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  • Author: Eswar S. Prasad
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: New financial technologies — including those underpinning cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin — herald broader access to the financial system, quicker and more easily verifiable settlement of transactions and payments, and lower transaction costs. Domestic and cross‐​border payment systems are on the threshold of major transformation, with significant gains in speed and lowering of transaction costs on the horizon. The efficiency gains in normal times from having decentralized payment and settlement systems needs to be balanced against their potential technological vulnerabilities and the repercussions of loss of confidence during periods of financial stress.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Finance, Central Bank, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Lawrence H. White
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Private commercial banks have been providing trusted money to the public for hundreds of years, in the form of banknotes (where allowed) and transferable deposit balances, as an integral part of their business model. Economically, money balances are a private good: they are rival in consumption (you and I can’t both simultaneously spend a given banknote or deposit balance) and excludable in supply (you and your bank can stop me from spending the funds in your wallet or account) (White 1999: 89). Accordingly, the market does not inherently fail to provide money efficiently.
  • Topic: Markets, Monetary Policy, Economy, State, Banks, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Neha Narula
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: We often spend a lot of time talking about the regulatory aspects of what a digital currency might look like, or the economic aspects. But if we take a look at the largest companies, the most influential on our ways of life, they’re tech companies. Technology is incredibly important and influences what we can do with policy and what kinds of functionality we can even enable. So, what I hope to tell you today is a little bit about how I’m seeing the technology development of digital currency.
  • Topic: Development, Science and Technology, Monetary Policy, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Tobias Adrian, Tommaso Mancini-Griffoli
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: a card, waving a phone, or clicking a mouse. Or we might hand over notes and coins, though in many countries increasingly less often. Today’s world is characterized by a dual monetary system, involving privately issued money — by banks of all types, telecom companies, or specialized payment providers — built upon a foundation of publicly issued money — by central banks. While not perfect, this system offers significant advantages, including innovation and product diversity, mostly provided by the private sector, and stability and efficiency, ensured by the public sector. These objectives — innovation and diversity on the one hand, and stability and efficiency on the other — are related. More of one usually means less of the other. A tradeoff exists that countries — central banks especially — have to navigate. How much of the private sector to rely upon, versus how much to innovate themselves? Much depends on preferences, available technology, and the efficiency of regulation. So it is natural, when a new technology emerges, to ask how today’s dual monetary system will evolve. If digitalized cash — called central bank digital currency — does emerge, will it displace privately issued money or allow it to flourish? The first is always possible, by way of more stringent regulation. We argue that the second remains possible, by extending the logic of today’s dual monetary system. Importantly, central banks should not face a choice between either offering central bank digital currency, or encouraging the private sector to provide its own digital variant. The two can coincide and complement each other — to the extent central banks make certain design choices and refresh their regulatory frameworks.
  • Topic: Monetary Policy, Banks, Money, Digital Policy, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jeb Hensarling, Phil Gramm, John B. Taylor
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Fed’s huge balance sheet allows it to engage in credit policy (the composition of the balance sheet is by definition credit policy), which inherently auto‐​resides in fiscal policy — but should auto‐​reside with Congress. This discussion, moderated by John B. Taylor, took place at the Cato Institute’s 38th Annual Monetary Conference on November 19, 2020. The transcript has been edited for publication.
