Saturday Quiz – September 1, 2012 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

Question 1:

As a matter of accounting, the financial assets held by the non-government sector rise $-for-$ when a sovereign government issues debt.

The answer is False.

The fundamental principles that arise in a fiat monetary system are as follows.

  • The central bank sets the short-term interest rate based on its policy aspirations.
  • Government spending is independent of borrowing and the latter best thought of as coming after spending.
  • Government spending provides the net financial assets (bank reserves) which ultimately represent the funds used by the non-government agents to purchase the debt.
  • Budget deficits that are not accompanied by corresponding monetary operations (debt-issuance) put downward pressure on interest rates contrary to the myths that appear in macroeconomic textbooks about ‘crowding out’.
  • The “penalty for not borrowing” is that the interest rate will fall to the bottom of the “corridor” prevailing in the country which may be zero if the central bank does not offer a return on reserves.
  • Government debt-issuance is a “monetary policy” operation rather than being intrinsic to fiscal policy, although in a modern monetary paradigm the distinctions between monetary and fiscal policy as traditionally defined are moot.

National governments have cash operating accounts with their central bank. The specific arrangements vary by country but the principle remains the same. When the government spends it debits these accounts and credits various bank accounts within the commercial banking system. Deposits thus show up in a number of commercial banks as a reflection of the spending. It may issue a cheque and post it to someone in the private sector whereupon that person will deposit the cheque at their bank. It is the same effect as if it had have all been done electronically.

All federal spending happens like this. You will note that:

  • Governments do not spend by “printing money”. They spend by creating deposits in the private banking system. Clearly, some currency is in circulation which is “printed” but that is a separate process from the daily spending and taxing flows.
  • There has been no mention of where they get the credits and debits come from! The short answer is that the spending comes from no-where but we will have to wait for another blog soon to fully understand that. Suffice to say that the Federal government, as the monopoly issuer of its own currency is not revenue-constrained. This means it does not have to “finance” its spending unlike a household, which uses the fiat currency.
  • Any coincident issuing of government debt (bonds) has nothing to do with “financing” the government spending.

All the commercial banks maintain reserve accounts with the central bank within their system. These accounts permit reserves to be managed and allows the clearing system to operate smoothly. The rules that operate on these accounts in different countries vary (that is, some nations have minimum reserves others do not etc). For financial stability, these reserve accounts always have to have positive balances at the end of each day, although during the day a particular bank might be in surplus or deficit, depending on the pattern of the cash inflows and outflows. There is no reason to assume that these flows will exactly offset themselves for any particular bank at any particular time.

The central bank conducts “operations” to manage the liquidity in the banking system such that short-term interest rates match the official target – which defines the current monetary policy stance. The central bank may: (a) Intervene into the interbank (overnight) money market to manage the daily supply of and demand for reserve funds; (b) buy certain financial assets at discounted rates from commercial banks; and (c) impose penal lending rates on banks who require urgent funds, In practice, most of the liquidity management is achieved through (a). That being said, central bank operations function to offset operating factors in the system by altering the composition of reserves, cash, and securities, and do not alter net financial assets of the non-government sectors.

Fiscal policy impacts on bank reserves – government spending (G) adds to reserves and taxes (T) drains them. So on any particular day, if G > T (a budget deficit) then reserves are rising overall. Any particular bank might be short of reserves but overall the sum of the bank reserves are in excess. It is in the commercial banks interests to try to eliminate any unneeded reserves each night given they usually earn a non-competitive return. Surplus banks will try to loan their excess reserves on the Interbank market. Some deficit banks will clearly be interested in these loans to shore up their position and avoid going to the discount window that the central bank offeres and which is more expensive.

The upshot, however, is that the competition between the surplus banks to shed their excess reserves drives the short-term interest rate down. These transactions net to zero (a equal liability and asset are created each time) and so non-government banking system cannot by itself (conducting horizontal transactions between commercial banks – that is, borrowing and lending on the interbank market) eliminate a system-wide excess of reserves that the budget deficit created.

What is needed is a vertical transaction – that is, an interaction between the government and non-government sector. So bond sales can drain reserves by offering the banks an attractive interest-bearing security (government debt) which it can purchase to eliminate its excess reserves.

However, the vertical transaction just offers portfolio choice for the non-government sector rather than changing the holding of financial assets.

