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  • Author: George C. Bitros
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In the aftermath of the unprecedented 2008 financial crisis, researchers of macroeconomics, finance, and political economy are showing renewed interest in the old but very significant question: Are central banks in large reserve currency democracies—in particular, the U.S. Federal Reserve—prone to creating asset bubbles, and if so, how is it possible to prevent the misuse of the banks' discretionary powers?
  • Topic: Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, 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: James L. Buckley
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: “The United States faces two major problems today,” writes James L. Buckley: “runaway spending that threatens to bankrupt us and a Congress that appears unable to deal with long-term problems of any consequence.” Contributing significantly to both, he argues, are the more than 1,100 federal grants-in-aid programs Congress has enacted—federal grants to state and local governments, constituting 17 percent of the federal budget, the third-largest spending category after entitlements and defense, with costs that have risen from $24.1 billion in 1970 to $640.8 billion in fiscal 2015. His “modest proposal”? Do away with them entirely, thereby saving Congress from itself while emancipating the states and empowering their people. If that sounds like a program for revising constitutional federalism, it is.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Jason E. Taylor, Jerry L. Taylor
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In September 2012, seven weeks before the presidential election—one in which top marginal tax rates were a major policy difference between the two major—party candidates-the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a paper (Hungerford 2012) suggesting that there is no empirical evidence that top marginal tax rates impact U.S. economic growth. After all, top marginal tax rates were above 90 percent during the 1950s and early 1960s when the economy experienced rapid growth. Furthermore, marginal tax rate cuts in 2001 and 2003 were followed by the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The CRS study was widely reported in blogs, newspapers such as the New York Times, and The Atlantic magazine. It was portrayed as evidence refuting Republican candidate Mitt Romney's position that cutting the top marginal tax rate from 35 to 28 percent would spur economic growth and supporting Democratic President Barack Obama's position that top marginal tax rates could be raised to 39.6 percent with no cost to economic growth (Leonhart 2012, Thompson 2012).
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Andrew Foy, Christopher Sciamanna, Mark Kozak, Edward J. Filippone
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Since 1970, the annual growth in U.S. health care spending per capita has been more than double the real growth in GDP per capita: 4.3 percent versus 2 percent. Over that same time period countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) averaged an annual growth rate of 3.8 percent in health care spending per capita compared to only a 2.1 percent annual growth in GDP per capita. Eight of 20 countries had higher average annual growth rates in health care spending per capita than the United States (White 2007). In light of the pronounced institutional differences among these countries in medical financing arrangements, the similarity in the rate of health care spending growth is striking. Therefore, any explanation that seeks to account for the tremendous cost growth in health care over the last several decades must hold true across all OECD countries.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: James A. Dorn
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Federal Reserve Act was passed on December 23, 1913. It was designed to provide an elastic currency that would respond to the needs of trade. There was nothing in the Act about price stability, interest rates, or full employment. The expectation was that the United States would continue to define the dollar in terms of gold, and that the operation of the international gold standard would ensure long-run price stability.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Charles I. Plosser
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Douglass C. North, co-winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Economics, argued that institutions were deliberately devised to constrain interactions among parties—both public and private (North 1991). In the spirit of North's work, one theme of this article will be that the institutional structure of the central bank matters. The central bank's goals and objectives, its framework for implementing policy, and its governance structure all affect its performance.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Jerry L. Jordan
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: All of us who are interested in the century-long experience of central banking in the United States owe a great debt to Allan Meltzer. His several-years-long efforts gave us over 2,000 pages of careful documentation of decisionmaking in the Federal Reserve for the first 75 years (Meltzer 2003, 2010a, 2010b). The first score of years transformed a lender-of-last-resort, payments processor, and issuer of uniform national currency into a full-fledged central bank with discretionary authority to manage a fiat currency.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: George Selgin
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: For a private-sector firm, success can mean only one thing: that the firm has turned a profit. No such firm can hope to succeed, or even to survive, merely by declaring that it has been profitable. A government agency, on the other hand, can succeed in either of two ways. It can actually accomplish its mission. Or it can simply declare that it has done so, and get the public to believe it.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Athanasios Orphanides
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The founding of the Federal Reserve was a good idea, but its performance during its first hundred years has been hampered by the lack of clarity of its mandate. At times its mandate was interpreted as requiring the pursuit of multiple targets resulting in the failure to safeguard price stability over time. This article reviews the evolution of the Federal Reserve's mandate and argues that Congress should clarify the primacy of price stability as the central bank's mandate to ensure that the Federal Reserve will better safeguard monetary stability going forward.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Lawrence H. White
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Proposals abound for reforming monetary policy by instituting a less-discretionary or nondiscretionary system ("rules") for a fiat-money- issuing central bank to follow. The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee could be given a single mandate or more generally an explicit loss function to minimize (e.g., the Taylor Rule). The FOMC could be replaced by a computer that prescribes the monetary base as a function of observed macroeconomic variables (e.g., the McCallum Rule). The role of determining the fiat monetary base could be stripped from the FOMC and moved to a prediction market (as proposed by Scott Sumner or Kevin Dowd). Alternative proposals call for commodity money regimes. The dollar could be redefined in terms of gold or a broader commodity bundle, with redeemability for Federal Reserve liabilities being reinstated. Or all Federal Reserve liabilities could actually be redeemed and retired, en route to a fully privatized gold or commodity-bundle standard (White 2012). All of these approaches assume that there will continue to be a single monetary regime in the economy, so that the way to institute an alternative is to transform the dominant regime.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Richard H. Timberlake, Jr.
