ASI paper "The Real Problem was Nominal" features on The Economist's blog

New ASI paper "The Real Problem was Nominal - the crash of 2008" was featured on The Economist's blog, which looked at how British data would fare in the 'musical chairs' model:

SCOTT SUMNER has written a paper for the Adam Smith Institute in which he sets out the market monetarist interpretation of the great recession. Central to this is the "musical chairs" model of unemployment, which he assesses against American labour market data.

The musical chairs model says that shocks to nominal GDP—or total spending in the economy—drive unemployment. When nominal GDP falls, there is no longer enough spending to sustain the same number of jobs unless wages fall. Because wages are slow to adjust, unemployment rises instead.

Read the full article here.

The Real Problem was Nominal” - written by Prof Scott Sumner, a leading economist who was a key inspiration for the Federal Reserve’s QE3 programme - explains how the European Central Bank  is repeating the mistakes that the Fed and Bank of England made in the 2008 crisis—trying to plan credit and micromanage the financial sector, when the real issue is excessively tight monetary policy.

The paper argues that Eurozone quantitative easing will not reverse the Eurozone’s decline unless it is open-ended and tied more explicitly to the ECB’s inflation target. Targeting nominal GDP—the total amount of spending in the economy, also known as aggregate demand—would be even better, the paper argues, guaranteeing more stability when unexpected supply-side shocks like oil price movements make inflation targeting trickier.

Download “The Real Problem was Nominal” for free here.

ASI paper "The Real Problem was Nominal" released as an exclusive with The Daily Telegraph

New ASI paper "The Real Problem was Nominal" was released as an exclusive with The Daily Telegraph.  "The Real Problem was Nominal" - written by Prof Scott Sumner, a leading economist who was a key inspiration for the Federal Reserve's QE3 programme - explains how the European Central Bank  is repeating the mistakes that the Fed and Bank of England made in the 2008 crisis—trying to plan credit and micromanage the financial sector, when the real issue is excessively tight monetary policy.

The paper argues that Eurozone quantitative easing will not reverse the Eurozone’s decline unless it is open-ended and tied more explicitly to the ECB's inflation target. Targeting nominal GDP—the total amount of spending in the economy, also known as aggregate demand—would be even better, the paper argues, guaranteeing more stability when unexpected supply-side shocks like oil price movements make inflation targeting trickier.

From The Daily Telegraph:

In his paper “The Real Problem Was Nominal”, Mr Sumner finds that tight monetary policy by the Bank and Fed worsened the Great Recession, and is now responsible for the protracted eurozone crisis.

He now recommended that the ECB eases its policy further to achieve its targets, ensuring stability for households and firms.

The central bank should go a step further by target the price level, rather than inflation, so that entrepreneurs can be sure that if the ECB misses its targets this will be compensated for in future.

An ever better option for the ECB to drop its inflation target in favour of a regime of nominal GDP (NGDP) level targeting, requiring policymakers to maintain the growth of total spending in the economy.

Such a system would have prevented the ECB from increasing its interest rates in 2011 when inflation rose because of VAT increases. Tighter policy caused the eurozone crisis to flare up again, from which the bloc has not fully recovered.

Lars Christensen, a senior fellow at the ASI, said: “The ECB needs to end the deflationary policies and hoc credit policies and instead introduce a clear and transparent rule-based monetary policy regime - an NGDP target.”

"This would save the Eurozone from the debt-deflation spiral and would at the same time greatly increase financial stability across Europe,” he added.

Read the full article here.

Author of the report, Professor Scott Sumner, also wrote an op-ed for The Daily Telegraph:

First, let’s clear up a few misconceptions. The recent eurozone recession was not caused by the “zero interest rate” problem. Some economists argue that central banks cannot stimulate demand when their policy rate is very close to zero, as the Bank of England’s has been for close to six years.

But even if this can be a problem, it could not have been between 2007 and 2012, when eurozone interest rates were not at zero. They were consistently above this level and the European Central Bank (ECB) was doing “normal” monetary policy, raising and lowering interest rates to keep inflation on target.

