“Fiscal and Monetary Policies,” Bern, Spring 2023

MA course at the University of Bern.

Time: Monday, 12.15 – 14.00. Location: UniS, A027. Uni Bern’s official course page. TA: Remo Taudien.

This course covers macroeconomic theories of fiscal policy (including tax and debt policy) and the interaction between fiscal and monetary policy. Participants should be familiar with the material covered in the course Macroeconomics II. The course grade reflects the final exam grade. The classes follow selected chapters in the textbook Macroeconomic Analysis (MIT Press, 2019) and build on the material covered in the macro II course which follows the same text.

Main contents:

  1. Concepts.
  2. RA model with government spending and taxes.
  3. Government debt in RA model.
  4. Government debt and social security in OLG model.
  5. Neutrality results.
  6. Consolidated government budget constraint.
  7. Fiscal effects on inflation. Game of chicken.
  8. FTPL. Active and passive policies.
  9. Tax smoothing.
  10. Time consistent policy.
  11. Sovereign debt.

“Topics in Macroeconomics,” Bern, Spring 2023

BA course at the University of Bern.

Time: Monday, 10:15–12:00. Location: UniS, S101. Uni Bern’s official course page.

The course targets students who have completed their mandatory training in microeconomics, macroeconomics and mathematics and who are interested to make use of macroeconomic theory in order to analyze questions related to asset prices, bubbles, government debt, or the link between fiscal and monetary policy. The grade may depend on participation in class; small group projects; and/or a written exam.

The Economics of Brexit

In one of the eBooks that CEPR published in 2022 several authors draw first conclusions. From the introduction by Jonathan Portes:

The analyses in this eBook are very much a preliminary and incomplete account of the economic impacts of Brexit. In some cases, they raise as many questions as they answer.
For example, why have UK imports of EU goods fallen so sharply, while UK exports are much less affected, when (in contrast to the EU) the UK has not yet introduced the full panoply of import controls provided for under the TCA? Why has the large fall in the number of EU workers in some sectors – and a corresponding rise in vacancies – not translated into higher wages, at least in relative terms? Nevertheless, the overwhelming weight of the evidence presented suggests that – very much as economists predicted – Brexit has made the UK a less open economy, reduced UK trade in both goods and services, and increased prices for some products. Moreover, despite public scepticism of economists and their forecasts, our verdict is increasingly shared by the wider public (Surridge 2022).

However, as Fetzer points out, aggregate impacts are not the whole story by any means. His analysis suggests not only that the costs of Brexit are very unevenly distributed, but that, perhaps paradoxically, those areas that voted most heavily for Brexit are the worst affected, while London has escaped largely unscathed, at least so far.

“Sovereign Bond Prices, Haircuts and Maturity,” JIE, 2023

With Tamon Asonuma and Romain Ranciere. Journal of International Economics 140, 103689, January 2023. PDF.

We document that creditor losses (”haircuts”) during sovereign debt restructurings vary across debt maturity. In our novel dataset on instrument-specific haircuts suffered by private creditors in 1999-‒2020 we find larger losses on short- than long-term debt, independently of the specific haircut measure we use. A standard asset pricing model rationalizes our findings under two assumptions, both of which are satisfied in the data: increasing short-run restructuring risk in the run-up to a restructuring, and high exit yields. We relate our findings to the policy debate on restructuring procedures.

Lucas Kyriacou’s “Python for Macroeconomists”

Lucas Kyriacou has posted a Jupyter notebook with a great introduction to Python.

From the readme file:

This course aims to introduce PhD students to the basics of the popular and powerful programming language called Python. After going through the basics, we will also see some applications such as OLS regression, extraction of information from textual data, data visualization and object-oriented programming. In an extended version of this course we will further discuss various applications such as bulk downloading macroeconomic data, VAR estimation and solving macroeconomic models.

Economics PhD Admissions

In an NBER working paper, Jessica Bai, Matthew Esche, W. Bentley MacLeod and Yifan Shi argue:

We introduce a model of the admissions process based upon standard agency theory and explore its implications with economics PhD admissions data from 2013-2019. We show that a subjective score that aggregates subjective ratings and recommendation letter features plays a more important role in determining admissions than an objective score based upon graduate record exam (GRE) scores. Subjective evaluations by references who write multiple letters are not only more influential than those of references who write one letter, but they are also more informative. Since multiple-letter references are also more highly ranked economists, this implies that there is a constraint on the supply of high-quality references. Moreover, we find that both the subjective and objective scores are correlated with job placement at a top economics department after the completion of the PhD. These indicators of individual achievement have a smaller effect than an undergraduate degree from an Ivy Plus school (i.e., Ivy League + Stanford, MIT, Duke, and Chicago). In the self-selected pool of applicants, Ivy Plus graduates are twice as likely to be admitted to a top 10 graduate program and are much more likely to obtain an assistant professor position at a top 10 program upon PhD completion. Given that Ivy Plus students must pass a stringent selection process to gain admission to their undergraduate program, we cannot reject the hypothesis that admission committees use information efficiently and fairly. However, this also implies that there may be a return to attending a selective undergraduate program in order to be pooled with highly skilled individuals.