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Federal Reserve System is no longer just an unconstitutional monetary institution promoting a continuing inflation; it has also become, with quantitative easing, an unauthorized fiscal agent for the U.S. government. The fiat currency and equally fiat bank reserves it creates are much in contrast to the private currency and bank reserves that the commercial banks' clearing house associations provided in the latter half of the 19th century. It is that episode I review here.
  • Topic: Civil War
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John A. Allison
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: I am going to talk from a different perspective because I am the only person who actually ran a bank that's been speaking today, and from that context I can tell you with absolute certainty that market discipline beats regulatory discipline. In fact, I will argue that regulatory discipline will always fail to reduce volatility and will slow economic growth. These observations are based on my understanding of public choice theory and particularly on 40 years of concrete experience in the banking business.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Martin Hutchinson, Kevin Dowd
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Financial regulation is a recurring and central issue in contemporary policy discussions. Typically, leftists want more of it, while proponents of free markets want less, or preferably, none of it. We would suggest, however, that the central issue is not whether markets should be regulated, but by whom—by the market itself, which includes self-regulation by market practitioners, or by the state or one of its agencies. To put it in Coasean terms, what is the most appropriate institutional arrangement by which markets—including financial markets-should be regulated?
  • Political Geography: United States
  • 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: R. David Ranson
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Passing its 100th birthday, the Federal Reserve is receiving unprecedented scrutiny. We (the public) are living through the consequences of its attempts to bolster the U.S. economy through exceptionally low interest rates and the conversion of great quantities of debt to money. Although these efforts are ongoing, we are disappointed. Even with the help of strenuous actions on the fiscal side, economic and credit-market recovery from the recession of 2008–09 was notoriously slow. It took 15 quarters for U.S. real GDP to pass its pre-recession high in the fourth quarter of 2007, compared to only 7 quarters following the deep recession of 1981–82. On a per capita basis, there was an even starker contrast between the two recoveries. Moreover, the Fed remains a suspect in the genesis of the financial crisis that precipitated the Great Recession. The ultimate test of its role as overseer and regulator of the commercial banking system met with a very poor result.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Dean Stansel, Melissa Yeoh
  • Publication Date: 01-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This article provides the first examination of the relationship between public expenditures and labor productivity that focuses on municipalities, rather than states or nations. We use data for 1880–1920, a period of rapid industrialization in which there were both high levels of public infrastructure spending and rapid growth of productivity. We use a simple Cobb-Douglas production function to model labor productivity in the manufacturing sector, letting total factor productivity depend on “productive” public expenditure by city governments—that is, on public spending that may raise the productivity of labor and encourage human capital accumulation. Using a data set of 45 of the largest cities in the United States, we find no statistically significant relationship between productive public expenditure and labor productivity in the manufacturing sector during this period. These findings are robust to three different econometric approaches. We do, however, find a strongly positive and statistically significant relationship between private capital and labor productivity. Our results are consistent with those of much of the literature examining this same relationship in states and nations and they have important implications for contemporary public policy issues.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: James A. Dorn
  • Publication Date: 01-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In 2001, the U.S. gross public debt was about $6 trillion; a decade later it was $14 trillion; by the end of 2012 it exceeded $16 trillion. A large part of that increase was absorbed by foreign holders, especially central banks in China and Japan. With the U.S. government gross debt ratio now in excess of 100 percent of GDP, not including the trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities in Social Security and Medicare, it is time to stop blaming China for the U.S. debt crisis.
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China
  • 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: 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