So the issuance of public debt does not increases the assets that are held by the non-government sector $-for-$.

Further, mainstream macroeconomics claims that public debt-issuance reduces the capacity of the private sector to borrow from banks because they use their deposits to buy the bonds. That is also clearly an incorrect statement.

It is based on the erroneous belief that the banks need deposits and reserves before they can lend. Mainstream macroeconomics wrongly asserts that banks only lend if they have prior reserves. The illusion is that a bank is an institution that accepts deposits to build up reserves and then on-lends them at a margin to make money. The conceptualisation suggests that if it doesn’t have adequate reserves then it cannot lend. So the presupposition is that by adding to bank reserves, quantitative easing will help lending.

But this is an incorrect depiction of how banks operate. Bank lending is not “reserve constrained”. Banks lend to any credit worthy customer they can find and then worry about their reserve positions afterwards. If they are short of reserves (their reserve accounts have to be in positive balance each day and in some countries central banks require certain ratios to be maintained) then they borrow from each other in the interbank market or, ultimately, they will borrow from the central bank through the so-called discount window. They are reluctant to use the latter facility because it carries a penalty (higher interest cost).

The point is that building bank reserves will not increase the bank’s capacity to lend. Loans create deposits which generate reserves.

The following blogs may be of further interest to you:

Question 2:

If yields rise on new bond issues then deficit spending by a currency-issuing government becomes more expensive.

The answer is False.

To say that government spending is becoming more expensive assumes that there is some revenue constraint on government spending. The interest servicing payments come from the same source as all government spending – its infinite (minus $1!) capacity to issue fiat currency. There is no “cost” – in real terms to the government doing this.

The concept of more or less expensive is therefore inapplicable to spending by a currency-issuing government.

Typically, rising bond yields in a growing economy signal a growing confidence among private investors.

In macroeconomics, we summarise the plethora of public debt instruments with the concept of a bond. The standard bond has a face value – say $A1000 and a coupon rate – say 5 per cent and a maturity – say 10 years. This means that the bond holder will will get $50 dollar per annum (interest) for 10 years and when the maturity is reached they would get $1000 back.

Bonds are issued by government into the primary market, which is simply the institutional machinery via which the government sells debt to “raise funds”. In a modern monetary system with flexible exchange rates it is clear the government does not have to finance its spending so the the institutional machinery is voluntary and reflects the prevailing neo-liberal ideology – which emphasises a fear of fiscal excesses rather than any intrinsic need.

Once bonds are issued they are traded in the secondary market between interested parties. Clearly secondary market trading has no impact at all on the volume of financial assets in the system – it just shuffles the wealth between wealth-holders. In the context of public debt issuance – the transactions in the primary market are vertical (net financial assets are created or destroyed) and the secondary market transactions are all horizontal (no new financial assets are created). Please read my blog – Deficit spending 101 – Part 3 – for more discussion on this point.

Further, most primary market issuance is now done via auction. Accordingly, the government would determine the maturity of the bond (how long the bond would exist for), the coupon rate (the interest return on the bond) and the volume (how many bonds) being specified.

The issue would then be put out for tender and the market then would determine the final price of the bonds issued. Imagine a $1000 bond had a coupon of 5 per cent, meaning that you would get $50 dollar per annum until the bond matured at which time you would get $1000 back.

Imagine that the market wanted a yield of 6 per cent to accommodate risk expectations (inflation or something else). So for them the bond is unattractive and they would avoid it under the tap system. But under the tender or auction system they would put in a purchase bid lower than the $1000 to ensure they get the 6 per cent return they sought.

The mathematical formulae to compute the desired (lower) price is quite tricky and you can look it up in a finance book.

The general rule for fixed-income bonds is that when the prices rise, the yield falls and vice versa. Thus, the price of a bond can change in the market place according to interest rate fluctuations.

When interest rates rise, the price of previously issued bonds fall because they are less attractive in comparison to the newly issued bonds, which are offering a higher coupon rates (reflecting current interest rates).

When interest rates fall, the price of older bonds increase, becoming more attractive as newly issued bonds offer a lower coupon rate than the older higher coupon rated bonds.

