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  • Author: Fredrik Erixon, Bjorn Weigel
  • Publication Date: 10-2016
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The great value of innovation is not merely in invention but rather diffusion and adaptation. And real innovation requires an economy that runs on the culture of experimentation and is open to innovators and entrepreneurs contesting markets—challenging incumbents to such a degree that it redefines the market (like Apple’s iPhone did with the handset market in 2007). In the past decades, however, these forces of diffusion and adaptation simply have not been powerful enough; in fact, legislators have acted to shield incumbent businesses from them. Now the existential challenge that capitalism faces is the growing resistance to innovation.
  • Topic: Economics, Political Economy, Digital Economy
  • Political Geography: America, Global Markets
  • Author: Mark A. Calabria
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: There was perhaps no issue of greater importance to the financial regulatory reforms of 2010 than the resolution, without taxpayer assistance, of large financial institutions. The rescue of firms such as AIG shocked the public conscience and provided the political force behind the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act. Such is reflected in the fact that Titles I and II of Dodd-Frank relate to the identification and resolution of large financial entities. How the tools established in Titles I and II are implemented are paramount to the success of Dodd-Frank. This paper attempts to gauge the likely success of these tools via the lens of similar tools created for the resolution of the housing government sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Financial Crisis, Reform
  • Author: Mark A. Calabria, Michael Krimminger
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Not long ago a colleague of mine, who works regularly with legislators, attended a conference at which the lunch speaker, a famous economist, began by telling everyone why governments regulate financial institutions. The reasons the economist gave consisted of various (supposed) financial - market failures. Said the colleague to me later: “I just wanted to stand up and shout, 'That's got nothing to do with it!'”
  • Topic: Economics
  • Author: Robert P. Murphy, Patrick J. Michaels, Paul "Chip" Knappenberger
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: A vigorous campaign aimed at American policymakers and the general public has tried to create the perception that a federal carbon tax (or similar type of “carbon price”) is a crucial element in the urgently needed response to climate change. Within conservative and libertarian circles, a small but vocal group of academics, analysts, and political officials are claiming that a revenue-neutral carbon tax swap could even deliver a “double dividend” — meaning that the conventional economy would be spurred in addition to any climate benefits. The present study details several serious problems with these claims. The actual economics of climate change — as summarized in the peer-reviewed literature as well as the U.N. and Obama Administration reports — reveal that the case for a U.S. carbon tax is weaker than the public has been told.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Economics, Energy Policy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Julio Garin, Robert Lester, Eric Sims
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This paper evaluates the welfare properties of nominal GDP targeting in the context of a New Keynesian model with both price and wage rigidity. In particular, we compare nominal GDP targeting to inflation and output gap targeting as well as to a conventional Taylor rule. These comparisons are made on the basis of welfare losses relative to a hypothetical equilibrium with flexible prices and wages. Output gap targeting is the most desirable of the rules under consideration, but nominal GDP targeting performs almost as well. Nominal GDP targeting is associated with smaller welfare losses than a Taylor rule and significantly outperforms inflation targeting. Relative to inflation targeting and a Taylor rule, nominal GDP targeting performs best conditional on supply shocks and when wages are sticky relative to prices. Nominal GDP targeting may outperform output gap targeting if the gap is observed with noise, and has more desirable properties related to equilibrium determinacy than does gap targeting.
