Monday , September 16 2019
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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

New Book on Roy Harrod

9 hours ago

Esteban Pérez Caldentey has just published a new book on Roy Harrod for the collection edited by Anthony Thirlwall. From the description:
This landmark book describes and analyzes the original contributions Sir Roy Harrod made to fields including microeconomics, macroeconomics, international trade and finance, growth theory, trade cycle analysis and economic methodology. Harrod’s prolific writings reflect an astounding and unique intellectual capacity, and a wide range of interests. He became Keynes´ biographer and wrote a volume on inductive logic. At the policy level, Harrod played a central role in the formulation of the Keynes´ Clearing Union plan for international monetary reform. He also actively participated in British politics and government and gained recognition as an expert

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Some brief thoughts on Argentina’s ongoing crisis and the IMF’s role in it

4 days ago

Argentina’s peso depreciated significantly after the primary elections last month, with the clear victory of the opposition. The crisis has come full circle now with the re-imposition of capital controls, and with the default on domestic bonds, the latter a puzzling and clearly unnecessary measure, since it was in domestic currency (Standard & Poor’s says it’s a selective default, whatever that means, and Fitch called it a restricted default). So here a few things that might be useful to understand what is going on.So how did we get here? As I noticed recently here, the collapse has nothing to do with fiscal problems. They hardly ever do, since the debt that matters is the one in foreign currency. First, let’s clarify what were the problems that Macri faced in December of 2015, at the

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Central Bank Independence: A Rigged Debate Based on False Politics and Economics

7 days ago

No pressure!

By Thomas Palley (guest blogger)The case for central bank independence is built on an intellectual two-step. Step one argues there is a problem of inflation prone government. Step two argues independence is the solution to that problem. This paper challenges that case and shows it is based on false politics and economics. The paper argues central bank independence is a product of neoliberal economics and aims to institutionalize neoliberal interests. As regards economics, independence rests on a controversial construction of macroeconomics and also fails according to its own microeconomic logic. That failure applies to both goal independence and operational independence. It is a myth to think a government can set goals for the central bank and then leave it to the bank

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Interview for the Argentinian Radio

20 days ago

I was interviewed yesterday about the situation in the country (Cítrica Radio, Siempre Es Hoy). Interview was cut short as a result of a bad connection. The audio of the part of the program I appear is here.

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MMT in the Tropics

23 days ago

For those in the New York City area, I’ll give a talk at my alma mater on Modern Monetary Theory in the Tropics. Meaning really developing countries (including some in temperate areas).The seminar will take place on Tuesday, September 17, from 4 to 6 pm, at the New School campus close to Union Square (6E 16th St #1009). The department goal, I’ve been told, is to bring together graduate students and faculty, but, if tradition is worth something, others will be also welcome.

About the New School Econ Dept read this. About MMT see this and this, but there is more on the blog if you search.

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Larry Summers on the necessity of fiscal expansions

24 days ago

As noted before, Larry Summers argues that Post Keynesians and original Keynesians (arguably Keynes and those close to him) did not think in terms of imperfections. The op-ed version of the Tweets here. He says, on the topic of secular stagnation and the lower zero bound that:
This formulation of the secular stagnation view is closely related to the economist Thomas Palley’s recent critique of “zero lower bound economics”: negative interest rates may not remedy Keynesian unemployment. More generally, in moving toward the secular stagnation view, we have come to agree with the point long stressed by writers in the post-Keynesian (or, perhaps more accurately, original Keynesian) tradition: the role of particular frictions and rigidities in underpinning economic fluctuations should be

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Economic Terrorism

24 days ago

My interview on the Argentinean crisis with Javier Lewkowicz from Página/12 is available here. In Spanish, though.