Further, rising yields may indicate a rising sense of risk (mostly from future inflation although sovereign credit ratings will influence this). But they may also indicated a recovering economy where people are more confidence investing in commercial paper (for higher returns) and so they demand less of the “risk free” government paper.

So you see how an event (yield rises) that signifies growing confidence in the real economy is reinterpreted (and trumpeted) by the conservatives to signal something bad (crowding out). In this case, the reason long-term yields would be rising is because investors were diversifying their portfolios and moving back into private financial assets. The yield reflects the last auction bid in the bond issue. So if diversification is occurring reflecting confidence and the demand for public debt weakens and yields rise this has nothing at all to do with a declining pool of funds being soaked up by the binging government!

The following blogs may be of further interest to you:

Question 3:

In a fiat monetary system (for example, US or Australia) with an on-going external deficit that exceeds the public deficit (expressed as percentages of GDP), the domestic private sector cannot reduce its overall debt levels (by saving) without incurring employment losses.

The answer is True.

This question is an application of the sectoral balances framework that can be derived from the National Accounts for any nation.

The basic income-expenditure model in macroeconomics can be viewed in (at least) two ways: (a) from the perspective of the sources of spending; and (b) from the perspective of the uses of the income produced. Bringing these two perspectives (of the same thing) together generates the sectoral balances.

From the sources perspective we write:

GDP = C + I + G + (X – M)

which says that total national income (GDP) is the sum of total final consumption spending (C), total private investment (I), total government spending (G) and net exports (X – M).

From the uses perspective, national income (GDP) can be used for:

GDP = C + S + T

which says that GDP (income) ultimately comes back to households who consume (C), save (S) or pay taxes (T) with it once all the distributions are made.

Equating these two perspectives we get:

C + S + T = GDP = C + I + G + (X – M)

So after simplification (but obeying the equation) we get the sectoral balances view of the national accounts.

(I – S) + (G – T) + (X – M) = 0

That is the three balances have to sum to zero. The sectoral balances derived are:

  • The private domestic balance (I – S) – positive if in deficit, negative if in surplus.
  • The Budget Deficit (G – T) – negative if in surplus, positive if in deficit.
  • The Current Account balance (X – M) – positive if in surplus, negative if in deficit.

These balances are usually expressed as a per cent of GDP but that doesn’t alter the accounting rules that they sum to zero, it just means the balance to GDP ratios sum to zero.

A simplification is to add (I – S) + (X – M) and call it the non-government sector. Then you get the basic result that the government balance equals exactly $-for-$ (absolutely or as a per cent of GDP) the non-government balance (the sum of the private domestic and external balances).

This is also a basic rule derived from the national accounts and has to apply at all times.

To help us answer the specific question posed, we can identify three states all involving public and external deficits:

  • Case A: Budget Deficit (G – T) < Current Account balance (X – M) deficit.
  • Case B: Budget Deficit (G – T) = Current Account balance (X – M) deficit.
  • Case C: Budget Deficit (G – T) > Current Account balance (X – M) deficit.

The following Table shows these three cases expressing the balances as percentages of GDP. Case A shows the situation where the external deficit exceeds the public deficit and the private domestic sector is in deficit. In this case, there can be no overall private sector de-leveraging.

With the external balance set at a 2 per cent of GDP, as the budget moves into larger deficit, the private domestic balance approaches balance (Case B). Case B also does not permit the private sector to save overall.

Once the budget deficit is large enough (3 per cent of GDP) to offset the demand-draining external deficit (2 per cent of GDP) the private domestic sector can save overall (Case C).

In this situation, the budget deficits are supporting aggregate spending which allows income growth to be sufficient to generate savings greater than investment in the private domestic sector but have to be able to offset the demand-draining impacts of the external deficits to provide sufficient income growth for the private domestic sector to save.

For the domestic private sector (households and firms) to reduce their overall levels of debt they have to net save overall. The behavioural implications of this accounting result would manifest as reduced consumption or investment, which, in turn, would reduce overall aggregate demand.

The normal inventory-cycle view of what happens next goes like this. Output and employment are functions of aggregate spending. Firms form expectations of future aggregate demand and produce accordingly. They are uncertain about the actual demand that will be realised as the output emerges from the production process.

The first signal firms get that household consumption is falling is in the unintended build-up of inventories. That signals to firms that they were overly optimistic about the level of demand in that particular period.

