Friday , November 16 2018
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Matias Vernengo

Matias Vernengo

Econ Prof at @BucknellU Co-editor of ROKE & Co-Editor in Chief of the New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

Articles by Matias Vernengo

Heterodox Central Banking in the Periphery

5 days ago

Our paper with Esteban Pérez on Prebisch’s missions as a Money Doctor during the Fed-led missions directed by Triffin to Paraguay and Dominican Republic has been publish in Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology. From the abstract:
Traditionally, monetary policy in Latin America followed the recommendations of the missions of the monetary “doctors” who defended an independent central bank and a pro-cyclical monetary policy, adhering to the automatic adjustment of the gold standard. A key function of central banks was to support fiscal stability. The effects of the Great Depression and its aftermath in the periphery countries questioned these recommendations and gave way to a shift in monetary policy. An illustrative example is provided by the creation of the Central

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The End of Brazilian Democracy

14 days ago

As noted in my previous post on this, there was a good chance that the Neo-Fascist candidate Jair Bolsonaro would win the election in Brazil. And he did, with approximately 39 percent of all votes. There are only a few things that I want to point out about this.

The Workers’ Party (PT) candidate received about 32 percent of all votes. Note that 29 percent or so did not vote, in one way or another. So PT maintained almost one third of the electorate in this election, while its rival in the previous 6 elections (PT was the winner or close runner up going back to 1989), the Social Democrats (PSDB) have vanished. And the defeat of PT was possible only with years of judicial harassment, the illegitimate imprisonment of the party leader (Lula), the blocking of his candidacy, precluding

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Symposium on “Milton Friedman’s Presidential Address at 50”

24 days ago

Here all the links to the papers of the last issue of the Review of Keynesian Economics:Thomas Palley and Matías Vernengo: Milton Friedman’s Presidential Address at fifty
Robert Solow: A theory is a sometime thing 
Robert J. Gordon: Friedman and Phelps on the Phillips curve viewed from a half century’s perspective
 David Laidler: Why the fuss? Friedman (1968) after 50 years 
Roger E. A. Farmer: The role of financial policy 
James Forder: Why is labour market adjustment so slow in Friedman’s presidential address? 
Thomas Palley: Recovering Keynesian Phillips curve theory: hysteresis of ideas and the natural rate of unemployment 
Antonella Stirati and Walter Paternesi Meloni: A short story of the Phillips curve: from Phillips to Friedman… and back? 
Servaas Storm: The wrong track also

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The budget, the fragile recovery and the next recession

26 days ago

I’m not a forecaster. I do macro, and worked for Wynne Godley at the Levy, but I feel that there are too many dangers in forecasting. Wynne was also, btw, more concerned with what he called medium term scenarios, than pinpointing when a recession would take place. The obvious joke applies here. Economists have predicted 10 of the last 9 recessions. Having said that let me do the exact opposite and throw caution to the wind.So I’m going out on a limb here. Everybody thinks the recession is around the corner. I’m more skeptical. Let me start by looking at what Martin Wolf has said in his last column, since he seems to be close to what consensus views would argue. He resuscitates old views about confidence cycles. For him: "Bull markets, it is said, climb a wall of worry… so much

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US technological hegemony

29 days ago

Where the Digital Things Are

I have suggested for a while here (this entry from May 2011) that deindustrialization in the US has not meant a decline in technological hegemony. Consider big tech digital firms in that respect. From the new Trade and Development Report:
The widening gaps across firms have been particularly marked in the digital world. Of the top 25 big tech firms (in terms of market capitalization) 14 are based in the United States, 3 in the European Union, 3 in China, 4 in other Asian countries and 1 in Africa. The top three big tech firms in the United States have an average market capitalization of more than $400 billion, compared with an average of $200 billion in the top big tech firms in China, $123 billion in Asia, $69 billion in Europe and $66 billion in Africa.

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Brazil is Falling Under an Evil Political Spell

October 14, 2018

By Thomas Palley (guest blogger)Brazil is falling under an evil political spell. The leading candidate in the presidential election is Jair Bolsonaro, an extreme right-wing politician. It is as if voters are sleepwalking their way to destruction of Brazilian democracy. Under the spell’s influence, they have become blind to the truth about Brazilian politics and blind to their better nature.

Read rest here.