  • Topic: Economics, Monetary Policy, Federal Reserve, Credit
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: A. Trevor Thrall, Erik Goepner
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Observers of American foreign policy have been worried for years about eroding public support for international engagement, especially in light of increasing public discontent after nearly two decades of military conflict since 9/11. Low support for international engagement and military intervention among younger Americans, in particular, has led some to worry that the age of American internationalism has passed. There is little agreement, however, about how serious the erosion of public support is and what its causes are. Relying on an analysis of seven decades of polling data, we argue that generational effects have slowly reshaped patterns of American foreign policy preferences. Since World War II, Americans have come of age during periods increasingly less conducive to support of military intervention, leading them to adopt worldviews increasingly at odds with those carried by older Americans. As a result, the United States is undergoing a slow motion changing of the guard, as older and more hawkish Americans die and are replaced by younger, less hawkish ones. These findings have important implications for the debate about the state of public support for American leadership of the liberal international order and the evolution of American foreign policy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Engagement , International Order, Generation
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Scott Lincicome, Huan Zhu
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising U.S.-China tensions, American policymakers have again embraced “industrial policy.” Both President Biden and his predecessor, as well as legislators from both parties, have advocated a range of federal support for American manufacturers to fix perceived weaknesses in the U.S. economy and to counter China’s growing economic clout. These and other industrial policy advocates, however, routinely leave unanswered important questions about U.S. industrial policy’s efficacy and necessity: What is “Industrial Policy”? Advocates of “industrial policy” often fail to define the term, thus permitting them to ignore past failures and embrace false successes while preventing a legitimate assessment of industrial policies’ costs and benefits. Yet U.S. industrial policy’s history of debate and implementation establishes several requisite elements – elements that reveal most “industrial policy successes” not to be “industrial policy” at all. What are the common obstacles to effective U.S. industrial policy? Several obstacles have prevented U.S. industrial policies from generating better outcomes than the market. This includes legislators’ and bureaucrats’ inability to “pick winners” and efficiently allocate public resources (Hayek’s “Knowledge Problem”); factors inherent in the U.S. political system (Public Choice Theory); lack of discipline regarding scope, duration, and budgetary costs; interaction with other government policies that distort the market at issue; and substantial unseen costs. What “problem” will industrial policy solve? The most common problems purportedly solved by industrial policy proposals are less serious than advocates claim or unfixable via industrial policy. This includes allegations of widespread U.S. “deindustrialization” and a broader decline in American innovation; the disappearance of “good jobs”; the erosion of middle‐​class living standards; and the destruction of American communities. Do other countries’ industrial policies demand U.S. industrial policy? The experiences of other countries generally cannot justify U.S. industrial policy because countries have different economic and political systems. Regardless, industrial policy successes abroad – for example, in Japan, Korea and Taiwan – are exaggerated. Also, China’s economic growth and industrial policies do not justify similar U.S. policies, considering the market‐​based reasons for China’s rise, the Chinese policies’ immense costs, and the systemic challenges that could derail China’s future growth and geopolitical influence. These answers argue strongly against a new U.S. embrace of industrial policy. The United States undoubtedly faces economic and geopolitical challenges, including ones related to China, but the solution lies not in copying China’s top‐​down economic planning. Reality, in fact, argues much the opposite.
  • Topic: Government, Industrial Policy, Manufacturing, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Scott Lincicome
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Both the American left and right often use “national security” to justify sweeping proposals for new U.S. protectionism and industrial policy. “Free markets” and a lack of government support for the manufacturing sector are alleged to have crippled the U.S. defense industrial base’s ability to supply “essential” goods during war or other emergencies, thus imperiling national security and demanding a fundamental rethink of U.S. trade and manufacturing policy. The COVID-19 crisis and U.S.-China tensions have amplified these claims. This resurgent “security nationalism,” however, extends far beyond the limited theoretical scenarios in which national security might justify government action, and it suffers from several flaws. First, reports of the demise of the U.S. manufacturing sector are exaggerated. Although U.S. manufacturing sector employment and share of national economic output (gross domestic product) have declined, these data are mostly irrelevant to national security and reflect macroeconomic trends affecting many other countries. By contrast, the most relevant data—on the U.S. manufacturing sector’s output, exports, financial performance, and investment—show that the nation’s total productive capacity and most of the industries typically associated with “national security” are still expanding. Second, “security nationalism” assumes a need for broad and novel U.S. government interventions while ignoring the targeted federal policies intended to support the defense industrial base. In fact, many U.S. laws already authorize the federal government to support or protect discrete U.S. industries on national security