to instruments of finance. Not being an economist, the idea was in need of validation. There was only one person in the world that could satisfy this requisite for me. We went to Milton Friedman. We met for breakfast at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. By then he was already a living legend and I was quite nervous. I asked the great man not to laugh and to tell me whether the idea was “off the wall.” Upon hearing him emphatically respond that the idea was “wonderful,” I had the temerity to ask that he put his answer in writing. He agreed to write a feasibility paper on “The Need for Futures Markets in Currencies,” for the modest stipend of $7,500. It turned out to be a helluva trade.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: New York, Chicago
  • Author: J. Daniel Hammond
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Chicago School economists have come in for criticism since the financial crisis and so-called Great Recession began in 2007. Commentators have blamed recent problems on a laissez-faire faith in the efficacy of markets and simple rules for business-cycle policy—ideas associated with economics as taught and practiced at the University of Chicago. Events over the past four years, we are told, demonstrate the need for a restoration of Keynesian thinking about business cycles and activist government policies to keep markets from failing. However, there is another aspect of Chicago School economics that is commonly overlooked. This is the conviction that economists' understanding of the business cycle is meager in light of the knowledge necessary for activist countercyclical policy to be effective. From this comes the Chicago School concern that economists and policymakers not attempt to do something beyond their capability. Overreaching can make the problems worse.
  • Topic: Economics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Chicago
  • Author: Daniel Griswold
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Let me preface this review with a confession: As an advocate of free trade, I love to link the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariff bill with the Great Depression at every opportunity. More than 80 years after its passage, the bill still evokes negative feelings about protectionism. After reading Douglas Irwin's Peddling Protectionism: Smoot- Hawley and the Great Depression, I can see I need to curb my enthusiasm. Irwin does not defend the bill, far from it. He concludes that it failed to achieve its objectives and that it did, in an incremental way, make the Great Depression worse. But in the careful language of the professional economist and historian that he is, Irwin documents in rich and often colorful detail that the most infamous trade bill in American history had less impact than either its advocates or its opponents understood at the time or understand today. Even so, the story of Smoot-Hawley offers valuable lessons for today as our politicians seek to craft U.S. trade policy in the 21st century. Irwin is superbly qualified to write the definitive history of what was officially the Trade Act of 1930. A professor of economics at Dartmouth College, he has authored Against the Tide: An Intellectual History of Free Trade (1996), and Free Trade under Fire (3rd ed., 2009).
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Randall G. Holcombe, James D. Gwartney
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The freedom to enter into contracts and to direct the use of economic resources one owns are essential to the operation of a market economy. Allowing employees to form unions to bargain collectively over wages and employment conditions is consistent with economic freedom, and any government intervention preventing unionization would be a violation of economic freedom. Nevertheless, American labor law, especially since the 1930s, has altered the terms and conditions under which unions collectively bargain to heavily favor unions over the firms that hire union labor. Labor law has given unions the power to dictate to employees collective bargaining conditions, and has deprived employees of the right to bargain for themselves regarding their conditions of employment. While unions and economic freedom are conceptually compatible, labor law in the United States, and throughout the world, has restricted the freedom of contract between employees and employers.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Mark Calabria
  • Publication Date: 06-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Charles Rowley and Nathanael Smith have put together a brief, yet extensive, study comparing America's Great Depression and the recent financial crisis. Their focus is on both the economics and the politics behind these events. With both, they demonstrate how each was a failure of government, not of the market. The book concludes with several recommendations for addressing our nation's current economic and fiscal situation. The most original contribution of their work is in bringing a Public Choice framework to evaluating the financial crisis.
  • Topic: Economics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Judy Shelton
  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The International Monetary Fund has a wonderful heritage, a priceless legacy. It was created for the loftiest of economic purposes—to provide a stable monetary foundation to facilitate free trade and international capital flows—and to provide hope to a world beset by vicious and destructive war. Its architects, Harry Dexter White and John Maynard Keynes, surmounted personality clashes and political strains to carry out the mission that garnered their mutual respect: to establish optimal conditions for achieving world prosperity and world peace.