Robert Wolff’s “Original Wisdom”

Goodreads rating 4.37. Wolff describes his experiences in rural Malaysia and in the jungle among the Sng’oi, where he learns (rather than being taught) new forms of awareness and knowledge.

I saw clearly—perhaps for the first time—that most people, even scientists, can see the world only from one point of view: their own. [p. 146]

Malay culture values halus—soft, gentle, polite—and despises kasar.

“Sovereign Bond Prices, Haircuts and Maturity,” UniBe, 2022

With Tamon Asonuma and Romain Ranciere. UniBe Discussion Paper 22-13, November 2022. PDF.

We document that creditor losses (”haircuts”) during sovereign debt restructurings vary across debt maturity. In our novel dataset on instrument-specific haircuts suffered by private creditors in 1999-‒2020 we find larger losses on short- than long-term debt, independently of the specific haircut measure we use. A standard asset pricing model rationalizes our findings under two assumptions, both of which are satisfied in the data: increasing short-run restructuring risk in the run-up to a restructuring, and high exit yields. We relate our findings to the policy debate on restructuring procedures.

Mortality Externalities of CO2-Emissions

In the Quarterly Journal of Economics (137, 4), a group of authors estimates that

the mean global increase in mortality risk due to climate change, accounting for adaptation benefits and costs, is valued at roughly 3.2% of global GDP in 2100 under a high-emissions scenario. Notably, today’s cold locations are projected to benefit, while today’s poor and hot locations have large projected damages. Finally, our central estimates indicate that the release of an additional ton of CO2 today will cause mortality-related damages of $36.6 under a high-emissions scenario, with an interquartile range accounting for both econometric and climate uncertainty of [−$7.8, $73.0].

Mariana: CBDCs in Automated Market Makers

Three BIS innovation hubs plan to test DeFi inspired liquidity pools to exchange wCBDCs. BIS press release:

  • Project Mariana will use DeFi protocols to automate foreign exchange markets and settlement.
  • Automated market makers can become the basis for new generation of financial infrastructure.
  • Exploration on cross-border exchange of wholesale CBDCs is the first to involve three Hub centres.

The BIS Innovation Hub is launching a new project around central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and Decentralised Finance (DeFi) protocols as part of its 2022 work programme.

Project Mariana explores automated market makers (AMM) for the cross-border exchange of hypothetical Swiss franc, euro and Singapore dollar wholesale CBDCs. It will seek to examine the potential between financial institutions to settle foreign exchange trades in financial markets.

The project involves the Eurosystem, Singapore and Switzerland BIS Innovation Hub Centres together with the Bank of France, Monetary Authority of Singapore and Swiss National Bank. The aim is to deliver a proof of concept by mid-2023.

Project Mariana uses DeFi protocols to automate foreign exchange markets and settlement, potentially improving cross-border payments (and supporting a priority of the Group of 20). Today, DeFi built on public blockchains uses smart contract protocols to automate markets for crypto and digital assets. AMM protocols combine pooled liquidity with innovative algorithms to determine the prices between two or more tokenised assets. In the future, similar AMM protocols could form the basis for a new generation of financial infrastructures facilitating the cross-border exchange of CBDCs.

“Money and Banking with Reserves and CBDC,” UniBe, 2022

UniBe Discussion Paper 22-12, October 2022. PDF.

We analyze retail central bank digital currency (CBDC) in a two-tier monetary system with bank deposit market power and externalities from liquidity transformation. Resource costs of liquidity provision determine the optimal monetary architecture and modified Friedman (1969) rules the optimal monetary policy. Optimal interest rates on reserves and CBDC differ. A calibration for the U.S. suggests a weak case for CBDC in the baseline but a much clearer case when too-big-to-fail banks, tax distortions or instrument restrictions are present. Depending on central bank choices CBDC raises U.S. bank funding costs by up to 1.5 percent of GDP.

“The Swiss National Bank in Brief”

PDF.

