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  • Author: Steve H. Hanke
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Monetary instability poses a threat to free societies. Indeed, currency instability, banking crises, soaring inflation, sovereign debt defaults, and economic booms and busts all have a common source: monetary instability. Furthermore, all these ills induced by monetary instability bring with them calls for policy changes, many of which threaten free societies. One who understood this simple fact was Karl Schiller, who was the German Finance Minister from 1966 until 1972. Schiller’s mantra was clear and uncompromising: “Stability is not everything, but without stability, everything is nothing” (Marsh 1992: 30). Well, Schiller’s mantra is my mantra. I offer three regime changes that would enhance the stability in what Jacques de Larosière (2014) has asserted is an international monetary “anti-system.” First, the U.S. dollar and the euro should be formally, loosely linked together. Second, most central banks in developing countries should be mothballed and replaced by currency boards. Third, private currency boards should be permitted to enter the international monetary sphere.
  • Topic: Debt, Foreign Exchange, Monetary Policy, Developing World, Inflation, Currency
  • Political Geography: Europe, United States of America, European Union
  • Author: Michael D Bordo, Mickey D. Levy
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The ratcheting up of tariffs and the Fed’s discretionary conduct of monetary policy are a toxic mix for economic performance. Escalating tariffs and President Trump’s erratic and unpredictable trade policy and threats are harming global economic performance, distorting monetary policy, and undermining the Fed’s credibility and independence. President Trump’s objectives to force China to open access to its markets for international trade, reduce capital controls, modify unfair treatment of intellectual property, and address cybersecurity issues and other U.S. national security issues are laudable goals with sizable benefits. However, the costs of escalating tariffs are mounting, and the tactic of relying exclusively on barriers to trade and protectionism is misguided and potentially dangerous. The economic costs to the United States so far have been relatively modest, dampening exports, industrial production, and business investment. However, the tariffs and policy uncertainties have had a significantly larger impact on China, accentuating its structural economic slowdown, and are disrupting and distorting global supply chains. This is harming other nations that have significant exposure to international trade and investment overseas, particularly Japan, South Korea, and Germany. As a result, global trade volumes and industrial production are falling. Weaker global growth is reflected in a combination of a reduction in aggregate demand and constraints on aggregate supply.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy, Economic growth, Tariffs, Industry
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Europe, Asia, South Korea, Germany, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Gunther Schnabl
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Twenty years after the introduction of the euro, the European Monetary Union (EMU) is at its crossroads. Following the outbreak of the European financial and debt crisis in 2008, the European Central Bank (ECB) took comprehensive measures to stabilize the common currency. Interest rates were cut to and below zero and several asset purchase programs have inflated the ECB balance sheet (Riet 2018). Within the European System of Central Banks, large imbalances have emerged via the TARGET2 payments system, which can be seen as quasi-unconditional credit in favor of the southern euro area countries (Sinn 2018). While the ECB terminated its asset purchase program at the end of 2018 and is expected to increase interest rates in late 2019, financial instability is reemerging. Growing uncertainty about the fiscal discipline of the Italian government has triggered a significant increase in risk premiums on Italian government bonds. In particular, in Italy and Greece, but also in Germany, bad loans and assets remain stuck in the banking systems. In the face of the upcoming downswing, European banks do not seem ready for new financial turmoil. In this fragile environment, the future path of the EMU is uncertain. To enhance the stability of the EMU, a group of German and French economists has called for a common euro area budget, for a strengthening of the European Stability Mechanism as lender of last resort for euro area countries and banks, as well as for a common European deposit insurance scheme (Bénassy-Quéré et al. 2018). In response, 154 German economists have warned against transforming the EMU into what they call a “liablity union,” which systematically undermines market principles and wealth (Mayer et al. 2018). In 2018, a French-German initative to introduce a common euro area budget faced strong opposition from a group of northern European countries as well as from Italy, symbolizing the political deadlock concerning reforms of the EMU. This article explains the different views on the institutional setting of monetary policymaking in Europe from a historical perspective. It begins with a description of the economic and monetary order in postwar Germany. It then discusses the positive implications for the European integration process and the economic consequences of the transformation of postwar German monetary order. The final section offers some economic policy recommendations.
  • Topic: Economics, History, Monetary Policy, Reform, European Union, Banks, Currency
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany
  • Author: Roger Pilon
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: It is perhaps not impertinent to suggest that American constitutional theory and history, owing to the longevity of the document that is their subject, hold lessons for constitutionalism everywhere, but especially for European constitutionalism—the more recent and ever evolving treaties that serve as a “Constitutional Charter” for the European Union. An American constitutionalist looking east today, seeing everything from Brexit to Grexit plus the reactions in European capitals, must be struck by the tension in the EU between exclusion and inclusion in its many forms, including individualism and collectivism. Those themes underpin my discussion here. The issues surrounding them are universal. They are at the heart of the human condition.