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Bob Solow on Friedman’s Presidential address and the natural rate failure

October 13, 2018

His full paper was published in the Review of Keynesian Economics. He reminds us that it was a talk to undermine ‘eclectic Keynesianism’ about which he says:
Milton Friedman’s famous presidential address of 1968… aims to undermine the eclectic American Keynesianism of the 1950s and 1960s, the habits of thought to which Joan Robinson attached the (unintentionally) complimentary label of ‘bastard’ Keynesianism. I will only say a little about what that was. In fact, the adjective ‘eclectic’ is meant to remind you that it was not a tight axiomatic doctrine but rather the collection of ideas in terms of which people like James Tobin, Arthur Okun, Paul Samuelson and others (including me) discussed macroeconomic events and policies.
More substantively, he argues, correctly my view, that

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The Brazilian Election or Brazilian Fahrenheit 11/9

October 7, 2018

#nothim protest in São Paulo

This is, hands down, the most important election in Brazilian recent history. Haven’t seen any exit polls, but if the last polls are trustworthy expect a second round between an openly fascistic candidate, Bolsonaro, and the Workers’ Party (PT in Portuguese) and Lula’s candidate Haddad. Maybe Ciro Gomes has a shot. The US and international media have been part of the problem, in all fairness, for the rise of Neo-Fascism. They suggest that Bolsonaro is not acceptable (like many in Brazil that have protested, pictured above), but they suggest that the Workers’ Party is as dangerous and radical, but on the left of the political spectrum. Red scares continue to dominate the media decades after the collapse of Soviet communism. It’s a bit tiring.Note that as I

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Trumponomics and the next recession

October 5, 2018

Progressives for balanced budgets and free trade

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Or that is what you would think if you follow the economics press lately. Sebastian Mallaby has a column on Trumponomics a while ago, suggesting Trumponomics is not working. I wouldn’t disagree with the verdict, but the explanation is far from correct, and that is a common feature of discussions of Trumponomics in the media, and frankly by many progressive (not just liberal, in the US sense of the word) economists. On the other hand, you can expect a lot of praise in conservative circles (and bragging from the Trumpsters) about the unemployment level reaching 3.7%, the lowest since the Kennedy/Johnson boom of the 1960s. Many would say we are at full employment, and in a sense they

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Dollarization in Argentina?

September 15, 2018

So I have no insider knowledge on what the Argentinean government plans to do. And the White House is a mess; they don’t have any knowledge on what they plan to do. But Larry Kudlow, the Director of the National Economic Council, said that the Treasury is deeply involved in a plan to dollarize the Argentinean economy (Guillermo Calvo, an influential conservative economist, has also spoken in favor of dollarization; see here in Spanish).
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He supports a Currency Board to solve the run on the currency, and the long-term external problems. That worked well in the 1990s, he said, without a hint of irony. The notion is that the problem, again difficult to believe this type of stuff is still around, is a fiscal problem. So, no fiscal deficits, no printing of money, no

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The Godley-Tobin Lecture

September 14, 2018

Tobin and Godley
The Review of Keynesian Economics (ROKE) created of the Godley-Tobin Lectures, an annual lecture to be delivered at the Eastern Economic Association meetings. James Galbraith provided the first lecture, to be published in the first issue of 2019.Wynne Godley and James Tobin represent the best among Keynesian economists. Both scholars insisted they were non-hyphenated Keynesians, meaning Keynesianism transcends the political disputes that often accompany economics. There is a deeper scientific validity to Keynesianism, something we reaffirmed in our inaugural statement of purpose for ROKE [see Palley, Rochon, and Vernengo, 2012].Wynne Godley was an Oxford-trained economist, influenced by Philip Andrews and the views of the Oxford Economic Research Group on full-cost

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Job Guarantee Programs: Careful What You Wish For

September 14, 2018

Thomas Palley (guest blogger)Some progressive economists are now arguing for the idea of a Job Guarantee Program (JGP), and their advocacy has begun to gain political traction. For instance, in the US, Bernie Sanders and some other leading Democrats have recently signaled a willingness to embrace the idea. In a recent research paper I have examined the macroeconomics of such a program. Whereas a JGP would deliver real macroeconomic benefits, it also raises some significant troubling economic and political economy concerns. Those concerns should be fully digested before a JGP is politically embraced. The real benefits of a JGP
The starting point for discussion should be recognition that a JGP delivers multiple benefits. First, it ensures full employment by making available a job to all

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Prebisch manuscripts for his classes on economic dynamics

September 8, 2018

There is a trend in the history of economic thought field to depend more on archival research. It is certainly nothing new, since some of the best research in the history of ideas, e.g. Sraffa’s reconstruction of Ricardian theory, was essentially dependent on archives. The publication of Keynes collected papers have also sparked a wealth of interpretations about his theories, not all worth reading. I have done some research in Marriner Eccles archives at the University of Utah.In part, this trend results from the fact that there is increasingly more archival material for modern economists that are closer in time to us. Letters, unpublished papers, class notes and so on. That might be useful sometimes, but it can also lead to lamppost driven research or the streetlight effect, where

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Economic and technological determinism