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Larry Summers on Effective Demand

25 days ago

On of the issues between more mainstream Keynesians and their more heterodox counterparts is whether frictions are central for Keynesian results or not. Since the Neoclassical Synthesis the conventional view is that some rigidity or friction was behind the problems of unemployment, be that the liquidity trap (the Keynesian case with the flat LM, since Hicks 1937), the rigidity of wages (since Modigliani 1944), or some other coordination problem (mostly in the New Keynesian literature).In this recent thread (worth reading all) Summers (as shown above) notes that posties might have been right on emphasizing the fundament issue of effective demand. That of course is closer to what Keynes himself would have thought. The paper he cites, by Tom Palley, co-editor of the Review of Keynesian

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The inverted yield curve and the recession

26 days ago

The inverted yield curve, as it is well-known, indicates a forthcoming recession. I used it last year to suggest that the recession was not in the near horizon. The conventional explanation follows Wicksellian ideas (see this old post). In the Wicksellian story, one can think of the 10 year bond rate as a proxy for the natural rate of interest, and the Fed Funds for the monetary or banking rate. Hence, whenever the short-term rate (Fed Funds) is above the long-term one, it would be reasonable to assume that borrowing short-term is a bad idea, there is not enough borrowing, and investment falls short of savings. Lower investment would be the cause of the recession, and of deflationary forces.Graph below show the difference between the 10-year bond rate and the Fed Funds, which I have

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ICAPE call for papers

27 days ago

Geoff Schneider sent a reminder that the deadline (9/4) for the ICAPE call for papers, for the San Diego conference next January 5 and 6, is just a couple of weeks away. See details for submitting a paper, panel or workshop proposal. in the following link. The main topic is Policy, Politics and Pluralism: Pluralistic economics for the post-Trump era.
As we approach the 2020 elections, it is an opportune time for heterodox economists to articulate their vision for modern economic policies that would better serve the interests of people and the environment. Already, heterodox ideas are gaining traction, from Modern Monetary Theory to the Green New Deal. Possible topics are:

What key theoretical and empirical issues should contemporary economists be confronting?
What are the best

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Thirlwall’s law at 40

August 16, 2019

Table of contents of the next issue of the Review of Keynesian EconomicsThirlwall’s law at 40
Esteban Pérez Caldentey and Matías VernengoWhy Thirlwall’s law is not a tautology: more on the debate over the law
J.S.L. McCombie Endogenous growth, capital accumulation and Thirlwall’s dynamics: the case of Latin America
Ignacio Perrotini-Hernández and Juan Alberto Vázquez-MuñozThirlwall’s law and the terms of trade: a parsimonious extension of the balance-of-payments-constrained growth model
Esteban Pérez Caldentey and Juan Carlos Moreno-BridThirlwall’s law, external debt sustainability, and the balance-of-payments-constrained level and growth rates of output
Gustavo Bhering, Franklin Serrano and Fabio FreitasGrowth transitions and the balance-of-payments constraint
Excellent Mhlongo and

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The return of populism or Argentina on the verge of collapse

August 15, 2019

The Argentinean primary elections, which are very peculiar and take place all at once with all parties, were last Sunday. The primaries made some sense when the Peronist party was all divided and that allowed the main candidate to proceed, but with the move of Cristina Kirchner to the vice-presidential spot next to Alberto Fernández, and the unification of a good part of Peronism (in particular Sergio Massa), the primaries become essentially an anticipated election. And Peronism won resoundingly, with 47 percent of the votes, considerably more than the 32 percent the neoliberal Mauricio Macri obtained.After the election there was a run on the peso, with a depreciation of almost 30 percent, and no significant intervention from the Central Bank. To add to the problems, Macri, the incumbent

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Class conflict, Economic Development and the Brazilian Crisis

August 7, 2019

Last summer readings

The issue of class conflict and its relation to accumulation of capital was central for classical political economists of the surplus approach. That tradition has survived in political science mostly through the work of Marxist authors. And in many recent discussions of the Brazilian crisis, that started with the 2013 protests, the 2015 turn in economic policy (the so-called New Economic Matrix), the 2016 mediatic/parliamentary coup against Dilma, and the 2018 unlawful jailing of Lula and fraudulent elections of Bolsonaro, the theme of class and the role of the bourgeoisie has been widely discussed.The book by Armando Boito Jr. (pictured above) is, perhaps, the best of those that analyze the role of class alliances and the anti-PT (anti-Workers’ Party) backlash

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The IMF Program in Ecuador: A New Report by Mark Weisbrot

July 22, 2019

Thirty pieces of silver

As they discuss the new candidate for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and it seems that the lead candidate for Lagarde’s position is the former Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, a pro-austerity member of the Labor Party (which I guess is at least nominally on the left), it is worth reading the new CEPR report on the possible effects of IMF programs in Latin America, more specifically the one in Ecuador, now that the country has been brought back into the fold of well-behaved nations (after expelling Assange from their London embassy, in the post-Correa period).From the abstract:
This report examines Ecuador’s March 2019 agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and finds that Ecuador is likely to have lower GDP per capita, higher

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Why do we need a theory of value?