Once this realisation becomes consolidated, that is, firms generally realise they have over-produced, output starts to fall. Firms lay-off workers and the loss of income starts to multiply as those workers reduce their spending elsewhere.

At that point, the economy is heading for a recession.

So the only way to avoid these spiralling employment losses would be for an exogenous intervention to occur. Given the question assumes on-going external deficits, the implication is that the exogenous intervention would come from an expanding public deficit. Clearly, if the external sector improved the expansion could come from net exports.

It is possible that at the same time that the households and firms are reducing their consumption in an attempt to lift the saving ratio, net exports boom. A net exports boom adds to aggregate demand (the spending injection via exports is greater than the spending leakage via imports).

So it is possible that the public budget balance could actually go towards surplus and the private domestic sector increase its saving ratio if net exports were strong enough.

The important point is that the three sectors add to demand in their own ways. Total GDP and employment are dependent on aggregate demand. Variations in aggregate demand thus cause variations in output (GDP), incomes and employment. But a variation in spending in one sector can be made up via offsetting changes in the other sectors.

The following blogs may be of further interest to you:

Question 4:

The imposition of fiscal rules which aim to limit the discretionary capacity of governments to net spend bias fiscal policy towards counter-cyclical responses when private spending is weak.

The answer is False.

The non-government sector spending decisions ultimately determine the budget balance associated with any discretionary fiscal policy.

The budget balance has two conceptual components. First, the part that is associated with the chosen (discretionary) fiscal stance of the government independent of cyclical factors. So this component is chosen by the government.

Second, the cyclical component which refer to the automatic stabilisers that operate in a counter-cyclical fashion. When economic growth is strong, tax revenue improves given it is typically tied to income generation in some way. Further, most governments provide transfer payment relief to workers (unemployment benefits) and this decreases during growth.

In times of economic decline, the automatic stabilisers work in the opposite direction and push the budget balance towards deficit, into deficit, or into a larger deficit. These automatic movements in aggregate demand play an important counter-cyclical attenuating role. So when GDP is declining due to falling aggregate demand, the automatic stabilisers work to add demand (falling taxes and rising welfare payments).

When GDP growth is rising, the automatic stabilisers start to pull demand back as the economy adjusts (rising taxes and falling welfare payments).

The cyclical component is not insignificant and if the swings in private spending are significant then there will be significant swings in the budget balance.

The importance of this component is that the government cannot reliably target a particular deficit outcome with any certainty. This is why adherence to fiscal rules are fraught and normally lead to pro-cyclical fiscal policy which is usually undesirable, especially when the economy is in recession.

The budget outcome is thus considered to be endogenous – that is, it is determined by private spending (saving) decisions. The government can set its discretionary net spending at some target to target a particular budget deficit outcome but it cannot control private spending fluctuations which will ultimately determine the final actual budget balance.

The following blogs may be of further interest to you:

Premium Question 5:

Open market operations as a means of ensuring that levels of bank reserves are consistent with the policy target become redundant if the central bank pays a positive interest rate on overnight reserves held by the commercial banks (ignore any reserve requirements in place when answering).

The answer is False.

To answer this question correctly you have to understand operational matters as they apply to central banking. You need to learn how monetary policy is implemented in a modern monetary economy. The rendition provided in mainstream macroeconomics textbooks, which suggests that monetary policy describes the processes by which the central bank determines “the total amount of money in existence or to alter that amount” is false.

In Mankiw’s Principles of Economics (Chapter 27 First Edition) he says that the central bank has “two related jobs”. The first is to “regulate the banks and ensure the health of the financial system” and the second “and more important job”:

… is to control the quantity of money that is made available to the economy, called the money supply. Decisions by policymakers concerning the money supply constitute monetary policy (emphasis in original).

How does the mainstream see the central bank accomplishing this task? Mankiw says:

Fed’s primary tool is open-market operations – the purchase and sale of U.S government bonds … If the FOMC decides to increase the money supply, the Fed creates dollars and uses them buy government bonds from the public in the nation’s bond markets. After the purchase, these dollars are in the hands of the public. Thus an open market purchase of bonds by the Fed increases the money supply. Conversely, if the FOMC decides to decrease the money supply, the Fed sells government bonds from its portfolio to the public in the nation’s bond markets. After the sale, the dollars it receives for the bonds are out of the hands of the public. Thus an open market sale of bonds by the Fed decreases the money supply.