  • Topic: Economics, Human Welfare, Markets, GDP
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Joshua R. Hendrickson, David Beckworth
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Over the last few years, the Federal Reserve has conducted a series of large scale asset purchases. Given the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate, the objective of this policy has been to generate an increase in real economic activity while maintaining a low, stable rate of inflation. The effectiveness of large scale asset purchases and the ability of the central bank to achieve a particular target has been subject to debate. The monetary transmission mechanism is of primary importance for understanding the effects of both the recent large scale asset purchases and of monetary policy more generally. The purpose of this paper is to propose a monetary transmission mechanism and to present empirical support for this mechanism. In particular, this paper suggests that monetary policy is transmitted through changes in the growth rate of transaction assets through both a direct and indirect effect. First, an increase in the growth rate of the monetary base, whether through lump sum transfers or open market operations, generates a real balance effect that increases real economic activity. Second, the indirect effect is through bank lending. Since bank loans are often a function of nominal income, expansionary monetary policy increases bank lending. Since economics agents are forward-looking and the the effects of monetary policy are persistent, monetary policy is transmitted through the expected future time path of the growth of transaction assets and nominal income. This characteristic is especially important in light of the policy recommendations of Sumner (2011, 2012) and Woodford (2012), in which the central bank attaches an explicit target for the level of nominal income to large-scale asset purchases.1
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Monetary Policy, Federal Reserve
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Therese M. Vaughan, Mark A. Calabria
  • Publication Date: 05-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: International activity related to the regulation and supervision of financial services has exploded since the global financial crisis. The crisis exposed weaknesses in the structure for regulating internationally active banks, and motivated a number of work streams aimed at strengthening standards (most notably, significant revisions to the Basel capital standard for internationally active banks, now known as Basel III). The insurance sector was also stressed by the meltdown in financial markets that occurred in 2007-2008, albeit far less than the banking sector, and, with the exception of AIG, it is generally recognized that insurers played little role in the financial crisis, and that traditional insurance activities do not pose a systemic risk to the financial system.1,2 Nonetheless, the insurance sector has also been targeted for a new stream of regulatory initiatives at the international level. The most important organizations with respect to these activities are the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) and the Financial Stability Board (FSB), both based in Basel, Switzerland. The purpose of this paper is to review these developments and to highlight potential concerns for U.S. insurance markets.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Mark Schneider, Neelanjan Sircar
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The literature on decentralized public programs suggests that errors in the targeting of anti-poverty programs are rooted in the capture of these programs by local elites or local politicians. Consistent with the literature on moral economy in political science and experimental economics, we argue that voters in contexts of rural poverty prefer local leaders who target subsistence benefits to the poor. In a high information village context, where voters and leaders know each other, we argue that local elections lead to the selection of local leaders with pro-poor preferences over the distribution of these benefits. We show this with a novel theory of local politicians’ social preferences. We test our theory with unique data from a behavioral measure, conducted in the context of a lottery with a modest cash prize in rural India, that captures a scenario in which local leaders have full discretion and anonymity over allocation among members of their rural communities. We analyze our data using a novel estimation strategy that takes the characteristics of the pool of potential beneficiaries into account in decisions over allocation under a budget constraint. We find that local leaders have strong preferences for targeting the poor, and particularly those they believe supported them politically in the past. This article suggests that free and fair elections at the local level can powerfully encourage pro-poor targeting even in contexts of weak institutions and pervasive poverty. It also makes a fundamental contribution to research on distributive politics by challenging research in this area to demonstrate the effect of electoral strategies and other distortions on allocation relative to local leaders’ baseline distributive preferences.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, Politics, Political Theory, Elections
  • Political Geography: India
  • 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: Alex Nowrasteh
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The fiscal impact of immigration-how immigrants and their descendants affect government budgets-is a widely debated and contentious issue. Economists overwhelmingly accept the economic gains of immigration, but are less certain about immigrants' impact on government budgets. Contention over this issue is fueled by the numerous methodologies and complexity of analysis that obscure the fiscal costs of immigration.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Economics, Immigration, Governance, Budget
  • Author: Alex Nowrasteh
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The fiscal impact of immigration—how immigrants and their descendants affect government budgets—is a widely debated and contentious issue. Economists overwhelmingly accept the economic gains of immigration, but are less certain about immigrants' impact on government budgets. Contention over this issue is fueled by the numerous methodologies and complexity of analysis that obscure the fiscal costs of immigration.
  • Topic: Demographics, Economics, Immigration, Budget
  • Author: Benjamin Powell, Alex Nowrasteh, J. R. Clark, Robert A. Lawson, Ryan H. Murphy
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The economics literature generally finds a positive, but small, gain in income to native-born populations from immigrants and potentially large gains in world incomes. But immigrants can also impact a recipient nation's institutions. A growing empirical literature supports the importance of strong private property rights, a rule of law, and an environment of economic freedom for promoting long run prosperity. Although the literature on the impact of economic freedom on various social and economic outcomes is quite large, comparatively little work has tried to explain economic freedom as a dependent variable. This paper empirically examines how immigration impacts a region's policies and institutions. We find small but positive increases in institutional quality as a result of immigration.
