Category Archives: Monetary Policy

Remember Peak Oil?

It’s difficult to overstate just how panicked the world was over oil prices a decade ago — stratospherically high oil prices. We were, most policy makers and economists believed, in an energy crisis — the result of a desperate shortage of petroleum that could only be solved with cellulosic ethanol and windmills. During this “energy crisis” of 2006, we wrote the following Wall Street Journal commentary, hoping to calm fears of peak oil and other such nonsense that often accompanies big price swings. We said oil prices likely would recede. We said vast stores of oil, especially in shale, were about to be found and extracted. We said alternative energy schemes in part justified by high oil prices were a bad idea. We also said a big financial disruption was likely. The macro environment is very different today — prices are low instead of high; the dollar strong instead of weak. In fact, we’ve been telling clients for the last year that today’s environment looks much like the late 1990s: a strong dollar, plummeting energy and commodity prices, soaring prices for abstract technology firms like Internets and bio-techs, and trouble in emerging markets. We reprint this column as a reminder of the economic fundamentals…and energy’s abundance.

The Elephant in the Barrel

The Wall Street Journal — August 12, 2006

by Bret Swanson

Nigerian pipeline explosions, Chinese demand, Arab angst, Venezuelan volatility, peak oil and a Putin premium: These are the usual explanations for high petroleum prices. But our discussion of the “energy crisis” has ignored the elephant in the barrel — monetary policy. Today, high oil prices are the backdrop for Middle Eastern chaos and calls for bad energy policy. It was much the same in the 1970s, when high prices yielded similar violence against our fellow man and against economics. This is no coincidence. A weak dollar is the culprit, now as then.

When the Yom Kippur war was launched in October 1973, the price of oil had been rising for two years. For decades, oil’s price had been remarkably stable, like the prices of most other goods. But in 1971 Richard Nixon broke the dollar’s links both to gold and to key foreign currencies. Bretton Woods — and the dollar — collapsed, and a decade-long inflation began.

By July 1973, gold had deviated from its long-time price of $35 per ounce and soared to $120. Oil also responded quickly to dollar weakness and doubled in price by the early autumn. The Mideast nations complained that the Western oil companies were accumulating massive “windfall profits.” Having negotiated agreements in the previous environment of price stability, the Arabs and Persians were stuck with much lower prices and royalty payments. You know the rest of the decade’s news: embargoes, gas lines, inflation, wage and price controls, hostages.

Today, commodity prices across the board, from coffee to carbon fiber, remain near 25-year highs. High oil prices are not a unique phenomenon, but just another commodity whose price is determined primarily by the value of the dollar. Expensive oil isn’t exclusively a monetary event, of course: Risk and demand matter, too. But in comparing oil to other commodities, especially gold, we find that elevated risk and demand explains only $10-$15 of the higher oil price; $30 of the price is explained by a weak, inflationary dollar. The entity most responsible for expensive oil is thus the Fed.


Finally, A Real Debate Over Monetary Policy

Scott Sumner is an original economic thinker and a particular expert in monetary affairs. So I sat upright when I saw his skeptical reply to the QE2 Skeptics.

Early this week a host of high-profile economists, investors, and thinkers, under the e21 banner, issued an understated but unusually critical “open letter to Ben Bernanke.” They urged him to abandon the $600 billion QE2 strategy, warning of uncertain but possibly very large downside risks compared to little reward even in the unlikely case it works.

Sumner, who favors a concept he calls NGDP (nominal GDP) targeting, says the Fed isn’t trying to spur inflation. It’s trying to boost national income. And who could be opposed to that?

Sumner says the Fed can move the AD (aggregate demand) curve to the right. “Whether that extra spending shows up as inflation or real growth,” he acknowledges, “is of course an important issue.” A very important issue. But critics of QE2 and the broader existing Fed framework aren’t necessarily worried about short-term inflation of the CPI type. No, we are worried about sinking Fed credibility, dollar debasement, possible asset bubbles, and international turmoil. And, yes, possible inflation down the road.

I think Sumner ignores a couple important factors that argue against the simple equation that more Fed easing yields a significant and quantifiable higher level of NGDP, and more importantly RGDP.