July 21, 2019

The theory of value and distribution is at the heart of economics. To be clear, when I say that it is at the center, it means that discussions of almost any topic in economics, in one way or another, depend on a certain theoretical position about the theory of value and distribution. However, most economists have no clue about it, about the centrality of value. Not only they don’t understand the original and now infamous labor theory of value (LTV), that dominated between Petty and Ricardo (and Adam Smith too, even though that tends to surprise and puzzle most economists),* but also they misunderstand the dominant marginalist paradigm. Some economists actually think that you don’t need a theory of value at all, and some don’t even understand that they use a conventional (some vulgar form

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Forty Years of Balance of Payments Constrained Growth and Thirlwall’s Law

June 29, 2019

From original draft by Thirlwall

Thirlwall’s seminal paper on the balance of payments (BOP) constrained growth is forty years old. Paul Davidson once referred to the BOP constrained growth as a positive Post Keynesian contribution to economics. The Review of Keynesian Economics (ROKE) will publish soon a special issue with many well-known contributors to the literature, and with a paper by Thirlwall himself.The idea built on the Kaldorian supermultiplier model (Kaldor mark II), and with a few simplifying assumptions, it showed that economic growth depends on the rate of growth of exports divided by the the income elasticity of demand for imports. A very similar idea, as Thirlwall knew, was developed by Raúl Prebisch and Latin American Structuralists. The model, contrary to the

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Capital Flows to the Periphery: Still ‘push’, but with significantly lower risk spreads

June 28, 2019

Gabriel Aidar and Julia Braga (Guest Bloggers)

We have, in our new paper, gone back to the old pull-push debate on determinants of capital inflows to emerging markets, to look at the behavior of country risk premium spreads. Our Principal Component Analysis of the country-risk spread series of ten emerging economies from 1999 to 2019 revealed that 86% of the total volatility of the original series can be represented by only two components, suggesting the prevalence of common factors in determining country risk. This evidence, reinforced by the correlation of the first major component with global liquidity indicators, corroborates our hypothesis that the sovereign risk trend is driven by external factors, in line with the push literature. This is clearly shown in the graph below that

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Handbook of the History of Money and Currency

June 21, 2019

The Handbook (subscription required) has been edited by Stefano Battilossi, Youssef Cassis and Kazuhiko Yago. It has many interesting chapters. Barry Eichengreen writes on what determines that a currency is used as an international currency (or even as the predominant currency). While he follows conventional views in suggesting that role of money as a means of exchange and the importance of the country in international transactions, he does also explore the role of power (military power) behind the key currency. My take on that topic in this paper with David Fields here.There is also a very readable paper on the history of central banks by Stefano Ugolini here. It follows the evolutionary approach of Roberds and Velde, and in my view also suffers from conventional views on monetary

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Catching up and falling behind in historical perspective

June 11, 2019

The figure below, from a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal, shows the catching up of the South. Note that most occurs after the New Deal, and up to the 1980s. The piece emphasizes the reversal, with divergence since the last recession. This suggests that the New Deal and the period in which the segregationist policies were eliminated were a period of prosperity for the South.

The catching up story is one associated mostly to State action, since the New Deal in many ways was a sort of Marshall Plan for the South (think TVA), even though the WSJ piece emphasizes policies, like lower taxes, and the lack of unions. And there is a lot to discuss there.But what surprised me by looking at the graph, and the story I think is more interesting, is the apparent relative decline of the West.