grounds. Third, several of these laws and policies provide a cautionary tale regarding the inefficacy of certain core “security nationalist” priorities. Case studies of past government support for steel, shipbuilding, semiconductors, and machine tools show that security‐​related protectionism and industrial policy in the United States often undermines national security. Fourth, although the United States is not nearly as open (and thus allegedly “vulnerable”) to external shocks as claimed, global integration and trade openness often bolster U.S. national security by encouraging peace among trading nations or mitigating the impact of domestic shocks. Together, these points rebut the most common claims in support of “security nationalism” and show why skepticism of such initiatives is necessary when national security is involved. They also reveal market‐​oriented trade, immigration, tax, and regulatory policies that would generally benefit the U.S. economy while also supporting the defense industrial base and national security.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, COVID-19, Free Market, Deindustrialization
  • Political Geography: China, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Alex Nowrasteh
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: A cost‐​benefit analysis finds that the hazards posed by foreign‐​born spies are not large enough to warrant broad and costly actions such as a ban on travel and immigration from China, but they do warrant the continued exclusion of potential spies under current laws. Espionage poses a threat to national security and the private property rights of Americans. The government should address the threat of espionage in a manner whereby the benefits of government actions taken to reduce it outweigh the costs of those actions. To aid in that goal, this policy analysis presents the first combined database of all identified spies who targeted both the U.S. government and private organizations on U.S. soil. This analysis identifies 1,485 spies on American soil who, from 1990 through the end of 2019, conducted state or commercial espionage. Of those, 890 were foreign‐​born, 583 were native‐​born Americans, and 12 had unknown origins. The scale and scope of espionage have major implications for immigration policy, as a disproportionate number of the identified spies were foreign‐​born. Native‐​born Americans accounted for 39.3 percent of all spies, foreign‐​born spies accounted for 59.9 percent, and spies of unknown origins accounted for 0.8 percent. Spies who were born in China, Mexico, Iran, Taiwan, and Russia account for 34.7 percent of all spies. The chance that a native‐​born American committed espionage or an espionage‐​related crime and was identified was about 1 in 13.1 million per year from 1990 to 2019. The annual chance that a foreign‐​born person in the United States committed an espionage‐​related crime and was discovered doing so was about 1 in 2.2 million during that time. The government was the victim in 83.3 percent of espionage cases, firms were the victims of commercial espionage in 16.3 percent of the cases, and hospitals and universities were the victims of espionage in 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent of the cases, respectively. The federal government should continue to exclude foreign‐​born individuals from entering the United States if they pose a threat to the national security and private property rights of Americans through espionage. A cost‐​benefit analysis finds that the hazards posed by foreign‐​born spies are not large enough to warrant broad and costly actions such as a ban on travel and immigration from China, but they do warrant the continued exclusion of potential spies under current laws.
  • Topic: Crime, Immigration, Risk, Espionage
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Scott Lincicome, Inu Manak
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: With several Section 232 tariffs still in place, and the status of other investigations unclear, the law presents an early test for the Biden administration and a signal about its future trade policy plans. President Biden took office at the height of modern American protectionism. The trade policy legacy he inherited from the Trump administration puts the United States at a crossroads. Will Biden go down the problematic path of executive overreach like his predecessor, or will he forge a new path? We may not need to wait long to find out. In his first trade action, President Biden reinstated tariffs on aluminum from the United Arab Emirates under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which authorizes the president to impose tariffs when a certain product is “being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair national security.” Though infrequently used in the past, Section 232 was a favored trade tool of the Trump administration, which was responsible for nearly a quarter of all Section 232 investigations initiated since 1962. While Congress has constitutional authority over trade policy, Section 232 gives the president broad discretion to enact protectionist measures in the name of national security. Why is this law a problem? First, the statute’s lack of an objective definition of “national security” permits essentially anything to be considered a threat, regardless of the merits. Second, the law’s lack of detailed procedural requirements encouraged the Trump administration to cut corners in applying the law, thus breeding cronyism and confusion. Third, President Trump took advantage of the law’s ambiguity to shield key Section 232 findings from Congress and the public, undermining both transparency and accountability. The Trump administration’s abuse of the rarely used Section 232 has allowed the statute to become an excuse for blatant commercial protectionism, harming American companies and consumers and our security interests. It’s unclear whether the Biden administration will continue this troubling trend or seek reform. The best course of action would be the latter: Biden should avoid using Section 232 and support congressional efforts to rein in presidential power, thus ensuring an end to the calamitous episodes that were common during the Trump era.
  • Topic: National Security, Trade Policy, Protectionism
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America