First, the transmission mechanism whereby increased bank reserves become credit isn’t working well. A trillion dollars of excess reserves sit on U.S. bank balance sheets. Small and medium sized businesses have found access to loans difficult. Consumers, too, even with historically low mortgage and personal loan rates, have not necessarily been able to access credit because of tighter lending standards and retrenched credit cards and home equity lines. If QE2 merely increases excess reserves further, without a more effective way to boost the supply and demand of actual credit, I don’t think the Monetary Ease –> More NGDP equation is so clear. A further complication: Large companies and the federal government find credit at historically low rates abundant and accessible. But this begs the second problem with the simple Ease –> NGDP equation.

In a world of closed economies, Sumner’s view that U.S. QE would directly translate into more U.S. AD (or his preferred national income) might work, at least temporarily. But we don’t live in a closed economy. Or as Robert Mundell long ago said, “There is only one closed economy — the world economy.” Companies, hedge funds, and other global entities can borrow cheap dollars and then go find opportunities across the globe.

An example is this Nov. 17 Bloomberg story: “Bernanke’s ‘Cheap Money’ Stimulus Spurs Corporate Investment Outside U.S.”

Southern Copper Corp., a Phoenix- based mining company that boasts some of the industry’s largest copper reserves, plans to invest $800 million this year in projects such as a new smelter and a more efficient natural-gas furnace.

Such spending sounds like just what the Federal Reserve had in mind in 2008 when it cut interest rates to near zero and started buying $1.7 trillion in securities to spur job growth. Yet Southern Copper, which raised $1.5 billion in an April debt offering, will use that money at its mines in Mexico and Peru, not the U.S., said Juan Rebolledo, spokesman for parent Grupo Mexico SAB de CV of Mexico City.

Southern Copper’s plans illustrate why the Fed’s second round of bond buying may not reduce unemployment, which has stalled near a 26-year high.

Or as Richard Fisher, CEO of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, said in an October 19 speech:

I have begun to wonder if the monetary accommodation we have already engineered might even be working in the wrong places.

I’m all for companies investing in the best opportunities around the globe. And some of that investment may benefit the companies’ American assets or workforce in direct or indirect ways over time. But that kind of long-term symbiotic growth is not what the Fed is aiming for or says it’s doing with QE2. When the Fed specifically targets the short-term U.S. economy and ends up pushing money overseas, that’s a direct failure of the mission. I believe the Fed should concentrate more on the dollar’s value as the world’s key reserve currency. But here we have a case of arbitrage — getting weak dollars the heck out of the country. We can see that much of ROW is growing faster than the U.S.

Beyond these transmission and international factors, it’s clear that Fed policy — now that we are beyond the panic of 2008-09 when Bernanke and Co. rightly filled an emergency monetary hole — is fueling the growth of government and giving Washington an excuse to continue with counterproductive anti-growth fiscal and regulatory policies.

Sumner tries to addresses this criticism:

7.  “Won’t monetary stimulus just paper over the failures of the Obama administration, allowing him to get re-elected?”

That’s an argument unworthy of principled conservatives.  After 30 years of major neoliberal reforms all over the world (even in Sweden!) it’s time for conservatives to become less defeatist about the possibility of making positive improvements in governance.  We need to do the right thing, and let the political chips fall where they may.  If monetary stimulus is tried, and succeeds in boosting NGDP (which even conservatives implicitly acknowledge can happen when they worry about inflation) then it would drive a stake through the heart of the Krugmanite fiscal stimulus argument (for future recessions.)

I think Sumner misses the point. Fed critics should of course root for the success of Bernanke and our other economic policymakers. But it’s not the case that QE2 is objectively the “right thing” and all critics are opposing it for political reasons. If critics think it is the wrong monetary policy — with the additional ominous factor that it is aiding and abetting (“papering over”) a harmful fiscal and regulatory path — then they are not required to bite their lips and “let the political chips fall where they may” as the economy continues to limp along. If mere monetary policy could solve all the world’s problems, then Mao’s China could have succeeded so long as Beijing printed enough money. That’s a severe reference, an exaggeration to make a point. But Bernanke himself has stated that the Fed cannot do everything, and it’s crystal clear historically that central banks often cause more problems than they cure, often when they are trying to compensate for other poisonous policies.

Despite the sluggish economy and these disagreements, I’m encouraged we are finally having a real, national (international!) debate over monetary policy — one I’ve urged for a long time. And I look forward to further offerings from Sumner . . . and many others.