This description of the way the central bank interacts with the banking system and the wider economy is totally false. The reality is that monetary policy is focused on determining the value of a short-term interest rate. Central banks cannot control the money supply. To some extent these ideas were a residual of the commodity money systems where the central bank could clearly control the stock of gold, for example. But in a credit money system, this ability to control the stock of “money” is undermined by the demand for credit.

The theory of endogenous money is central to the horizontal analysis in Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). When we talk about endogenous money we are referring to the outcomes that are arrived at after market participants respond to their own market prospects and central bank policy settings and make decisions about the liquid assets they will hold (deposits) and new liquid assets they will seek (loans).

The essential idea is that the “money supply” in an “entrepreneurial economy” is demand-determined – as the demand for credit expands so does the money supply. As credit is repaid the money supply shrinks. These flows are going on all the time and the stock measure we choose to call the money supply, say M3 (Currency plus bank current deposits of the private non-bank sector plus all other bank deposits from the private non-bank sector) is just an arbitrary reflection of the credit circuit.

So the supply of money is determined endogenously by the level of GDP, which means it is a dynamic (rather than a static) concept.

Central banks clearly do not determine the volume of deposits held each day. These arise from decisions by commercial banks to make loans. The central bank can determine the price of “money” by setting the interest rate on bank reserves. Further expanding the monetary base (bank reserves) as we have argued in recent blogs – Building bank reserves will not expand credit and Building bank reserves is not inflationary – does not lead to an expansion of credit.

With this background in mind, the question is specifically about the dynamics of bank reserves which are used to satisfy any imposed reserve requirements and facilitate the payments system. These dynamics have a direct bearing on monetary policy settings. Given that the dynamics of the reserves can undermine the desired monetary policy stance (as summarised by the policy interest rate setting), the central banks have to engage in liquidity management operations.

What are these liquidity management operations?

Well you first need to appreciate what reserve balances are.

The New York Federal Reserve Bank’s paper – Divorcing Money from Monetary Policy said that:

… reserve balances are used to make interbank payments; thus, they serve as the final form of settlement for a vast array of transactions. The quantity of reserves needed for payment purposes typically far exceeds the quantity consistent with the central bank’s desired interest rate. As a result, central banks must perform a balancing act, drastically increasing the supply of reserves during the day for payment purposes through the provision of daylight reserves (also called daylight credit) and then shrinking the supply back at the end of the day to be consistent with the desired market interest rate.

So the central bank must ensure that all private cheques (that are funded) clear and other interbank transactions occur smoothly as part of its role of maintaining financial stability. But, equally, it must also maintain the bank reserves in aggregate at a level that is consistent with its target policy setting given the relationship between the two.

So operating factors link the level of reserves to the monetary policy setting under certain circumstances. These circumstances require that the return on “excess” reserves held by the banks is below the monetary policy target rate. In addition to setting a lending rate (discount rate), the central bank also sets a support rate which is paid on commercial bank reserves held by the central bank.

Many countries (such as Australia and Canada) maintain a default return on surplus reserve accounts (for example, the Reserve Bank of Australia pays a default return equal to 25 basis points less than the overnight rate on surplus Exchange Settlement accounts). Other countries like the US and Japan have historically offered a zero return on reserves which means persistent excess liquidity would drive the short-term interest rate to zero.

The support rate effectively becomes the interest-rate floor for the economy. If the short-run or operational target interest rate, which represents the current monetary policy stance, is set by the central bank between the discount and support rate. This effectively creates a corridor or a spread within which the short-term interest rates can fluctuate with liquidity variability. It is this spread that the central bank manages in its daily operations.

So the issue then becomes – at what level should the support rate be set? To answer that question, I reproduce a version of teh diagram from the FRBNY paper which outlined a simple model of the way in which reserves are manipulated by the central bank as part of its liquidity management operations designed to implement a specific monetary policy target (policy interest rate setting).

I describe the FRBNY model in detail in the blog – Understanding central bank operations so I won’t repeat that explanation.

The penalty rate is the rate the central bank charges for loans to banks to cover shortages of reserves. If the interbank rate is at the penalty rate then the banks will be indifferent as to where they access reserves from so the demand curve is horizontal (shown in red).