If the eurozone had a shortfall in demand then – and it most certainly did – it’s because the ECB intentionally created it to keep inflation under 2pc. In retrospect, it was a mistake to give the ECB an inflexible inflation target. For instance, when eurozone countries adopted fiscal austerity and raised VAT rates, the ECB decided – in 2011 – to tighten monetary policy to prevent inflation from running above 2pc.

Read the full op-ed here.

Download "The Real Problem was Nominal" for free here.

Press Release: Eurozone QE is not enough for recovery, says US economist behind QE3

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Communications Manager Kate Andrews: kate@adamsmith.org / 07584 778207 Eurozone quantitative easing (QE) will not reverse the Eurozone’s decline unless it is open-ended and tied more explicitly to the European Central Bank (ECB)'s inflation target, according to a new paper from the Adam Smith Institute.

The paper, “The Real Problem Was Nominal”, written by Prof Scott Sumner, a leading economist who was a key inspiration for the Federal Reserve's QE3 programme, argues that the ECB is repeating the mistakes that the Fed and Bank of England made in the 2008 crisis—trying to plan credit and micromanage the financial sector, when the real issue is excessively tight monetary policy.

Instead of trying to micromanage the economy by using credit policy – lending to governments and banks – the ECB simply needs to do ease policy enough to achieve its inflation target, so that firms and households can create wealth in a stable macroeconomic environment.

Targeting nominal GDP—the total amount of spending in the economy, also known as aggregate demand—would be even better, the paper argues, guaranteeing more stability when unexpected supply-side shocks like oil price movements make inflation targeting trickier.

Such a policy would automatically generate more inflation during recessions, to stabilise the macroeconomy, and less inflation during booms, to prevent excess price rises.

The paper debunks the existing analysis of the 2008 financial crisis by illustrating that interest rates are a poor measure of the stance of monetary policy, so just because the ECB has dropped rates to zero does not mean its monetary policy is 'easy'.

It uses historical data to show that tight money policies by the BoE and the Fed hugely worsened the Great Recession, and is now stopping Europe from recovering. It also shows that monetary policy and fiscal policy work through the same channels of aggregate demand and inflation, explaining why austerity in the UK and US has not hurt economic growth.

The paper calls on the ECB to replace the one-sided inflation target with a target for total incomes, to stop debt crises and automatically incorporate supply-shocks rather than relying on the judgement of ECB officials. This should be based on a target of the market forecast, whether of total nominal income, or of inflation. The bank should also stop doing credit policy, which distorts specific markets without solving the monetary disequilibrium that is the heart of the problem.

Senior Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute Lars Christensen said:

More and more Eurozone countries are now facing outright deflation and there is no doubt that the ECB's overly tight monetary stance is primarily to blame for this.

Therefore there is a serious need for reform of the ECB's policy instruments and targets.

The ECB needs to end the deflationary policies and hoc credit policies and instead introduce a clear and transparent rule-based monetary policy regime—a nominal GDP target.

An NGDP target would save the Eurozone from the debt-deflation spiral and would at the same time greatly increase financial stability across Europe.

Director of the Adam Smith Institute Dr Eamonn Butler added:

Central banks are always over-tightening or over-loosening things. They created a huge bubble that ultimately ended in the financial crash. Now they are plunging countries into damaging deflations.

Central banks should be abolished and interest rates left to the market. As a second best, we need strict rule-based targeting, such as Professor Sumner proposes.

Notes to editors:

Download a free copy of "The Real Problem was Nominal" here.

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Kate Andrews, Communications Manager, at kate@adamsmith.org / 07584 778207.

The Adam Smith Institute is an independent libertarian think tank based in London. It advocates classically liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.

"Should Samantha Cameron give up her day job?" - Dr Eamonn Butler argues no in The Observer

Director of the Adam Smith Institute, Dr Eamonn Butler, took part in The Observer's weekly debate, arguing that Samantha Cameron should not resign from her position at Smythson, regardless of her husband's position on tax avoidance. Eamonn exchanged e-mails with Heather Stewart, The Observer’s economics editor, who argued that she should step down.