  • Topic: Markets, History, European Union, Constitution
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Igor Lukšic, Milorad Katnic
  • Publication Date: 10-2016
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The first Montenegrin state started to take shape in the 8th century with the arrival of the Slavs and their mingling with the local population. Originally it was called Doclea, whose ruler received a royal insignia by the Pope Gregory VII in 1078 (Andrijaševi ´c and Rastoder 2006). Montenegro fell under the Ottomans in the late 15th century, but acted as a de facto independent state until formal recognition came at the Berlin Congress in 1878. Despite being on the victors’ side in the Balkan Wars and in World War I, it was annexed by Serbia and lost its sovereignty in 1918. After the Second World War it became a part of socialist Yugoslavia, where it remained until 1992. Montenegro’s political transition started in earnest after the Belgrade Agreement signed in March 2002. Montenegro held an independence referendum in 2006 and was subsequently admitted to the United Nations and other international organizations. Today Montenegro is engaged in accession talks with the European Union (EU).
  • Topic: History, Elections, State, Transition
  • Political Geography: Europe, Montenegro
  • Author: Thomas H. Mayor
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Karl Marx formulated his ideas in the middle of the 19th century when much of Europe, particularly England, was well along in what is often referred to as the Industrial Revolution. The central Marxist idea was that those who had wealth would reap the benefit of this revolution and become ever more wealthy while those who lived from their labor alone would be relegated to a bare subsistence. In his view, capital accumulation and increases in productivity do not benefit those who work for a living. Allegedly, those who own the means of production (wealth) and supposedly perform no work, receive all the benefits.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: Europe, England
  • 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: Paul H. Rubin
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: A concept recently developed by scholars in psychology and biology is "pathological altruism." (Oakley 2013, Oakley et al. 2012). A pathological altruist is defined as "a person who sincerely engages in what he or she intends to be altruistic acts, but who harms the very person or group he or she is trying to help, often in unanticipated fashion; or harms others; or irrationally becomes a victim of his or her own altruistic actions." (Oakley, Knafo, and McGrath 2012: 4). We may relate this concept to Buchanan's Samaritan's dilemma: Buchanan's Samaritan is the altruist, and the pathology is that the recipient will be in the "no work" cell, so that the Samaritan becomes a victim of his own altruistic actions (Buchanan 1975).
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Gerald P. O'Driscoll, Jr.
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The intellectual climate has never been more open to a critical analysis of existing monetary institutions both here and abroad. When the Germans agreed to a monetary union, they were promised that they would keep the Bundesbank; only the name would be changed to the European Central Bank. Instead, Germans with whom I have spoken now think they got the Banca d'Italia. In the United States, before the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve was held in high regard by the public. Now, at least in some circles, "the Fed" has become a term of opprobrium, not unlike "the IRS."
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Germany
  • Author: Lewis E. Lehrman
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: To evaluate the history of the Federal Reserve System, we cannot help but wonder, whither the Fed? and to consider wherefore its reform—even what and how to do it. But first let us remember whence we came one century ago.
  • Topic: War
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: James A. Dorn
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This article deals with the main problems and proposed solutions with respect to the euro. I start with what I perceive to be confusion in the debate on the euro. The next section shows a large variation in the growth performance in the eurozone, and more broadly in the European Union (EU). This should make us skeptical when hearing about the crisis of the euro, or of Europe. I then proceed to discuss what the problem countries in the eurozone suffer from. The next section deals with a more difficult question: What are the links between the euro architecture and the accumulation of these problems—that is, the imbalances and structural barriers to economic growth in some members of the eurozone? I then proceed to discuss the adjustment under the euro after 2008, focusing on the weaknesses of the policies of the crisis management. The article ends with a critical discussion of the problems and solutions put forward in the debate on the euro.
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Thomas Grennes
  • Publication Date: 01-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The value of government debt relative to the size of the economy has become a serious problem, and the problem is likely to grow in the future. Total debt of the U.S. government relative to gross domestic product increased substantially since the financial crisis and the Great Recession that began in 2007, but the debt ratio has been increasing since 2001. Gross debt relative to GDP increased from 55 percent in 2001 to 67 percent in 2007 to 107 percent in 2012. Comparable figures for debt held by the public (net debt or gross debt minus debt held by various government agencies) were 80 percent in 2011 and 84 percent in May 2012 (IMF 2012). As a result, the debt ratio is now the highest in U.S. history, except for World War II, when it reached 125 percent of GDP (Bohn 2010). U.S. debt is also high relative to the debt of other high-income countries, and projections of future debt place the U.S. government among the world's largest debtors (IMF 2011, 2012; Evans et al. 2012). Gross debt consists of all the bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury, but a broader measure that includes contingent debt results in a much larger debt (Cochrane 2011). Contingent debt includes unfunded obligations related to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and loan guarantees to agencies such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and these obligations are so large that they have been described as a “debt explosion” (Evans et al. 2012). The sovereign debt crisis of the European Union has similarities to the U.S. debt problem, but it also has significant differences, as will be shown below. Interestingly, the poorer countries of the world that have frequently experienced debt problems in the past, have avoided major debt problems so far.