  • Topic: Economics, Human Welfare, International Trade and Finance, Immigration
  • 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: Leighton Ku, Brian Bruen
  • Publication Date: 02-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Claims are sometimes made that immigrants use public benefits, such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs, more often than those who are born in the United States. This report provides analyses, using the most recent data from the Census Bureau, that counter these claims. In reality, low-income non-citizen immigrants, including adults and children, are generally less likely to receive public benefits than those who are native-born. Moreover, when non-citizen immigrants receive benefits, the value of benefits they receive is usually lower than the value of benefits received by those born in the United States. The combination of lower average utilization and smaller average benefits indicates that the overall cost of public benefits is substantially less for low-income non-citizen immigrants than for comparable native-born adults and children. The report also explains that the lower use of public benefits by non-citizen immigrants is not surprising, since federal rules restrict immigrants' eligibility for these public benefit programs.
  • Topic: Economics, Health, Humanitarian Aid, Markets, Immigration
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: William F. Shughart II, Diana W. Thomas
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: During his presidential campaign, Sen. Barack Obama criticized sharply the lax anti-trust law enforcement record of the George W. Bush administration. Subsequently, his first assistant attorney general for antitrust even went so far as to suggest that the Great Recession was, at least in part, caused by federal antitrust policy failures during the previous eight years. This paper sets out to investigate how and in what ways antitrust enforcement has changed since President Obama took office in 2009. We review four recent antitrust cases and the behavioral remedies that were imposed on the defendants in those matters in detail. We find that the Obama administration has been significantly more active in enforcing the antitrust laws with respect to proposed mergers than his two predecessors in the White House had been. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission, together with the Department of Justice, withdrew a thoughtful report on the enforcement of Section 2 of the Sherman Act and issued new merger guidelines and a new merger policy remedy guide, all of which have moved antitrust law enforcement away from traditional structural remedies in favor of very intrusive behavioral remedies in an unprecedented fashion. That policy shift has further transformed antitrust law enforcers into regulatory agencies, a mission for which they are not well-suited, resulting in the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission being more vulnerable to rent seeking.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Governance, Law Enforcement
  • Author: Brink Lindsey
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: For over a century, the trend line for the long-term growth of the U.S. economy has held remarkably steady. Notwithstanding huge changes over time in economic, social, and political conditions, growth in real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has fluctuated fairly closely around an average annual rate of approximately 2 percent. Looking ahead, however, there are strong reasons for doubting that this historic norm can be maintained.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Financial Crisis, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • 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: Michael Tanner
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Opponents of allowing younger workers to privately invest a portion of their Social Security taxes through personal accounts have long pointed to the supposed riskiness of private investment. The volatility of private capital markets over the past several years, and especially recent declines in the stock market, have seemed to bolster their argument.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Mark Wilson
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The federal government has imposed a minimum wage since 1938, and nearly all the states impose their own minimum wages. These laws prevent employers from paying wages below a mandated level. While the aim is to help workers, decades of economic research show that minimum wages usually end up harming workers and the broader economy. Minimum wages particularly stifle job opportunities for low-skill workers, youth, and minorities, which are the groups that policymakers are often trying to help with these policies.
  • Topic: Economics, Labor Issues, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Randal O'Toole
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Streetcars are the latest urban planning fad, stimulated partly by the Obama administration's preference for funding transportation projects that promote "livability" (meaning living without automobiles) rather than mobility or cost-effective transportation. Toward that end, the administration wants to eliminate cost-effectiveness requirements for federal transportation grants, instead allowing non-cost-effective grants for projects promoting so-called livability. In anticipation of this change, numerous cities are preparing to apply for federal funds to build streetcar lines.