Department of Monetary Mistakes: QE2 Is Nothing New

The Federal Reserve plan to buy an additional $600 billion in longer term securities — known as QE2 — is taking flak domestically and from around the world. And rightly so, in my view. Check out e21’s understated but highly critical open letter to Ben Bernanke from a group of economists, investors, and thinkers.

But in some ways, QE2 is nothing new. Yes, it is a departure from the traditional Fed purchases of only very short-term securities. And yes, it could lead to all the problems of which its new critics warn. But this is just the latest round in a long series of mistakes. The new worries are possible currency debasement, inflation, asset bubbles, international turmoil, and avoidance of the real burdens on the U.S. economy — namely fiscal and regulatory policy. These worries are real. But this would be a replay of what already happened in the lead up to the 2008 Panic. Or the 1998 Asian Flu. Or the 2000 U.S. crash.

Here was my warning to the Fed in The Wall Street Journal in 2006:

It is these periods of transition, where the value of the currency is changing fast, but before price changes filter through all commerce and contracts, when financial and political disruptions often take place.

That was two years before a Very Big Disruption. (I followed up with another monetary critique in the WSJ here.)

But over the last few decades, there was no common critique of monetary policy among conservatives, Republicans, libertarians, supply-siders, nor among Democrats, liberals, or Keynesians, etc. (Take your pick of labels: the point is there was no effective coalition with any hope of altering the American monetary status quo. There were, for example, just as many Republican backers of Greenspan/Bernanke, and of America’s weak-dollar policy, as there were detractors.) A silver lining today is that QE2 appears to have united and galvanized a broad and thoughtful opposition to the existing monetary regime. Hopefully these events can spur deeper thinking about a new American — and international — monetary policy that can build a firmer foundation for global financial stability and economic growth.

Columbia’s Charles Calomiris discusses his opposition to the Fed’s QE2

Quote of the Day

“What’s the right policy toward China? They put a few trillion dollars worth of stuff on boats and sent it to us in exchange for U.S. government bonds. Those bonds lost a lot of value when the dollar fell relative to the euro and other currencies. Then they put more stuff on boats and took in ever more dubious debt in exchange. We’re in the process of devaluing again. The Chinese government’s accumulation of U.S. debt represents a tragic investment decision, not a currency-manipulation effort. The right policy is flowers and chocolates, or at least a polite thank-you note.”

— John H. Cochrane, October 26, 2010

Quote of the Day

“The upside of QE is limited. The money simply won’t go to where it’s needed, and the wealth effects are too small. The downside is a risk of global volatility, a currency war, and a global financial market that is increasingly fragmented and distorted. If the U.S. wins the battle of competitive devaluation, it may prove to be a pyrrhic victory, as our gains come at the expense of others—including those to whom we hope to export.”

— Joseph Stiglitz, October 23, 2010

China Trade Redux

Each time the China currency issue erupts, I like to repost my articles on the topic:

“Geithner is Exactly Wrong on China Trade” – The Wall Street Journal. January 26, 2009.

“An End to Currency Manipulation” – Far Eastern Economic Review. March 26, 2008.

“The Elephant in the Barrel” – The Wall Street Journal. August 12, 2006.

“Money and the Middle Kingdom” – September 24, 2003.

Quote of the Day

“Since the financial panic began in 2008, global leaders have been at pains to stress their ‘cooperation’ on numerous issues—stimulus spending, new bank rules, trade. Yet they still insist on going their own parochial, self-interested way on monetary policy and exchange rates. It’s as if world leaders had consciously decided to deal with every economic issue except the most important one—the price of the global medium of economic exchange.”

The Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2010

Rajan v. Krugman

Raghu Rajan’s Fault Lines is perhaps the most thoughtful book on the financial crisis, and now Professor Rajan is continuing his incisive analysis at a U. Chicago blog. Here, he defends his own criticism of the Fed’s ultra-easy monetary (both leading up to the crisis and again today) against Paul Krugman’s crude Keynesianism.

Some excerpts:

Before saying the real problem is we are not providing enough monetary stimulus, should we not worry about why corporations did not invest then and what other problems will emerge as we  keep rates ultra-low while hoping corporations will see the light?

. . .

If the government raised taxes explicitly to provide the interest subsidy, everyone would scrutinize the use this money was being put to carefully. Because the Fed picks investors’ pockets silently and forcibly through its ability to set the short term interest rate, no one asks questions about cost.