August 28, 2018

Mind blowing stuff
A while ago now I discussed technological determinism, and the existence of economic laws, even if not in the same sense that in the so-called hard sciences. This semester I’m teaching a class for first year students (non Econ majors, to clarify for those outside the US) titled somewhat facetiously ‘From Fire to Uber.’ In fact, the first reading is Heilbroner’s 1967 paper discussed in the first link provided above, on whether machines make history.Bob was on the side of technological determinism. The epigraph was Marx’s famous dictum according to which: "the hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist." And he essentially argued that the computer (he also discussed atomic energy technology, but not

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Economic Development in the XXIst century Webinar Series

August 27, 2018

This seminar series focuses on the analysis of Economic Development in the XXIst century. The notions of distribution, industrial policy and balance of payments constraints will be profoundly analyzed during these four sessions. As there is much disagreement about what drives economic development – and at the same time it is a central objective for developing economies – this question merits deep reflection. Through these seminars there will be a particular focus on the external constraints that developing economies face that make economic development challenging. Although the seminars will deal with small open economies, given that the balance of payment constraint will be part of the discussion, scholars working on the Eurozone may also find the discussion on interesting for their

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International Confederation of Associations for Pluralism in Economics (ICAPE) Call for Papers

August 23, 2018

From Geoff Schneider ICAPE’s Executive Director:
Proposals
for papers, workshops and panels at ICAPE are due Tuesday, September
4th. I hope you can join us for this conference that brings together all
of the heterodox perspectives.Information below.

International Confederation of Associations for Pluralism in Economics (ICAPE)

Call for Papers, Panels and Workshops

Agnes Scott College, Atlanta, GA

January 3, 2019, 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Gender, Race, Class and Crises:

Pluralistic Approaches to the Economic Issues of our Time

ICAPE
was founded 25 years ago (in 1993) by a group of heterodox economists
committed to the idea of pluralism in economics. ICAPE’s founding
occurred in the wake of a plea for a “pluralistic and rigorous
economics" which was published as a paid

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Income distribution and the balance of payments: a formal reconstruction of some Argentinian structuralist contributions

August 21, 2018

A two part paper by Ariel Dvoskin and Germán David Feldman. From the abstract:In this two-part paper, we explore the interaction between income distribution and the balance of payments, by assessing the contributions of three Argentinian exponents of the Latin American Structuralist School: Oscar Braun, Marcelo Diamand and Adolfo Canitrot. With this aim, we introduce a two-sector model inspired by the classical tradition. Part I of the article examines the implications for prices and quantities of the phenomenon of ‘technical dependency’. That is, the inelastic demand for imported inputs observed in peripheral economies, a true constraint to growth during the Bretton Woods era. We leave until Part II of the paper the assessment of the implications of ‘financial dependency’, namely the

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Distribution and Conflict Inflation in Brazil under Inflation Targeting

August 17, 2018

I can’t watch this either

For those interested in the Brazilian situation I highly recommend the recently published paper by Franklin Serrano and Ricardo Summa (Review of Radical Political Economics page here). From the abstract:
In this paper, we analyze Brazilian inflation under the inflation-targeting system from a conflict inflation perspective and show how the inflation target system only worked well when there was a trend of exchange rate appreciation. Later, the strengthening of the bargaining power of workers and rising real wages since 2006, combined with continuous nominal exchange rate depreciation after mid-2011, increased distributive conflicts and are ultimately behind the recent shift toward austerity.
 A preliminary version is available here.

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A Tale of Two Currency Crises: A Short Comment

August 17, 2018

So the Turkish foreign exchange crisis is all over the news. But the Argentine one is less conspicuous in the international media. Turkey’s economy has had many similarities with Latin American economies over the years, in terms of the incomplete process of industrialization, and the types of crises associated with neoliberal reforms over the last three decades. Note, however, that the Argentine nominal depreciation has been larger than the Turkish (the same is true if you go back to the previous big crisis in both countries in the late 1990s and early 2000s, respectively) and one should expect more coverage (perhaps Erdogan has worse press than Macri, but the authoritarian credentials of the latter should not be dismissed; neither the neoliberal ones of the former, I might add).

In all

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Nancy MacLean on constitutional economics and the conservative movement

August 5, 2018

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Author of a great book on James Buchanan, that is certainly worth reading. The whole thing is related to Buchanan’s constitutional economics and how it underpins the Koch’s strategy to take over the country (and Pence is their guy, btw). The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that has been so influential in the far- right conservative movement take over of US politics at the State and local level (see this old piece in The Atlantic, or this in The Nation) has a plan for a constitutional convention and for 10 Libertarian Amendments that she discusses in the video (towards the end, 3:30 minutes into it), that has for the most part gone unnoticed (NYTimes had a piece on it a couple of years ago here). In all fairness, I didn’t pay much attention until she said

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Institutions and Economic Development in Latin America