  • Topic: Economics, Environment, Government, Political Economy, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Thomas L. Hogan
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Privately issued money can benefit consumers in many ways, particularly in the areas of value stability and product variety. Decentralized currency production can benefit consumers by reducing inflation and increasing economic stability. Unlike a central bank, competing private banks must attract customers by providing innovative products, restricting the quantity of notes issued, and limiting the riskiness of their investing activities. Although the Federal Reserve currently has a de facto monopoly on the provision of currency in the United States, this was not always the case. Throughout most of U.S. history, private banks issued their own banknotes as currency. This practice continues today in a few countries and could be reinstituted in the United States with minimal changes to the banking system.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Morris A. Davis
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: For decades U.S. housing policy has focused on promoting homeownership. In this study, I show that the set of policies designed to further homeownership has been ineffective and expensive and that homeownership as a public policy goal is not well supported.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets, Urbanization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Randal O'Toole
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Although gasoline taxes have long been the main source of funding for building, maintaining, and operating America's network of highways, roads, and streets, the tax is at best an imperfect user fee. As such, Congress and the states should take action to transition from gas taxes to more efficient vehicle-mile fees.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Communications, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Michael Tanner
  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: News that the poverty rate has risen to 15.1 percent of Americans, the highest level in nearly a decade, has set off a predictable round of calls for increased government spending on social welfare programs. Yet this year the federal government will spend more than $668 billion on at least 126 different programs to fight poverty. And that does not even begin to count welfare spending by state and local governments, which adds $284 billion to that figure. In total, the United States spends nearly $1 trillion every year to fight poverty. That amounts to $20,610 for every poor person in America, or $61,830 per poor family of three.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Poverty
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Patric H. Hendershott, Kevin Villani
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The current narrative regarding the 2008 systemic financial system collapse is that numerous seemingly unrelated events occurred in unregulated or underregulated markets, requiring widespread bailouts of actors across the financial spectrum, from mortgage borrowers to investors in money market funds. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, created by the U.S. Congress to investigate the causes of the crisis, promotes this politically convenient narrative, and the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act operationalizes it by completing the progressive extension of federal protection and regulation of banking and finance that began in the 1930s so that it now covers virtually all financial activities, including hedge funds and proprietary trading. The Dodd-Frank Act further charges the newly created Financial Stability Oversight Council, made up of politicians, bureaucrats, and university professors, with preventing a subsequent systemic crisis.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets, Global Recession, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: David Kirby, Emily McClintock Ekins
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Many people on the left still dismiss the tea party as the same old religious right, but the evidence says they are wrong. The tea party has strong libertarian roots and is a functionally libertarian influence on the Republican Party.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, Politics, Insurgency, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Mark A. Calabria, Emily McClintock Ekins
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: During the financial crisis of 2008, the financial markets would have been better served if the credit rating agency industry had been more competitive. We present evidence that suggests the Securities and Exchange Commission's designation of Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations (NRSROs) inadvertently created a de facto oligopoly, which primarily propped up three firms: Moody's, S, and Fitch. We also explain the rationale behind the NRSRO designation given to credit rating agencies (CRAs) and demonstrate that it was not intended to be an oligopolistic mechanism or to reduce investor due diligence, but rather was intended to protect consumers. Although CRAs were indirectly constrained by their reputation among investors, the lack of competition allowed for greater market complacency. Government regulatory use of credit ratings inflated the market demand for NRSRO ratings, despite the decreasing informational value of credit ratings. It is unlikely that this sort of regulatory framework could result in anything except misaligned incentives among economic actors and distorted market information that provides inaccurate signals to investors and other financial actors. Given the importance of our capital infrastructure and the power of credit rating agencies in our financial markets, and despite the good intentions of the uses of the NRSRO designation, it is not worth the cost and should be abolished. Regulators should work to eliminate regulatory reliance on credit ratings for financial safety and soundness. These regulatory reforms will, in turn, reduce CRA oligopolistic power and the artificial demand for their ratings.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Financial Crisis, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Tad DeHaven
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Rising federal spending and huge deficits are pushing the nation toward a financial and economic crisis. Policymakers should find and eliminate wasteful, damaging, and unneeded programs in the federal budget. One good way to save money would be to cut subsidies to businesses. Corporate welfare in the federal budget costs taxpayers almost $100 billion a year.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Steve H. Hanke, Nicholas Krus
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This chapter supplies, for the first time, a table that contains all 56 episodes of hyperinflation, including several which had previously gone unreported. The Hyperinflation Table is compiled in a systematic and uniform way. Most importantly, it meets the replicability test. It utilizes clean and consistent inflation metrics, indicates the start and end dates of each episode, identifies the month of peak hyperinflation, and signifies the currency that was in circulation, as well as the method used to calculate inflation rates.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Author: Benjamin Zycher
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This study examines the prospective economic effects of a reduction below the current baseline in defense outlays of $100 billion per year over 10 years.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Economics, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Jagadeesh Gokhale
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Official federal budget accounts are constructed exclusively in terms of current cash flows – receipts from taxes and fees and outlays on purchases and transfers. But cash-flows do not reveal economically relevant information about who benefits and who loses from government policies. Cash flows also do not reveal how changes in government's policies redistribute resources within and across generations, including reducing the tax burden on today's generations and increasing it on future ones. Because most government transact ions are targeted by age and gender, the federal government can bring about large resource transfers across generations. Intergenerational resource transfers will grow larger as the composition of budget receipts and expenditures changes with relatively faster growth of age-and-gender-related social insurance program. Intergenerational redistributions across generations through federal government operations could substantially affect different generations' economic expectations and choices and exert powerful long-term effects on economic outcomes.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Health, Human Welfare, Markets, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr.