Once the price of reserves falls below the penalty rate, banks will then demand reserves according to their requirments (the legal and the perceived). The higher the market rate of interest, the higher is the opportunity cost of holding reserves and hence the lower will be the demand. As rates fall, the opportunity costs fall and the demand for reserves increases. But in all cases, banks will only seek to hold (in aggregate) the levels consistent with their requirements.

At low interest rates (say zero) banks will hold the legally-required reserves plus a buffer that ensures there is no risk of falling short during the operation of the payments system.

Commercial banks choose to hold reserves to ensure they can meet all their obligations with respect to the clearing house (payments) system. Because there is considerable uncertainty (for example, late-day payment flows after the interbank market has closed), a bank may find itself short of reserves. Depending on the circumstances, it may choose to keep a buffer stock of reserves just to meet these contingencies.

So central bank reserves are intrinsic to the payments system where a mass of interbank claims are resolved by manipulating the reserve balances that the banks hold at the central bank. This process has some expectational regularity on a day-to-day basis but stochastic (uncertain) demands for payments also occur which means that banks will hold surplus reserves to avoid paying any penalty arising from having reserve deficiencies at the end of the day (or accounting period).

To understand what is going on not that the diagram is representing the system-wide demand for bank reserves where the horizontal axis measures the total quantity of reserve balances held by banks while the vertical axis measures the market interest rate for overnight loans of these balances

In this diagram there are no required reserves (to simplify matters). We also initially, abstract from the deposit rate for the time being to understand what role it plays if we introduce it.

Without the deposit rate, the central bank has to ensure that it supplies enough reserves to meet demand while still maintaining its policy rate (the monetary policy setting.

So the model can demonstrate that the market rate of interest will be determined by the central bank supply of reserves. So the level of reserves supplied by the central bank supply brings the market rate of interest into line with the policy target rate.

At the supply level shown as Point A, the central bank can hit its monetary policy target rate of interest given the banks’ demand for aggregate reserves. So the central bank announces its target rate then undertakes monetary operations (liquidity management operations) to set the supply of reserves to this target level.

So contrary to what Mankiw’s textbook tells students the reality is that monetary policy is about changing the supply of reserves in such a way that the market rate is equal to the policy rate.

The central bank uses open market operations to manipulate the reserve level and so must be buying and selling government debt to add or drain reserves from the banking system in line with its policy target.

If there are excess reserves in the system and the central bank didn’t intervene then the market rate would drop towards zero and the central bank would lose control over its target rate (that is, monetary policy would be compromised).

As explained in the blog – Understanding central bank operations – the introduction of a support rate payment (deposit rate) whereby the central bank pays the member banks a return on reserves held overnight changes things considerably.

Under certain circumstances, the central bank can eliminate the need for any open-market operations to manage the volume of bank reserves.

In terms of the diagram, the major impact of the deposit rate is to lift the rate at which the demand curve becomes horizontal (as depicted by the new horizontal red segment moving up via the arrow).

This policy change allows the banks to earn overnight interest on their excess reserve holdings and becomes the minimum market interest rate and defines the lower bound of the corridor within which the market rate can fluctuate without central bank intervention.

So in this diagram, the market interest rate is still set by the supply of reserves (given the demand for reserves) and so the central bank still has to manage reserves appropriately to ensure it can hit its policy target.

If there are excess reserves in the system in this case, and the central bank didn’t intervene, then the market rate will drop to the support rate (at Point B).

So if the central bank wants to maintain control over its target rate it can either set a support rate below the desired policy rate (as in Australia) and then use open market operations to ensure the reserve supply is consistent with Point A or set the support (deposit) rate equal to the target policy rate.

The answer to the question is thus False because it all depends on where the support rate is set. Only if it set equal to the policy rate will there be no need for the central bank to manage liquidity via open market operations.

The following blogs may be of further interest to you:

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    14 Responses to Saturday Quiz – September 1, 2012 – answers and discussion

    1. Fed Up says:

      “In Mankiw’s Principles of Economics (Chapter 27 First Edition) he says that the central bank has “two related jobs”. The first is to “regulate the banks and ensure the health of the financial system” and the second “and more important job”:

      … is to control the quantity of money that is made available to the economy, called the money supply. Decisions by policymakers concerning the money supply constitute monetary policy (emphasis in original).”