  • Topic: Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe
  • Author: George Selgin
  • Publication Date: 01-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: When the merits of a European Monetary Union were first being debated, many skeptics fell into one of two camps. The first camp consisted of “Keynesians” (for example, Eichengreen and Bayoumi 1997, Salvatore 1997) who, referring to the theory of optimal currency areas, doubted that Europe constituted such an area, and believed that the proposed monetary union would eventually fall victim to country-specific (“idiosyncratic”) shocks. Unemployment and other burdens stemming from such shocks would, these critics argued, eventually force the monetary authority to either abandon its commitment to price-level stability in order to offer relief to adversely affected members, or cause the members to abandon the union so as to be able to realign their exchange rates.
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: J.A. Dorn
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The heavy debt burdens of Greece and other European welfare states are the result of profligate entitlement spending and a lack of fiscal discipline. Both explicit debt and massive unfunded liabilities in pay-as-you-go social welfare programs must be resolved if Europe is to achieve long-run prosperity.
  • Political Geography: Europe, Greece
  • Author: Michael Tanner
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Margaret Thatcher once quipped about the problem facing modern social welfare states: "They always run out of other people's money." Today, in country after country, we are seeing that prophetic remark coming true. The headlines have been dominated by the problems of the so called PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain), which face the most immediate economic crisis and have required economic support from the International Monetary Fund and other European countries. However, even countries with relatively robust economies, such as France and Germany, are facing unprecedented levels of debt. Unless the countries of Europe reform their welfare states, they will face some combination of huge tax increases or default on their obligations, both explicit and implicit. The result will be social upheaval and continued economic stagnation. The tough choices facing those countries are playing out today in parliaments and on the streets. The future remains highly uncertain. But how much better off is the United States? Our national debt exceeds $16.4 trillion and is increasing at a rate of more than $3 million per minute. And that only represents the debt that is actually "on the books." If the unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Social Security are included, then U.S. total indebtedness could top 800 percent of GDP.
  • Topic: International Monetary Fund
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Greece, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland
  • Author: Jagadeesh Gokhale, Erin Partin
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: What are the implications of Europe's economic troubles for America? Several EU economies now face deep private and sovereign debt overhangs-a situation not unlike that in the United States, which also faces its own challenges with fiscal policy. How do the economic conditions in America and the EU compare in the short and longer terms? This article provides an overview of key indicators that summarize and help to project the two regions' economic prospects. It should be noted at the outset, however, that economic conditions and policies in the two regions differ in substantive ways. As in the United States, most European economies-members of the European Monetary Union (EMU)-now participate in a single currency (euro) system operated by the European Central Bank-the counterpart of the U.S. Federal Reserve System. However, the EU lacks a single central fiscal authority that operates a significant cross-nation transfer system. Having surrendered authority over monetary policy and, by the definition of a single currency, exchange rate policy, EMU member nations must depend on national fiscal policies to exert stewardship over their economies.
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Europe
  • Author: Michael Tanner
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: It does not take more than a glance at the headlines to see that European countries are in trouble. From Greece to Britain, from France to Portugal, it is becoming clear that the modern welfare state is unsustainable, facing fiscal catastrophe, stagnant economic growth, punishing taxes, and prolonged joblessness. European countries are being forced, kicking and screaming, to rethink their approach to social welfare. But how much better off is the United States?
  • Political Geography: Britain, United States, America, Europe, Greece, France, Portugal
  • Author: Pierre Lemieux
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The American welfare state is not as different from the European welfare state as conventional wisdom would have it. If we define the welfare state as that part of the state (the whole apparatus of government at all levels) devoted to taking charge of the welfare of the public, welfare-state functions cover social protection (which includes public pensions), health, and education. These functions make up 57 percent of total U.S. government expenditures compared to 63 percent for the typical euro zone country. In this sense, the American welfare state is only about 10 percent smaller than the European welfare state.
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Europe
  • Author: Desmond Lachman
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The European sovereign debt crisis offers a cautionary tale for the United States. This is the case since all too sadly the U.S. public finances appear to be on the same sort of unsustainable path that lies at the heart of the present European crisis. Whereas Europe, taken as a whole, currently has a budget deficit of around 3 percent of GDP And a gross public debt ratio of around 90 percent of GDP, the United States has a budget deficit of around 8 percent of GDP and a gross public debt ratio in excess of 105 percent of GDP.
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe
  • Author: Veronique de Rugy
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Austerity is a term used to describe debt-reduction policies, but it can mean radically different things. For some people, austerity means adopting a debt-reduction package dominated by tax increases. For others, it means adopting a package made mainly of spending restraint-including reforms of social programs. The lack of a distinction between the two meanings of the word-and hence, the distinction between two different debt-reduction policies-is unfortunate and could also explain the confusion over what is happening in Europe.
  • Political Geography: Europe