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Advocates of central bank reform must examine why central banks emerged and what forces sustain them. They did not arise in an institutional vacuum, and will not be reformed in an institutional vacuum. The historical origins of central banks explain how they came into existence. The forces sustaining and feeding their growth may differ from those explaining their origin.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Monetary Policy, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Alan Reynolds
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This paper confirms recent studies which find little or no sustained increase in the inequality of disposable income for the U.S. population as a whole over the past 20 years, even though estimates of the top 1 percent's share of pretax, pretransfer (market) income spiked upward in 1986-88, 1997-2000 and 2003-2007.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets, Social Stratification
  • Political Geography: United States
  • 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: Mark A. Calabria
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: While Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and private subprime lenders have deservedly garnered the bulk of attention and blame for the mortgage crisis, other federal programs also distort our mortgage market and put taxpayers at risk of having to finance massive financial bailouts. The most prominent of these risky agencies is the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Government, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Kevin Dowd, Martin Hutchinson, Jimi Hinchliffe, Simon Ashby
  • Publication Date: 07-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Basel regime is an international system of capital adequacy regulation designed to strengthen banks' financial health and the safety and soundness of the financial system as a whole. It originated with the 1988 Basel Accord, now known as Basel I, and was then overhauled. Basel II had still not been implemented in the United States when the financial crisis struck, and in the wake of the banking system collapse, regulators rushed out Basel III.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Monetary Policy, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Randal O'Toole
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The debate over President Obama's fantastically expensive high-speed rail program has obscured the resurgence of a directly competing mode of transportation: intercity buses. Entrepreneurial immigrants from China and recently privatized British transportation companies have developed a new model for intercity bus operations that provides travelers with faster service at dramatically reduced fares.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Infrastructure, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: Patric H. Hendershott, Kevin Villani
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The United States' market-government hybrid mortgage system is unique in the world. No other nation has such heavy government intervention in housing finance. This hybrid system nurtured the excessively risky loans, financed with too much leverage, that fueled the U.S. housing bubble of the last decade and resulted in the systemic collapse of the global financial system.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Vance Fried
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Undergraduate education is a highly profitable business for nonprofit colleges and universities. They do not show profits on their books, but instead take their profits in the form of spending on some combination of research, graduate education, low-demand majors, low faculty teaching loads, excess compensation, and featherbedding. The industry's high profits come at the expense of students and taxpayer.
  • Topic: Economics, Education, Markets, Privatization, Governance
  • Author: Andrew J. Coulson
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The central problem confronting education systems around the world is not that we lack models of excellence; it is our inability to routinely replicate those models. In other fields, we take for granted an endless cycle of innovation and productivity growth that continually makes products and services better, more affordable, or both. That cycle has not manifested itself in education. Brilliant teachers and high-performing schools can be found in every state and nation, but, like floating candles, they flicker in isolation, failing to touch off a larger blaze.