      And, “Central banks cannot control the money supply.” (bill)

      There is a prime example of why the term “money” should not be used! I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to guess that mankiw’s “quantity of money” & “money supply” mean monetary base (currency plus central bank reserves), while bill’s “money supply” means medium of exchange (currency plus demand deposits). Those two are NOT the same.

      Too much of economics is arguing over definitions.

    2. Fed Up says:

      “So if the central bank wants to maintain control over its target rate it can either set a support rate below the desired policy rate (as in Australia) and then use open market operations to ensure the reserve supply is consistent with Point A or set the support (deposit) rate equal to the target policy rate.”

      What about raising the reserve requirement so that excess central bank reserves are converted to required central bank reserves?

    3. Fed Up says:

      “Loans create deposits which generate reserves.”

      Does that apply to private debt?

    4. Neil Wilson says:

      ““Loans create deposits which generate reserves.”

      Does that apply to private debt?”

      Of course it does.

      add ‘where necessary’ at the end of the phrase.

      Reserves have to be generated because the central bank will not put into administration banks with cash flow problems. Therefore restrictions on the liabilities side of the balance sheet cannot operate as restrictions.

      Similarly if the central bank won’t put into administration insolvent banks I don’t see how restrictions on the asset side of the balance sheet can operate as restrictions either.

    5. Aidan says:

      Bill –
      Q2:

      To say that government spending is becoming more expensive assumes that there is some revenue constraint on government spending.

      No it does not. It assumes a cost exists, but does not assume it to be a limiting factor.

      The interest servicing payments come from the same source as all government spending – its infinite (minus $1!) capacity to issue fiat currency. There is no “cost” – in real terms to the government doing this.

      There is still an opportunity cost. Money spent on interest payments could instead be spent on other things. One of those things is reducing their deficit (which is likely to be desirable as the bonds will mature at a different stage of the economic cycle to when they’re issued). Another is cutting tax. And of course there’s no shortage of public goods the government could spend the money on.

      This is the second week in a row your solutions have overlooked factors which invalidate the answers.

    6. Neil Wilson says:

      “There is still an opportunity cost. Money spent on interest payments could instead be spent on other things.”

      No there isn’t. For there to be an opportunity cost the two elements have to be mutually exclusive alternatives.

      They are not. The government can spend on interest payments *and* other public goods at the same time. It is not revenue limited in monetary terms.

      That’s the second week in a row your neo-classical blinkers have blinded you to what Bill is saying. Take them off!

    7. Fed Up says:

      Neil, I think I need to be more specific. I seem to remember bill saying when the gov’t spends it marks up the demand deposit account of the recipient and marks up the reserve account of the bank. This creates excess central bank reserves. Bonds are sold that remove the excess central bank reserves. Does something similar happen with private debt?

    8. Neil Wilson says:

      “I seem to remember bill saying when the gov’t spends it marks up the demand deposit account of the recipient and marks up the reserve account of the bank. This creates excess central bank reserves.”

      And when Treasury taxes *or issues bonds* it marks them down destroying excess reserves. And if there is a matched funding rule in place (as there is at the moment), then there are no excess reserves created. They just appear to be moved from the private entities’ accounts to the government entities’ accounts.

      Remember that ‘reserves’ are just central bank deposits. By default when Treasury spends it ‘borrows’ from the Central Bank to do so. That is an ‘intra-government’ loan, and loans create deposits. On the consolidated government sector balance sheet (which is what MMT analyses in the usual case) that ‘intra-government’ loan disappears and you get Treasury spending and Central Bank reserves going up.

      The reverse happens with taxation as it destroys part of the ‘intra-government’ loan – repaying destroys deposits and the initial loan. Again on the consolidated balance sheet you get Treasury income going up and central bank reserves going down.

      Neo-classical economists get very excited about this ‘intra-government’ loan as though it signals the end of the world. But in reality it is just an accounting construct to make the books balance between two sets of accounts.

      Selling bonds just replaces a chunk of the ‘intra-government’ loan from the central bank with a loan from some private sector entity. But to be able to buy that bond the private sector entity must obtain and give up title to some other government sector liabilities. And those have to be the deposits created by that ‘intra-government’ loan (or another maturing bond that they wish to ‘roll-over’).