. . .

Of course, the Fed now disingenuously claims that the worst excesses in the housing market were committed when it had already started raising rates, and therefore it is not responsible for the housing boom. But it was complicit in setting off the boom by keeping interest rates too low for too long before then!

I may disagree with Rajan’s take on “global imbalances” (as I wrote about here) but nevertheless think he has become one of the smartest academic analysts of today’s confusing economic landscape.

Quote of the Day

“If we determine that a dollar shall be our unit, we must then say with precision what a dollar is.”

— Thomas Jefferson, 1784, as quoted by Judy Shelton

China Trade Redux

With the China currency question once again in the news, I’m reposting my Wall Street Journal article from early 2009. (For a much longer treatment, see this paper.)

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL / January 26, 2009

Geithner Is Exactly Wrong on China Trade

The dollar-yuan link has been a great boon to world prosperity


Treasury Secretary-designate Tim Geithner’s charge that China “manipulates” its currency proves only one thing. Three decades after Deng Xiaoping’s capitalist rise, America’s misunderstanding of China remains a key source of our own crisis and socialist tilt.

The new consensus is that America failed to react to the building trade deficit with China and the global “savings glut,” which fueled our housing boom. A “passive” America allowed China to steal jobs from the U.S. while Americans binged with undervalued Chinese funny money.

This diagnosis is backwards. America did not underreact to the supposed Chinese threat. It overreacted. The problem wasn’t “global imbalances” but a purposeful dollar imbalance. Our weak-dollar policy, intended to pump up U.S. manufacturing and close the trade gap, backfired. Currency chaos led to a $30 trillion global crash, an energy shock, bank and auto failures, and possibly a new big government era. For globalization and American innovation to survive, we must first understand the Chinese story and our own monetary mistakes.

We’ve heard the refrain: China’s rapid growth was a mirage. China was stealing wealth by “manipulating” its currency. But in fact China’s rise was based on dramatic decentralization and sound money. (more…)

Quote of the Day

“I have only one project, one big idea: uncertainty. It crosses many different disciplines — math, political science, psychology, risk management — and I swing in between those, but it is always on what we call the epistemological question. There are two parts to this question: math and computation, and psychology. The second causes us to think we know more than we do. It is an endless topi. Bernanke has six problems: One, his education is in tools that aren’t helpful — and he doesn’t know it. Two, he studied the Great Depression, and he thinks he knows too much — this is nothing like the Great Depression. You can’t compare this and the Depression. Three, 99% of risk is tied to the debt/leverage and the explosion of connectivity. It’s like he did not see a truck coming right at him. Four, he has no notion of nonlinearities, and how monetary policies can be responsive in nonlinear ways. Five, he doesn’t understand fat tails. Six, he doesn’t realize that the biggest risk of failure is signified by the Federal Reserve: He thinks we need more regulation; we actually need smaller institutions. And not one person in Congress had the presence of mind to ask him these questions.”

— Nassim Nicholas Taleb, AI5000, Jan/Feb 2010

Malpass foresight beats Bernanke hindsight

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke over the weekend gave a big speech at the American Economic Association annual meeting in Atlanta. He defended his and and Alan Greenspan’s unprecedented easy money through the 2000’s and acknowledged no connection between monetary policy and the financial crash.

Economist David Malpass, however, had the whole thing nailed back in 2002. Here’s Malpass in a note today:

Today’s New York Times front page has a David Leonhardt article on the Fed entitled “If Fed Missed Bubble, How Will It See New One?”  It criticizes Chairman Bernanke’s Atlanta speech: “This lack of self-criticism is feeding Congressional hostility toward the Fed.”

I’ve attached my 2002 WSJ article on the same topic (The Fed’s Moment of Weakness).  It argued that Chairman Greenspan was “letting himself off the hook” in 2002 by saying that the Fed couldn’t anticipate asset bubbles. The 2002 article concludes that: “If the value of the dollar is allowed to fluctuate as wildly in the future, then momentum will dominate the global economy as it did in the 1990s, creating constant boom/bust cycles.”