  • Topic: Economics, Education, Markets
  • Author: Randal O'Toole
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Tax-increment financing (TIF) is an increasingly popular way for cities to promote economic development. TIF works by allowing cities to use the property, sales, and other taxes collected from new developments—taxes that would otherwise go to schools, libraries, fire departments, and other urban services—to subsidize those same developments.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Monetary Policy, Governance
  • Author: David Reiss
  • Publication Date: 04-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The federal government recently placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-chartered, privately owned mortgage finance companies, in conservatorship. These two massive companies are profit driven, but as government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) they also have a government-mandated mission to provide liquidity and stability to the U.S. mortgage market and to achieve certain affordable housing goals. How the two companies should exit their conservatorship has implications that reach throughout the global financial markets and are of key importance to the future of American housing finance policy.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Privatization, Financial Crisis, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Michael Tanner
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The U.S. government is about to exceed its statutory debt limit of $14.3 trillion. But that actually underestimates the size of the fiscal time bomb that this country is facing. If one considers the unfunded liabilities of programs such as Medicare and Social Security, the true national debt could run as high as $119.5 trillion.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Human Welfare, Financial Crisis, Governance, Health Care Policy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Jagadeesh Gokhale
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Social Security is often described as a "foundational" element of the nation's social safety net. Almost all Americans are directly affected by the program and many millions primarily depend on its benefits for supporting themselves during retirement. But the program's financial condition has worsened considerably since the last recession, which began in 2007. In that year, the Social Security trustees estimated that the program's trust fund would be exhausted by 2042. The trustees' annual report for 2011 brings the trust fund exhaustion date forward to 2038. Indeed, the programs revenues fell short of its benefit expenditures in 2010 and it appears unlikely that significant surpluses will emerge again under the program's current rules. If the program's finances continue to worsen at this rate, it won't be long before the debate on reforming the program assumes an urgency and intensity similar to that during 1982-83, when imminent insolvency forced lawmakers to implement payroll tax increases and scale back its benefits.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Human Welfare
  • Political Geography: America, Ethiopia
  • Author: Jared Lobdell
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: An October New York Times story remarked that “with just five weeks until its deadline, a secretive Congressional committee seeking ways to cut the federal deficit is far from a consensus, and party leaders may need to step in if they want to ensure agreement, say people involved in the panel's work.” We have this “supercommittee” of twelve members of Congress, ostensibly for the purpose of cutting a minimum $1.2 trillion from our deficit, chosen by four appointers, none agreeing with any other on exactly what ought to be done, representing mostly diametrically opposing wings of two parties with irreconcilable differences.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Global Recession, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • 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: Mark A. Calabria
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The recent financial crisis was characterized by losses in nearly every type of investment vehicle. Yet no product has attracted as much attention as the subprime mortgage.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Steven Horwitz
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Politicians and pundits portray Herbert Hoover as a defender of laissez faire governance whose dogmatic commitment to small government led him to stand by and do nothing while the economy collapsed in the wake of the stock market crash in 1929. In fact, Hoover had long been a critic of laissez faire. As president, he doubled federal spending in real terms in four years. He also used government to prop up wages, restricted immigration, signed the Smoot-Hawley tariff, raised taxes, and created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation-all interventionist measures and not laissez faire. Unlike many Democrats today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's advisers knew that Hoover had started the New Deal. One of them wrote, "When we all burst into Washington ... we found every essential idea [of the New Deal] enacted in the 100-day Congress in the Hoover administration itself."
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Political Economy, Financial Crisis, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington
  • Author: John Samples
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The U.S. Constitution vests all the “legislative powers” it grants in Congress. The Supreme Court allows Congress to delegate some authority to executive officials provided an “intelligible principle” guides such transfers. Congress quickly wrote and enacted the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 in response to a financial crisis. The law authorized the secretary of the Treasury to spend up to $700 billion purchasing troubled mortgage assets or any financial instrument in order to attain 13 different goals. Most of these goals lacked any concrete meaning, and Congress did not establish any priorities among them. As a result, Congress lost control of the implementation of the law and unconstitutionally delegated its powers to the Treasury secretary. Congress also failed in the case of EESA to meet its constitutional obligations to deliberate, to check the other branches of government, or to be accountable to the American people. The implementation of EESA showed Congress to be largely irrelevant to policymaking by the Treasury secretary. These failures of Congress indicate that the current Supreme Court doctrine validating delegation of legislative powers should be revised to protect the rule of law and separation of powers.
  • Topic: Economics, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Jagadeesh Gokhale
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Globalization holds tremendous promise to improve human welfare but can also cause conflicts and crises as witnessed during 2007–09. How will competition for resources, employment, and growth shape economic policies among developed nations as they attempt to maintain productivity growth, social protections, and extensive political and cultural freedoms?