      So government sector activity is really just ‘loans create deposits’ in precisely the same way as private sector activity. The difference is that private sector banks are capital restricted in the amount of loans they can create – via the required capital ratio. The only external limit on a central bank is demand for its ‘loans’ (or more usually the deposits those ‘loans’ create). It has no capital restriction. Any other restriction on how the central bank behaves is a matter of government policy.

      HTH

    9. Fed Up says:

      Neil said: “So government sector activity is really just ‘loans create deposits’ in precisely the same way as private sector activity.”

      Does that (mark up the demand deposit account of the recipient and mark up the reserve account of the bank 1 to 1) apply to all private sector entities?

      Does that (mark up the demand deposit account of the recipient and mark up the reserve account of the bank 1 to 1) apply to any private sector entities?

    10. Aidan says:

      Neil Wilson says:

      No there isn’t. For there to be an opportunity cost the two elements have to be mutually exclusive alternatives.

      Only if there are only two options – and even then they don’t have to be completely mutually exclusive; rather the degree to which one is implemented limits the degree to which the other is implemented.

      They are not. The government can spend on interest payments *and* other public goods at the same time. It is not revenue limited in monetary terms.

      Just because it’s not revenue limited in monetary terms doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences! There’s a limit to how much the government can spend on interest payments *and* other public goods *and* cutting taxes *and* control inflation at the same time. It’s sometimes possible to circumvent the limit in the short term, but not in the long term.

      That’s the second week in a row your neo-classical blinkers have blinded you to what Bill is saying. Take them off!

      The blinkers are on your head not mine. There’s a very big difference between being blinded and spotting errors! MMT should remove blinkers but in your case it seems to have merely swapped one set for another.

      Bill is not always right. Neoclassical economists are not always wrong. And failure to acknowledge this makes it harder for the mainstream to take MMT seriously.

    11. Neil Wilson says:

      “Just because it’s not revenue limited in monetary terms doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences!”

      So you agree that it is not revenue limited – which was precisely the point Bill was making, and I was making. The question was about revenue, nothing else.

      I never said anything about the real space.

      You can’t put every constraint in every question otherwise the question would be fifteen pages long – it is implied.

      And its not consequences in the real sphere – its choices. Policy choices. You can spend on anything to the extent that the non-government sector voluntarily gives you inflation space by saving to excess – assuming you’re that bothered about demand inflation.

      “There’s a very big difference between being blinded and spotting errors! ”

      You didn’t spot any errors. The question was about Revenue.

      “Bill is not always right.”

      Correct he isn’t and neither are you. You don’t help by constantly looking to split hairs in an aggressive manner.

    12. Aidan says:

      Neil Wilson says:

      So you agree that it is not revenue limited – which was precisely the point Bill was making, and I was making. The question was about revenue, nothing else.

      Of course I agree that it is not revenue limited. But the question was about cost not revenue. The question doesn’t even mention revenue.

      I never said anything about the real space.

      Exactly – you ignored the reason it’s true!

      You can’t put every constraint in every question otherwise the question would be fifteen pages long – it is implied.

      You don’t need to put every constraint in every question. But you do need to include assumptions the answer relies on.

    13. Neil Wilson says:

      “You don’t need to put every constraint in every question. But you do need to include assumptions the answer relies on.”

      Then why not word your responses in that fashion. Gently and with understanding of what the questioner thought they had made clear.

      “I appreciate that this question is aiming at revenue, but it is probably worth mentioning the assumption that there is ‘real space’ available so that nobody gets the idea that you can always spend an infinite amount of money”

      Much more likely to get listened to.

    14. Aidan says:

      Neil Wilson, some people may be deterred from listening to contradictory opinions, but Bill is an academic (trained to consider the validity of statements wherever they come from) and his own views often contradict those of most people (so he’s certain to be rather thick skinned by now). Therefore I disagree that I’d be much more likely to be listened to; the only thing much more likely is that my point would be missed entirely!

      And I do not appreciate that the question was aiming at revenue. If Bill was aiming at revenue when he wrote the question then it’s a failure on his part, as the question he wrote was nothing to do with revenue and his solution relies on a false assumption.

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