  • Topic: Economics, International Monetary Fund
  • Author: Luigi Zingales
  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: When it comes to “saving capitalism,” dealing with the “too big to fail” doctrine is a top priority. This doctrine has increasingly become the government policy on this issue, and it is probably the most dangerous policy for capitalism we can imagine. It under- mines capitalism in many ways: not only does it make the system less stable, but it also undermines the moral basis of capitalism. If you have a sector or a set of institutions where losses are socialized but where gains are privatized, then you destroy the economic and moral supremacy of capitalism. Either we deal with the perverse incentives created by this doctrine or we undermine the long-term sustainability of capitalism. So it is really important to think what we can do against this too-big-to-fail policy.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Author: Jeffrey A. Miron
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: At the end of September 2007, the U.S. economy had experienced 24 consecutive quarters of positive GDP growth, at an average annual rate of 2.73 percent. The S 500 Index stood at roughly 1,500, having rebounded over 600 points from its low point in 2003. Unemployment was below 5 percent, and inflation was low and stable.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Anna J. Schwartz
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: I begin by describing the factors that contributed to the financial market crisis of 2008. I end by proposing policies that could have prevented the baleful effects that produced the crisis.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Allan H. Meltzer
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: I am going to make several unrelated points, and then I am going to discuss how we got into this financial crisis and some needed changes to reduce the risk of future crises.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Donald L. Kohn
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: We are in the midst of a global financial crisis that is now weighing heavily on economies around the world. Although the outlook remains extremely uncertain, both the fragility of the financial system and the weakness in real activity seem likely to persist for a while. To promote maximum sustainable economic growth and price stability, the Federal Reserve has responded to this crisis by easing monetary policy markedly, and we have greatly expanded our liquidity facilities to keep credit flowing when private lenders have become reluctant or unable to do so. Other central banks have also cut policy rates significantly and expanded their lending. In addition, the federal government and governments around the world have taken extraordinary actions to strengthen financial systems to preserve the ability of households and businesses to borrow and spend.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Otmar Issing
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Beyond dealing with the immediate problems, any crisis raises questions of why and how we got there and what lessons should be drawn to avoid a repetition of past developments—without laying the ground for a new disaster. This line of inquiry also applies to the current crisis in financial markets. Even during the heaviest turbulence a discussion has started on obvious deficits in the system of regulation and supervision and on badly needed improvements. In this article, I concentrate on monetary policy but that does not mean regulatory measures are irrelevant in this context, quite the opposite.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Jeffrey M. Lacker
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The current financial crisis undoubtedly will inspire a great deal of research in the years ahead, and it may take some time before anything like a professional consensus emerges on causes and consequences. After all, it took several decades to document the causes of the Great Depression, and recent research continues to provide new perspectives. Nonetheless, I believe the central questions that are likely to occupy researchers are plainly in view, and some tentative lessons have emerged already. And in any event, legislators are not likely to await the fruits of future scholarship.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Charles W. Calomiris
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Financial innovations often respond to regulation by sidestepping regulatory restrictions that would otherwise limit activities in which people wish to engage. Securitization of loans (e.g., credit card receivables, or subprime residential mortgages) is often portrayed, correctly, as having arisen in part as a means of “arbitraging” regulatory capital requirements by booking assets off the balance sheets of regulated banks. Originators of the loans were able to maintain lower equity capital against those loans than they otherwise would have needed to maintain if the loans had been placed on their balance sheet.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Bert Ely
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The current global financial crisis is the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with no end in sight. Already, much political finger pointing has occurred, with most of those fingers pointed at supposedly greedy bankers, investors, and hedge-fund managers as well as the financial deregulation of recent decades. Governments everywhere are rushing to enact new regulatory protections to pre- vent another crisis of this magnitude. Yet if history is any guide, these new regulations will set up the global economy for yet another financial crisis, perhaps worse than the present one, or create regulatory straitjackets that will greatly impede economic growth.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Lawrence H. White
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The U.S. housing bubble and the fallout from its bursting are not the results of a laissez-faire monetary and financial system. They happened in an unanchored government fiat monetary system with a restricted financial system.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Wolfgang Münchau
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Should we worry about moral hazard while the house is burning? The discussion about economic policy is full of biblical metaphors, the language of water and floods, and of fire extinction during crises. Metaphors, even when not mixed, are often obstacles to the clarity of thought. That is clearly the case with the metaphor of moral hazard in trying to understand the current financial crisis. Instead of focusing on moral hazard, I prefer to use the concept of policy sustainability to argue that sustainable monetary, fiscal, and regulatory policies are essential for lasting prosperity.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Andrew A. Samwick