Contents

  • The SNB’s mandate
  • Monetary policy strategy
  • Implementation of monetary policy
  • Ensuring the supply and distribution of cash
  • The SNB’s role in the cashless payment system
  • Asset management
  • The SNB’s contribution to financial stability
  • International monetary cooperation
  • Independence, accountability and relationship with the Confederation
  • The SNB as a company
  • Legal basis

Appendix

  • Publications and other resources
  • SNB balance sheet
  • Addresses

Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude”

Translated by Gregory Rabassa. Goodreads rating 4.10.

…the secret of a good old age is simply an honorable pact with solitude. [p. 205]

… and once again she shuddered with the evidence that time was not passing, as she had just admitted, but that it was turning in a circle. [p. 341]

Both looked back then on the wild revelry, the gaudy wealth, and the unbridled fornication as an annoyance and they lamented that it had cost them so much of their lives to find the paradise of shared solitude. Madly in love after so many years of sterile complicity … [p. 345]

… and then they understood that José Arcadio Buendía was not as crazy as the family said, but that he was the only one who had enough lucidity to sense the truth of the fact that time also stumbled and had accidents and could therefore splinter and leave an eternalized fragment in a room. [p. 355]

Some of the book’s best phrases according to NewsLiterature:

  • “The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and to mention them you had to point your finger at them.”
  • “You don’t die when you should, but when you can.”
  • “Loneliness had selected his memories, and had incinerated the numbing heaps of nostalgic garbage that life had accumulated in his heart, and had purified, magnified and eternalized the others, the most bitter.”
  • “Actually, he did not care about death, but life, and that is why the feeling he experienced when they pronounced the sentence was not a feeling of fear but of nostalgia.”
  • “Like all the good things that happened to them in their long lives, that unbridled fortune had its origin in chance.”
  • “He had the rare virtue of not existing completely but at the right time.”
  • “He had had to promote thirty-two wars, and violate all his pacts with death and wallow like a pig in the dunghill of glory, to discover almost forty years late the privileges of simplicity.”
  • “The oldest cry in the history of mankind is the cry of love.”

Digital Money and Finance: What’s New?

CEPR/SUERF/CB&DC webinar with Darrell Duffie, Todd Keister, Harald Uhlig, Dirk Niepelt.

Youtube

Digitisation rapidly changes money, banking and finance. Are these changes fundamental and radical—or part of a continuous process of technological progress and efficiency improvement? Do academics have to re-think money, banking and finance—or do conventional theories apply? And do finance professionals and regulators need to re-assess their frameworks and tools to keep up with the transformation?

Darrell Duffie (Stanford University and Fintech & Digital Currencies RPN Member), Todd Keister (Rutgers University and Fintech & Digital Currencies RPN Member) and Harald Uhlig (University of Chicago, CEPR and Fintech & Digital Currencies RPN Member), three experts on macro economics, monetary economics and finance, shared their views on these and related questions. The webinar, which has been moderated by Dirk Niepelt (University of Bern, SUERF, CEPR and Fintech & Digital Currencies RPN Leader), started with brief opening remarks by each of the experts, followed by a discussion and a Q&A session.

Political Economy for Investors

Mark Dittli of the market NZZ interviews Russell Napier:

… the power to control the creation of money has moved from central banks to governments. By issuing state guarantees on bank credit during the Covid crisis, governments have effectively taken over the levers to control the creation of money.

… statistics on bank loans to corporates within the European Union since February 2020: Out of all the new loans in Germany, 40% are guaranteed by the government. In France, it’s 70% of all new loans, and in Italy it’s over 100%, because they migrate old maturing credit to new, government-guaranteed schemes.

… we are headed into a significant growth slowdown, even a recession, and bank credit is still growing. … The CFO of Commerzbank was asked about this fact in July, and she said that the government would not allow large debtors to fail.

… in a world where large parts of the global economy are in a system of financial repression, there will be all sorts of capital controls. That means that as an investor, you best invest in jurisdictions where you plan to spend your retirement.

GNU Taler

The GNU Taler project:

We are building an anonymous, taxable payment system using modern cryptography. Customers will use traditional money transfers to send money to a digital Exchange and in return receive (anonymized) digital cash. Customers can use this digital cash to anonymously pay Merchants. Merchants can redeem the digital cash for traditional money at the digital Exchange. As Merchants are not anonymous, they can be taxed, enabling income or sales taxes to be withheld by the state while providing anonymity for Customers.

No CBDC Act

Source

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
September 13, 2022

Mr. Lee (for himself and Mr. Braun) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

A BILL

To amend the Federal Reserve Act to limit the ability of Federal Reserve banks to issue central bank digital currency.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “No Central Bank Digital Currency Act” or the “No CBDC Act”.

SEC. 2. CENTRAL BANK DIGITAL CURRENCY.