August 4, 2018

Almost a decade ago, The Economist had a cover story about the Brazilian economy taking off. Everything seemed fine, with the Brazilian economy on the verge of surpassing Britain and France, and on its way to economic development. Among the reasons given for the Brazilian success was the fact that the country had “established some strong political institutions.” But many other factors were cited, like fiscal restraint, an independent central bank, openness to foreign direct investment, and the rise of local transnational corporations. The Economist essentially reproduced a few of the policies of the so-called Washington Consensus as the main driver of the Brazilian success. And institutions played a central role, in particular the institutions that allowed for the market economy to

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Leo Panitch on Obama and Globalization

July 30, 2018

From the Real News Network:
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This Real News segment with Professor Leo Panitch is worth watching for those that miss Obama (perhaps should be seen together with the reading of this piece on Mike Pence, for those that think that he would be much better than the orange one). At any rate, besides the fact that Obama was not even for more than a very moderate reform of the system, and that he still justifies globalization in neoliberal terms, it seems to me that Panitch (and Paul Jay) miss the main reference for Obama’s speech (at least concerning the reduction in violence) which seems to be the work of Steven Pinker (his famous book on that was The Better Angels of Our Nature), and probably his new work, Enlightenment Now. And that says a lot about Obama intellectually.It

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Three Globalizations, Not Two: Rethinking the History and Economics of Trade and Globalization

July 26, 2018

By Thomas Palley (Guest blogger)The conventional wisdom is there have been two globalizations in the modern era. The first began around 1870 and ended in 1914. The second began in 1945 and is still underway. This paper challenges that view and argues there have been three globalizations, not two. The first half of the paper provides empirical evidence for the three globalizations hypothesis. The second half discusses its analytical implications. The Victorian first globalization and Keynesian era second globalization were driven by gains from trade, and those gains increased industrialized country real wages. The neoliberal third globalization has been driven by industrial reorganization motivated by distributional conflict. Trade theory does not explain the third globalization;

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Globalization Checkmated? Political and Geopolitical Contradictions Coming Home to Roost

July 25, 2018

By Thomas Palley (Guest blogger)The deepening of economic globalization appears to have ground to a halt and the process may even unravel a little. The sudden stop has surprised economists, whose belief in globalization has strong parallels with Fukuyama’s (1989) flawed end of history hypothesis. The paper presents a simple analytic model that shows how economic globalization has triggered political and geopolitical contradictions. For the system to work, politics within countries and geopolitics across blocs must be supportive of the system. That is missing. The model is applied to a global economic core consisting of the US, China, and the European Union. It is revealing of multiple tensions, fracture lines, and contradictions. Within the US, globalization has delivered economic

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What is the Central Bank of Argentina Actually Doing?

July 23, 2018

Brief note in Spanish (no translation, sorry) on the long history of central banks and the current policies of the Argentinean central bank (BCRA). The gist of the argument is that while central banks where created to finance developmental states in the nascent merchant capitalist societies, in the periphery they tended to follow the Victorian model (implemented later) emphasizing inflation control as the main official goal. However, often, as in the recent case of the BCRA, they are used to accelerate inflation and fuel speculation, if that allows for lower real wages, which was Macri’s administration not so hidden goal (from an old, but revealing interview).

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IMF Programs: Past and Present

July 10, 2018

A roundtable with Daniela Gabor, Roberto Lampa and Pablo Bortz, on the IMF and its Programs this Thursday in Buenos Aires, organized by the Masters in Economic Development at the Universidad de San Martín (UNSAM).

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A crisis gone to waste

July 7, 2018

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My interview with INET from January 2017 at the ASSA meetings in Chicago. From the INET link:After the Great Depression, global capitalism underwent serious reform. Why didn’t that happen after 2008?Matias Vernengo, Professor of Economics at Bucknell University, explains how a crisis can reveal that the dominant neoliberal orthodoxy is in fact based on a shaky theoretical foundation. But for new economic thinkers to capitalize on that requires a clearly articulated alternative—one that existed during the Cold War, but is just coming into public discourse now.

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Classical Political Economy and the Evolution of Central Banks

July 5, 2018

Casa di San Giorgio, an early central bank?

Paper presented twice is now published in the RRPE. It tries to bring the surplus approach tradition ideas to discuss the historical origins and the definition of what a central bank is and should do.From the abstract:
The paper analyzes briefly the changing ideas on the role of money and banks from William Petty to Thomas Tooke, including the works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx. It analyzes the role of ideas in shaping the evolution of central bank regulation. Particular importance is given to the Bank of England’s inconvertibility period, from 1797 to 1821, and the ensuing debate in shaping Robert Peel’s Bank Act of 1844, which is often seen as the birth of modern central banking. The importance of the Say’s Law, and the

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