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Cato Institute is the ideal place to draw lessons from the sub- prime crisis. The organization's mission focuses on the interaction of public policies with free markets and limited government. Even the most ardent believer in free markets must fully understand that individual liberty implies neither the nonexistence nor the indifference of government to economic affairs. Individuals live in freedom and peace when public policies are crafted in accordance with well-established rules and implemented with an eye toward effectiveness, not expansion. In the halls of government, we need sobriety and vigilance rather than apathy or empire building.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Kevin Dowd
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: There is no denying that the current financial crisis has delivered a major seismic shock to the policy landscape. In country after country, we see governments panicked into knee-jerk responses and throwing their policy manuals overboard: bailouts and nationalizations on an unprecedented scale, fiscal prudence thrown to the winds, and the return of no-holds-barred Keynesianism. Lurid stories of the excesses of “free” competition—of greedy bankers walking away with hundreds of millions whilst taxpayers bail their institutions out, of competitive pressure to pay stratospheric bonuses and the like—are grist to the mill of those who tell us that “free markets have failed” and that what we need now is bigger government. To quote just one writer out of many others saying much the same, “the pendulum will swing—and should swing—towards an enhanced role for government in saving the market system from its excesses and inadequacies” (Summers 2008). Free markets have been tried and failed, so the argument goes, now we need more regulation and more active macroeconomic management.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • 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: Roger W. Garrison
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In the era that has come to be known as the “Great Moderation” (dating from the mid-1980s), the Federal Reserve's policy committee (the Federal Open Market Committee or FOMC) pursued what has to be called a “learning-by-doing” strategy. The data that counted as relevant feedback—the unemployment rate and the inflation rate—seemed all along to be suggesting that the Fed was doing the right things. Even when the Fed lowered the Fed funds target to 1 per- cent in June 2003 and held it there for nearly a year, the economy appeared to be on an even keel and U.S. interest rates were in line with those in other countries. The historically low interest rates were attributed not to excessive monetary ease in the United States but to a worldwide increase in savings.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: William Poole
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Most of the world today is concentrating not on the way forward after the crisis, but the way out of the crisis. This concentration brings the very real danger that steps taken now will cause problems later. The most obvious danger, perhaps, is that enormous government spending, here and abroad, will increase outstanding debt to a degree that will increase temptation to attempt to finance government budget deficits through inflation. Moral hazard is the less obvious, but perhaps more serious, problem we will face.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Christopher J. Coyne
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Christopher Coyne's book seeks to contribute to an understanding of the “precise mechanisms and contexts that contribute to or prevent” successful efforts to “export liberal democracy” by means of “military occupation and reconstruction” (p. 7). Even if this were the only accomplishment of this fine book, it would represent one of the most important contributions to the field of political economy in recent decades. However, Coyne does more. He draws from economics to produce a full-fledged framework for analyzing the economic, political, and social effects of all reconstruction efforts. He also questions the long-standing view that reconstruction requires, or even benefits from, a suspension of the principles of liberty, free association, and free market.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Robert L. Bradley Jr.
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Robert L. Bradley Jr., for many years had to balance loyalty to his employer, Enron, with his belief in Austrian economics. With the collapse of Enron came the opportunity to resolve the conflict in favor of Austrian economics. Bradley chose to undertake the slow development that would produce a definitive study rather than an instant bestseller. He ultimately decided to produce a three-volume treatment. The first of these, the book under review here, deals with two overriding conceptual issues relevant to the Enron collapse and their implications to Enron and earlier debacles. The first is what is the essence of free-market economics and whether the Enron experience undermines the case for free markets. The other is the invalidity of resource pessimism. Later volumes will deal with similar problems such as the Insull holding-company collapse in the Great Depression and then a concluding volume on Enron itself.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Tony Leon
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: On the Contrary is a seamless combination of a memoir of an influential South African politician and a well-researched modern history of his country. The author was the leader of the liberal Democratic Alliance, the leader of the opposition in Parliament.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States, South Africa
  • Author: Meir Kohn
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The most basic challenge for economics is to understand the nature and causes of economic progress. But what exactly is to be explained? What are the facts? One very striking fact is historical—the rapid acceleration in the rate of economic progress since the early 1800s. Another is geographical—the huge differences in levels of economic progress in different parts of the world today. The questions virtually ask themselves. Why did economic progress accelerate? Why is it not universal? On the whole, these two questions have been addressed by two different specialized fields within economics. Economic history has addressed the question of change over time, and development economics has addressed the question of contemporary differences across countries.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: England
  • Author: Meir Kohn
  • Publication Date: 10-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The most basic challenge for economics is to understand the nature and causes of economic progress. But what exactly is to be explained? What are the facts? One very striking fact is historical—the rapid acceleration in the rate of economic progress since the early 1800s. Another is geographical—the huge differences in levels of economic progress in different parts of the world today. The questions virtually ask themselves. Why did economic progress accelerate? Why is it not universal? On the whole, these two questions have been addressed by two different specialized fields within economics. Economic history has addressed the question of change over time, and development economics has addressed the question of contemporary differences across countries.