We expect Chairman Bernanke to be reappointed and the Fed’s lagging monetary policy to continue for at least one more cycle.  For now, this feels good to financial markets (everything is up today except the dollar — gold, oil, the euro, U.S. equities and especially foreign equities in dollar terms.)  However, this gradually channels capital away from the U.S. and especially from the many small businesses (and yet-to-be-created businesses) left out of Washington’s aggressive credit rationing process.  This undercuts U.S. growth and leaves unemployment much higher than it should be.

We often say hindsight is 20/20. Monetary policy is in a sorry state when the hindsight of the insiders lags the foresight of the outsiders. By eight years and counting.

(My own contributions to the debate here and here.)

Quote of the Day

“The irony of the zero-rate policy, coupled with Washington’s preference for a weak dollar, is a glut of American capital in Asia (as corporations and investors shun the weakening U.S. currency) and a shortage at home. For gold and oil, the low-rate policy works, weakening the dollar so commodity prices go up and providing traders with ample funds to buy into the expanding bubble. Those markets are almost daring the Fed to try to break out of its zero-rate box.

“But for small businesses and new workers, capital rationing is devastating, spelling business failures and painful layoffs. Thousands of start-ups won’t launch due to credit shortages, in part because the government and corporations took more credit than they needed (because it was so cheap).”

David Maplass, The Wall Street Journal, December 4 2009

Continuing Dollar Dilemma

Zachary Karabell does a nice job explaining the “superfusion” cooperative arrangement between the U.S. and China, showing why China doesn’t want and won’t trigger a crashed dollar. They want a strong and stable dollar, which, as we have been writing for a long time, is also in our best interest. We are of course constrained by global investors, who rationally want solid real returns. But the competitive and currency positions of the U.S. are a function of our own monetary, fiscal, and regulatory policy actions, not some malign intent on the part of weaker foreign economies who in fact depend on a healthy, thriving America.

David Malpass, as usual, explains it best in this video:

Fisher on the Fed and the Fisc

Richard Fisher was the first Federal Reserve official, back in November 2006, to publicly pinpoint the easy-money mistakes that would lead to the crash.

Now, in the aftermath, as the Fed confronts a whole new set of challenges, here’s a good, long interview of Fisher by Mary Anastasia O’Grady of The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Fisher defends the Fed’s actions that were designed to “stabilize the financial system as it literally fell apart and prevent the economy from imploding.” Yet he admits that there is unfinished work. Policy makers have to be “always mindful that whatever you put in, you are going to have to take out at some point. And also be mindful that there are these perceptions [about the possibility of monetizing the debt], which is why I have been sensitive about the issue of purchasing Treasurys.”

He returns to events on his recent trip to Asia, which besides China included stops in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea. “I wasn’t asked once about mortgage-backed securities. But I was asked at every single meeting about our purchase of Treasurys. That seemed to be the principal preoccupation of those that were invested with their surpluses mostly in the United States. That seems to be the issue people are most worried about.”

As I listen I am reminded that it’s not just the Asians who have expressed concern. In his Kennedy School speech, Mr. Fisher himself fretted about the U.S. fiscal picture. He acknowledges that he has raised the issue “ad nauseam” and doesn’t apologize. “Throughout history,” he says, “what the political class has done is they have turned to the central bank to print their way out of an unfunded liability. We can’t let that happen. That’s when you open the floodgates. So I hope and I pray that our political leaders will just have to take this bull by the horns at some point. You can’t run away from it.”

Extraordinary admission

Last night on Charlie Rose, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner made an extraordinary admission. Here’s the exchange:

Rose: “Looking back, what are the mistakes, and what should you have done more of? Where were your instincts right but you didn’t go far enough?”

Geithner: “There were three broad types of errors in policy. One was that monetary policy here and around the world was too loose for too long.  And, that created just this huge boom in asset prices; money chasing risk; people trying to get a higher return; that was just overwhelmingly powerful.” 

Rose: “Money was too easy.”

Geithner: “Money was too easy, yeah . . . . Real interest rates were very low for a long period of time . . . .”

There you have it. Pretty simple. And yet it is the first time I can recall that any U.S. executive branch official, spanning the Bush and Obama Administrations, has admitted monetary policy was even one factor, let alone the central factor, leading to the crash. This is very big stuff. (more…)

Quote of the Day

“Beginning in 2003, the Fed filled the liquidity punch bowl. Low rates and the weakening dollar created a monumental carry trade (borrow dollars, buy anything). This transmitted the Fed’s monetary excess abroad and into commodities. As the punch bowl overflowed, even global bonds bubbled (prices rose, yields fell), contributing to the global housing boom.”