Eamonn's first response:

Stop beating up innocent people. David Cameron is not his wife’s custodian, nor she his. She should be commended for going out and getting a job, where she at least might pick up some understanding of the issues facing business and the everyday tribulations of people in work – useful, given how insulated our politicians are. She is an employee, a creative adviser, not one of the bosses who makes decisions about her employer’s finances. No doubt if she worked on the checkout in Tesco you’d be telling her to resign over the company’s financial fraud investigation or the moans about how it treats its suppliers. Smells like pure politics. Focus on the real issue. What’s wrong here is our high and complicated taxes that drive firms to base themselves abroad. It’s a free world and that’s perfectly legal, but who can blame them?

Read the full debate here.

Syriza’s plan for the Greece falls short: Grexit must not be ruled out - Sam Bowman writes for CityAM

Deputy Director of the Adam Smith Institute, Sam Bowman, wrote a comment piece for CityAM on Greece's options, including leaving the euro, as its economy continues to suffer.

After the failure of the new Greek finance minister’s tour of Europe’s capitals this week to produce a workable debt deal, Greece’s situation now seems terminal. Greece has an unemployment rate above 25 per cent, a debt-to-GDP ratio of almost 200 per cent and deflation of 2.6 per cent. The country’s economy has shrunk by 23 per cent since 2008.

The big mistake of the Troika – the European Union, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) – was to assume that “structural reforms” to the Greek economy, tied to massive bailouts in 2010 and 2011, would be enough to generate growth in the face of persistent deflation.

To be sure, those reforms were desirable. Labour market liberalisations have made it cheaper to hire and fire workers, boosting employment, and pension reforms have improved Greece’s long-term fiscal position.

Read the full article here.

Yanis Varoufakis's response to ASI's endorsement of Greece's debt restructuring plan features in CityAM

Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, Ben Southwood, was quoted in CityAM on Yanis Varoufakis's response to the ASI's endorsement of Greece's debt restructuring plan. From CityAM:

The world's most interesting finance minister has expressed his surprise at being backed one of Britain's leading free-market think-tanks.

Yanis Varoufakis, the man appointed by Greece's radical left wing party Syriza to sort out the country's debt crisis, tweeted "we live in a strange world" after reading comments from the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) published by City A.M.

From Ben:

Head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, Ben Southwood, said:

These are strange times indeed when Greek Marxists are seeing eye-to-eye with British free marketeers, but the European Central Bank's crazy monetary policy has done just that.

While we don't support the entirety of Syriza's radical programme—for example cracking down on holiday makers or hiking the minimum wage drastically in the middle of a depression—Varoufakis's idea of linking debt to the economy is a good one.

One of the advantages of Varoufakis's plan is that it would be resistant to policy mistakes that stem from the European Central Bank (ECB). Southwood argues:

It effectively makes the debt burden impervious to the ECB's herky-jerky decisions over interest rates and quantitative easing, meaning that if the ECB drove Greece into deflation in a future crisis, this would not raise the real value of its debt and cause a sovereign debt catastrophe.

The ASI will work with anyone to achieve a richer, happier, better world—party allegiance is irrelevant—and this move could do just that.

Read the full article here.

ASI comments on Greece's debt restructuring plan feature in CityAM

ASI Fellow Lars Christensen was quoted in CityAM supporting the new Greek finance minister's debt restructuring plan:

Greece's finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has found an enthusiastic backer for his debt restructuring plans in one of Britain's premier free-market think-tanks.

Greece has abandoned demands for a write-off of foreign debt and has instead proposed swapping the outstanding debt for growth-linked bonds accompanied by a crackdown on tax evasion and budget surpluses.

Varoufakis described the new options as a "menu of debt swaps", according to the Financial Times. The first of these options would be new bonds indexed to nominal economic growth, which would replace European rescue bonds.

Lars Christensen, a fellow at the Adam Smith Institute (ASI), said today:

The European Central Bank's job is to ensure nominal stability in the Eurozone economy. The ECB should not bail out governments and banks.

Unfortunately again and again over the past six years the ECB has been forced to bailout Eurozone states. Hence, the ECB has repeatedly conducted credit policy (rather than monetary policy) to avoid Eurozone countries defaulting.

Read the full article here.