  • Topic: Economics, War
  • Political Geography: England
  • Author: Ali Al-Sadig
  • Publication Date: 10-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The surge in foreign direct investment (FDI) flows during the 1990s has motivated a host of recent studies into their determinants. Recently, the level of corruption in the host country has been introduced as one factor among the determinants of FDI location. From a theoretical viewpoint, corruption—that is, paying bribes to corrupt government bureaucrats to get “favors” such as permits, investment licenses, tax assessments, and police protection—is generally viewed as an additional cost of doing business or a tax on profits. As a result, corruption can be expected to decrease the expected profitability of investment projects. Investors will therefore take the level of corruption in a host country into account in making decisions to invest abroad.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • 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
  • Author: Deepak Lal
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In explaining the acceleration in Indian growth, and to judge if an Indian economic miracle is on its way, it is first necessary to establish when this acceleration began, as this is still subject to controversy. Second it is necessary to identify the sources of this acceleration and to see to what extent these are the results of policy. Third, to provide some reading of the tea leaves until 2030, it is necessary to outline the current constraints on growth. But before that, the current change in Indian economic fortunes needs to be put into historical perspective. This is done in the first part of this article, followed by the next three parts, which deal with the other three broad themes outlined above. As this article is in honor of Angus Maddison, I rely wherever possible on the growth accounting method that he has made so much his own.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: India, Asia
  • Author: Abdoul' Ganiou Mijiyawa
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In 1965, the growth rate of per capita GDP in Niger and Nigeria was 2.1 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively, and 2.9 percent in Botswana. From 1966 to 1969, however, Niger and Nigeria recorded a negative growth rate, while Botswana continued to experience a positive growth rate over the same period. In 1990, the growth rate of per capita GDP was 1 percent in Ghana and 5.2 percent in Nigeria. Yet, from 1991 to 1994, the growth rate was negative in Nigeria and positive in Ghana. Why does the trajectory of economic growth episodes differ among countries? In other words, why is economic growth more sustainable in some countries than in others?
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Nigeria, Ghana
  • Author: Kurt Schuler
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Swiss franc is the world's best-performing currency over the last century: it has lost only about 87 percent of its value in terms of gold, compared to 97 percent for the U.S. dollar and more than 99 percent for almost all other currencies. Switzerland's avoidance of wars, which is part policy and part lucky geography, has contributed to the relative stability of the franc. So have the conservative financial habits of its citizens, which have been reflected in the country's generally prudent government finances. But some credit undoubtedly belongs to the central bank, the Swiss National Bank. It has consistently pursued monetary policies that have produced low inflation, and has made few consequential errors since it was established in 1907. Its experience therefore should be of interest far beyond the borders of Switzerland. This centennial volume, by a constellation of 40 Swiss and foreign authors, is a history and an examination of issues in monetary policy the central bank has faced. It is typically Swiss in its occasionally ponderous thoroughness, pleasing design, and high quality.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: France, Switzerland
  • Author: Ike Brannon
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: When it comes to social policy, inertia can be a bitch. While the sentiment may not seem all that profound, its gradual realization by economists and policymakers is beginning to have an impact on public policy. It has already wreaked havoc within the economics discipline.
  • Topic: Economics, Health
  • Author: Douglas A. Houston
  • Publication Date: 09-2007
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Many in the world of developmental economics believe that corruption, the circumvention of the rule of law for private gain, leads to nothing but woe for any nation's economy, under any circumstances. Transparency International makes the elimination of corruption their mission, and many large multinational firms today echo that goal by building ethical codes that prohibit employees from engaging in practices deemed corrupt, regardless of local attitudes and customs toward the practices. The World Bank makes curbing corruption a linchpin in their campaign to improve governance. Reasons given for blanket condemnation of corrupt behavior are often utilitarian: Corruption is expected to increase the economic costs of doing business by undermining the laws of the land; this, in turn, reduces productive activities and investments, with negative consequences unfolding for human development and economic growth.
  • Topic: Corruption, Economics, Government