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Globalization, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Adam B. Schaeffer
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Although public schools are usually the biggest item in state and local budgets, spending figures provided by public school officials and reported in the media often leave out major costs of education and thus understate what is actually spent.
  • Topic: Economics, Education, Government, Monetary Policy
  • Author: Craig Pirrong
  • Publication Date: 07-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In the aftermath of the financial crisis, attention has turned to reducing systemic risk in the derivatives markets. Much of this attention has focused on counterparty risk in the over-the counter market, where trades are bilaterally executed between dealers and derivative purchasers. One proposal for addressing such counterparty risk is to mandate the trading of derivatives over a centralized clearinghouse. This paper lays out the advantages and risks to a mandated clearing requirement, showing how, in some instances, such a mandate can actually increase systemic risk and result in more financial bailouts.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Author: Christopher J. Conover
  • Publication Date: 10-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: A well-established principle of public finance holds that taxes impose costs on society beyond the amount of revenue government collects. Estimates vary depending on the type of tax, but the “marginal excess burden” of federal taxes most likely ranges from 14 to 52 cents per dollar of tax revenue, averaging about 44 cents for all federal taxes.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Chris Edwards
  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: State governments have had to make tough budget choices in recent years. Tax revenues have stagnated as a result of the poor economy, and that has prompted governors to take a variety of fiscal actions to close large budget gaps. Some governors have cut spending to balance their budgets, while others have pursued large tax increases.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: America
  • 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: Arnold Kling
  • Publication Date: 04-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Recently, the Federal Reserve has significantly altered the procedures and goals that it had followed for decades. It has more than doubled its balance sheet, paid interest to banks on reserves held as deposits with the Fed, made decisions about which institutions to prop up and which should be allowed to fail, invested in assets that expose taxpayers to large losses, and raised questions about how it will avoid inflation despite an unprecedented increase in the monetary base.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Political Economy, Politics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Laurence Copeland
  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In response to the recent financial crisis, many governments chose to ban or restrict short sales, hoping to mitigate the impact of the stock market downturn. Stock markets function as a continuous election, held to determine the allocation of resources with buyers voting for and sellers voting against investment in particular stocks. Banning short selling is akin to disenfranchising the "no" voter, thereby creating a distortion in the resource allocation process. Ban-induced price distortions damage the integrity of stock prices among investors and potentially cause stocks to expand beyond what is optimal for the firms and the economy.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Global Recession, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Washington
  • Author: Michael F. Cannon
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: President Barack Obama, former U.S. Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, and others propose a new government agency that would evaluate the relative effectiveness of medical treatments. The need for “comparative-effectiveness research” is great. Evidence suggests Americans spend $700 billion annually on medical care that provides no value. Yet patients, providers, and purchasers typically lack the necessary information to distinguish between high- and low-value services.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Health, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Cochrane
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: None of us has health insurance, really. If you develop a long-term condition such as heart disease or cancer, and if you then lose your job or are divorced, you can lose your health insurance. You now have a preexisting condition, and insurance will be enormously expensive—if it's available at all. Free markets can solve this problem, and provide life-long, portable health security, while enhancing consumer choice and competition. “Heath-status insurance” is the key. If you are diagnosed with a long-term, expensive condition, a health-status insurance policy will give you the resources to pay higher medical insurance premiums. Health-status insurance covers the risk of premium reclassification, just as medical insurance covers the risk of medical expenses. With health-status insurance, you can always obtain medical insurance, no matter how sick you get, with no change in out-of-pocket costs.