Section 13 of the Federal Reserve Act is amended by adding after the 14th undesignated paragraph (12 U.S.C. 347d) the following:

“ No Federal reserve bank, the Board, the Secretary of the Treasury, any other agency, or any entity directed to act on behalf of the Federal reserve bank, the Board, the Secretary, or other agency, may mint or issue a central bank digital currency directly to an individual (including central bank digital currency issued to an individual through a custodial intermediary) or a digital currency intermediary, offer related products or services directly to an individual, or maintain an account on behalf of an individual (including an account in a specially designated account at a digital currency intermediary or supervised commercial bank). No Federal reserve bank may hold digital currencies minted or issued by the United States Government as assets or liabilities on their balance sheets or use such digital currencies as part of fulfilling the requirements under section 2A.”.

Carbon Accounting

Carbon flow, stock and budget according to the recent Geneva Report on Climate and Debt:

  • Annual global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel and industry: 40 gigatonnes.
  • Cumulative historical emissions since 1850: 2400 gigatonnes. They are responsible for a temperature rise of 1 degree Celsius.
  • Remaining carbon budget given 1.5 degree Celsius temperature rise cap: 300 gigatonnes.

Smart Banknote CBDC

Orell Füssli news release:

Orell Füssli Ltd. Security Printing and AUGENTIC GmbH announced their partnership on a “Smart Banknote CBDC” solution including trustwise.io’s Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) a week ago. A smart banknote is a physical banknote that interacts with a CBDC solution and acts as a transitional device between traditional and CBDC based payment systems. A smart banknote can be used like a classic banknote; however, the owner can redeem his cold wallet (physical banknote) and transfer the note’s value to a digital wallet by scanning the QR code with the private key. Our smart banknote includes a public and a private key represented by QR codes of which the private one is sealed. When the cover of the private key is removed, the QR code scanned, the value of the banknote can be transferred to a digital wallet. Conceptually after this procedure, the smart banknote cannot be transferred anymore.

Lucas on an OECD Economic Expert Report

In a Carnegie-Rochester paper from 1979, Robert Lucas reviews an earlier report to the OECD by a group of independent experts. Lucas views the report as vacuous, eclectic, and dangerous:

… I know of no other way to convey the Report’s undisciplined eclecticism. It meanders through the long list of issues which have been defined in popular debate as “policy problems,” accepting all as equally suited to treatment by government action and equally amenable to economic expertise, offering ambiguous and unsupported opinion on each. Nowhere can one discern a consistent set of economic principles underlying either the choice of questions to be addressed or the policy stances which are recommended.

As an economist, I find this alarming, but not because I believe the Report will in any direct way contribute to a worsening in economic policy in the OECD countries. On the contrary, the Report is so nearly vacuous that it will be difficult to tell which governments are attempting to follow its guidance and which are not. It is alarming because of the vision of economics it presents, to the public and to us: an economics limited to the writing of safely ambiguous lines for insertion in the speeches of treasury officials and central bankers. It is opportunism posing as pragmatism.

And he argues that economics and economists can only lose from contributing to reports of this kind.

It seems certain that economic policy in the OECD countries in the coming ten years will involve a wide variety of government interventions in particular sectors and industries. The particular interventions which emerge will, looked at in the right way, presumably exhibit some pattern. (For a social scientist, this much must be taken as an article of faith.) The chances that it will be economic theory which provides coherence to these policies must be judged, however, to be near zero. In these circumstances, the McCracken Committee is attempting to create the appearance that economic advisors are technically in control of developments, guiding them in a spirit of flexibility and pragmatism, supported by the technical research efforts of an entire
profession.

Yet is it in the interest of economics that these political developments be viewed as being supported by a consensus of professional opinion? The main reason to answer in the negative, stressed in this review, is also the simplest: it is not true. There is also a second reason, of a more “pragmatic” nature. There is every reason to believe that the economic policies of the coming decade will, being guided by no economic principles, lead to very bad results. What can be the benefit of claiming for economic theory the blame for a collection of policies which in no way follow from it?

It would be interesting to know how Lucas assesses contemporary reports issued by the OECD and other bodies.

Monetary Policy, the NK Model, and Humility

In an NBER working paper John Cochrane concludes that

… we have been guilty of playing with too-complex models when we don’t really understand basics, such as stability, determinacy, and the frictionless limit. …

Given the state of actual agreed-on knowledge, central banks’ proclamations of detailed technocratic ability to manipulate delicate frictions is laughable. Figure 10 shows in chart form the Rube-Goldberg list of mechanisms the ECB thinks it understands and can manipulate. Central bankers who think they have any idea how all these boxes and arrows work, and how to manipulate them, should reread Bob’s unsung classic “on a report to the OECD” Lucas (1979) once a week. A little humility would do us all good.