— David Malpass, March 27, 2009

New world order

China proposes a new world reserve currency to replace the dollar and, it hopes, launch a new era of global monetary stability. In a paper released Monday in Beijing, central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan wrote:

Theoretically, an international reserve currency should first be anchored to a stable benchmark and issued according to a clear set of rules, therefore to ensure orderly supply; second, its supply should be flexible enough to allow timely adjustment according to the changing demand; third, such adjustments should be disconnected from economic conditions and sovereign interests of any single country. The acceptance of credit-based national currencies as major international reserve currencies, as is the case in the current system, is a rare special case in history. The crisis again calls for creative reform of the existing international monetary system towards an international reserve currency with a stable value, rule-based issuance and manageable supply, so as to achieve the objective of safeguarding global economic and financial stability.

It’s an interesting concept, and as I contemplate the proposal I’ll air my praise and criticisms. I’m initially skeptical of a single IMF-managed currency and of Zhou’s suggestion that this will allow nations more flexibility in their own monetary policies. Hyperflexible monetary policies, especially in the U.S., were the source of the problem. But it’s too bad we ever arrived at this point. If the U.S. had better managed the stability of the existing world reserve currency — the dollar — there would be no need for a new “super-sovereign” currency. We had a good thing going, and we blew it.

I’ve written lots about the dollar and its nexus with China (here, here, here, and here).

Black swans? Or black crows?

Nassim Taleb is moving along just fine with an elegant critique of banking’s misaligned incentives . . .

In fact, the incentive scheme commonly in place does the exact opposite of what an “incentive” system should be about: it encourages a certain class of risk-hiding and deferred blow-up. It is the reason banks have never made money in the history of banking, losing the equivalent of all their past profits periodically – while bankers strike it rich. Furthermore, it is that incentive scheme that got us in the current mess.

Take two bankers. The first is conservative. He produces one annual dollar of sound returns, with no risk of blow-up. The second looks no less conservative, but makes $2 by making complicated transactions that make a steady income, but are bound to blow up on occasion, losing everything made and more. So while the first banker might end up out of business, under competitive strains, the second is going to do a lot better for himself. Why? Because banking is not about true risks but perceived volatility of returns: you earn a stream of steady bonuses for seven or eight years, then when the losses take place, you are not asked to disburse anything. You might even start again, after blaming a “systemic crisis” or a “black swan” for your losses.

. . . But then, after showing how easy it is for bank management to capture short-term gains without worrying about long-term risks, Taleb concludes that 

This is prompting me to call for the nationalisation of the utility part of banking as the only solution in which society does not grant individuals free options to look after its risks.

It’s a big leap from misaligned incentives to only the government can run banks. Doesn’t the expert theoretician of the highly improbable Black Swan understand that highly centralized governments are most often the cause of devastating Black Swan events? The only difference being: we shouldn’t really even call them Black Swans in the case of government failure. These events are not uncommon or unpredictable. The inherent difficulty and high-frequency failure of highly centralized bureaucracies managing dynamic systems is so common and predictable, in fact, that we might call them Black Crows. 

We can do much better than nationalizing the banks. Boards should obviously reform compensation practices. Today’s shareholders have been mostly wiped out. The shareholders of the “next banks” won’t soon forget. But most crucially we should amend the wildly incoherent monetary policy regime that does more than any other private or government action to misalign incentives. During credit bubbles, dollars are easily vacuumed up by the financial industry. In a very real sense, they would be irresponsible not to exploit the Fed’s explicit free-lunch program of accommodation “for a considerable period.” Remember, Chairman Greenspan virtually ordered Wall Street to lever up.

A stable currency is the ultimate disciplinarian, the incentive aligner par excellence.

Update: See Taleb and Nobel psychologist/behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman discuss these topics at length here.

Dollar Standard Crucial

Stanford’s Ronald McKinnon, who I cited in my recent Wall Street Journal article on China, echoes my view:

Indeed, as the world goes into a severe economic downturn, the threat of beggar-thy-neighbor devaluations becomes acute — as in the 1930s. Stabilizing the exchange rate between the world’s two largest trading countries could be a useful fixed point for checking the devaluationist proclivities of other nations around the world.

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