  • Topic: Economics, Health, Markets, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Jagadeesh Gokhale
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This Policy Analysis explains the antecedents of the current global financial crisis and critically examines the reasoning behind the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve's actions to prop up the financial sector. It argues that recovery from the financial crisis is likely to be slow with or without the government's bailout actions. An oil price spike and a wealth shock in housing initiated the financial crisis. Declines in stock values are intensifying that shock, threatening to deepen the current recession as U.S. consumers and investors cut their expenditures. An offsetting wealth injection from additional risk-bearing investors could initiate a quicker recovery. Thus, supporters of government intervention justify the bailout's debt-financed fund injections—in essence, they want to compel future taxpayers to join the group of today's risk bearing investors.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Vern McKinley, Gary Gegenheimer
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: A financial-institution bailout involves government intervention through a transaction or forbearance targeted to a financial institution or group of financial institutions. The action is preemptive as the financial institution does not fail and go out of business, but remains a going concern, benefiting creditors, shareholders, or counterparties. In the absence of a bailout, the financial institution would either be forced to go through receivership or bankruptcy in the prescribed legal form, or have its role in financial intermediation disrupted.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Political Economy, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Will Wilkinson
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Recent discussions of economic inequality, marked by a lack of clarity and care, have confused the public about the meaning and moral significance of rising income inequality. Income statistics paint a misleading picture of real standards of living and real economic inequality. Several strands of evidence about real standards of living suggest a very different picture of the trends in economic inequality. In any case, the dispersion of incomes at any given time has, at best, a tenuous connection to human welfare or social justice. The pattern of incomes is affected by both morally desirable and undesirable mechanisms. When injustice or wrongdoing increases income inequality, the problem is the original malign cause, not the resulting inequality. Many thinkers mistake national populations for “society” and thereby obscure the real story about the effects of trade and immigration on welfare, equality, and justice. There is little evidence that high levels of income inequality lead down a slippery slope to the destruction of democracy and rule by the rich. The unequal political voice of the poor can be addressed only through policies that actually work to fight poverty and improve education. Income inequality is a dangerous distraction from the real problems: poverty, lack of economic opportunity, and systemic injustice.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, Social Stratification
  • Author: Randal O'Toole
  • Publication Date: 10-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Everyone agrees that the recent financial crisis started with the deflation of the housing bubble. But what caused the bubble? Answering this question is important both for identifying the best short-term policies and for fixing the credit crisis, as well as for developing long-term policies aimed at preventing another crisis in the future.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, California, Georgia
  • Author: Jagadeesh Gokhale, Peter Van Doren
  • Publication Date: 10-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Many commentators have argued that if the Federal Reserve had followed a stricter monetary policy earlier this decade when the housing bubble was forming, and if Congress had not deregulated banking but had imposed tighter financial standards, the housing boom and bust—and the subsequent financial crisis and recession—would have been averted. In this paper, we investigate those claims and dispute them. We are skeptical that economists can detect bubbles in real time through technical means with any degree of unanimity. Even if they could, we doubt the Fed would have altered its policy in the early 21st century, and we suspect that political leaders would have exerted considerable pressure to maintain that policy. Concerning regulation, we find that the banking reform of the late 1990s had little effect on the housing boom and bust, and that the many reform ideas currently proposed would have done little or nothing to avert the crisis.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Michael F. Cannon
  • Publication Date: 10-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In March 2009, President Barack Obama said, “If there is a way of getting this done where we're driving down costs and people are getting health insurance at an affordable rate, and have choice of doctor, have flexibility in terms of their plans, and we could do that entirely through the market, I'd be happy to do it that way.” This paper explains how letting workers control their health care dollars and tearing down regulatory barriers to competition would control costs, expand choice, improve health care quality, and make health coverage more secure.
  • Topic: Economics, Health, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Tad DeHaven
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has long been plagued by scandals, mismanagement, and policy failures. Most recently, HUD's subsidies and failed oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac helped to inflate the housing bubble, which ultimately burst and cascaded into a major financial crisis.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Jefferson Fox
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Over the last half-century, public policy has affected land-use practices across the borders linking China, Thailand, and Laos. Political and economic reforms have facilitated labor mobility and a shift in agricultural practices away from staple grains and toward a diverse array of cash crops, rubber being one of the foremost. China has promoted the conversion of forests to rubber agroforestry in southern Yunnan—profitable for farmers, but a concern in terms of biodiversity and long-term viability. In Thailand, the response is at the other end of the spectrum as the government's concerns about land-use practices and watershed management have led to policies that dramatically constrain land-use practices and limit tenure rights. In Laos the future is not yet clear. Government policies provide weak support for both private land ownership and protected areas. In a global environment where national policy has such a dramatic effect on land use and land cover, the factors behind land-use change merit close examination.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Thailand, Southeast Asia, Laos
  • 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