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Argentina, Financial Times and the next default

June 5, 2019

It’s been a while since I wrote about Argentina. In all fairness, because it is difficult given all the mistakes of the last few years since Macri’s victory. I discussed the prospects of what to expect back then. Since then I posted here and here on the supposed improvement in 2017, and the beginning of the still unfolding crisis in 2018. And this could simply be an "I told you so post," since I did warn about most things that would happen. But there are important and interesting news about Argentina, now that there is at least some clarity about who will run against Macri this year.Cristina Kirchner finally announced she’s running for the vice-presidency, and that her husband’s chief of staff (when Néstor was president), Alberto Fernández, will be at the top of the ticket. Some have

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Exchange rates and income distribution in a surplus approach perspective

May 18, 2019

Old paper, presented two years ago in México, and to be published soon by the university press there. In Spanish. For those interested. The model is the same (with minor changes) one used to discuss inflation, in an old paper, eventually published here in a book on Post Keynesian economics edited by Forstater and Wray. Link here.

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Forget the Natural Rate, says the Head of the Minneapolis Fed

May 16, 2019

Low rates are here to stay

The head of the Minneapolis Fed agrees with something that I discussed several times here (or here for the use of alternative unemployment measures like U6) in the blog, that the unemployment level (U3) is not a good measure of the slack in the labor market. Neel Kashkari says:
No one knows how many more Americans want to work. But if the job market continues to improve with only modest wage growth and below-target inflation, it can be safely assumed that maximum employment isn’t here yet and there is no present need to raise interest rates.
So we’re NOT at full employment (neutral or natural rate in their parlance) even with 3.6%. Note that a few years back they thought it was closer to 6%. Reality has an heterodox bias.

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On Karl Polanyi and the labor theory of value

May 14, 2019

The other great transformation

I have discussed Polanyi on the blog before, but not in great detail (see this video posted a few years back from Fred Block for a more in depth discussion). However, writing about Bob Heilbroner’s views of economics, and in particular the labor theory of value, reminded me why I have reservations about Polanyi, something that often surprises my friends, since I often cite some of his ideas, and I did put his book on the Top 10 list.Polanyi has been, indeed, one of the most influential social scientists of the 20th century, even if economists never read him. His notion that markets are embedded in society has been used by political scientists and sociologists to understand the rise of neoliberalism, and the policies of austerity that have had incredible

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The New School for Social Research at 100: A view from the Econ. Dept.

May 9, 2019

From a late 1990s catalogue; Lance Taylor (center), and also in no particular order

and from what I can remember (Ellen Houston, Adalmir Marquetti, myself (with goaty

on the left side), Margaret Duncan, Josh Bivens and Carlos Pinkusfeld (Orozco Room)

The New School for Social Research was founded 100 years ago by a group of academics dissatisfied with the direction of American high education. Economics was central to the early history of the New School, and my brief, very incomplete, and certainly idiosyncratic historical account emphasizes the Economics Department of what used to be called the Graduate Faculty.Thorstein Veblen, one of the founders, had written his famous Higher Learning in America, which in a sense is the original critique of the corporate university. The idea was

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Top blogs

May 8, 2019

Naked Keynesianism has been featured in the Top 100 Economics Blogs of 2019. I haven’t been very active, and appreciate to be included in the company of much more interesting blogs. See all here.

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Interview on Central Bank’s exchange rate policy in Argentina

May 2, 2019

My interview with Nicolás Fiorentino and Cecilia Camarano from Led.fm yesterday (in Spanish) on the Argentinian situation and the new central bank policy.
[embedded content]
I basically suggest that the new policy to control exchange rates using the IMF loans (with IMF authorization) might control the exchange rate, but will finance essentially capital flight, and tries to interfere with the elections later this year.

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Structural Change in China and India: External Sustainability and the Middle-Income Trap

April 30, 2019

Shouldn’t listen to the IMF anyway

New working paper co-authored with Suranjana Nabar-Bhaduri, and published by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) from UMass-Amherst. From the abstract:This paper focuses on the different development strategies of China and India, particularly regarding the role of manufacturing and services for long-run productivity growth, external competitiveness and financial fragility. The findings appear to support the argument that productivity improvements in manufacturing drive productivity improvements in other sectors. They also substantiate previous findings that the Indian services-led growth trajectory has had limited success in transferring surplus labor from agriculture to other sectors. Furthermore, the trajectories have affected the

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Review of Keynesian Economics on the economics of negative interest rates

April 26, 2019

We are delighted to announce the publication of Volume 7, Issue 2 of the Review of Keynesian Economics. We invite you to visit the website where you can read all the article abstracts and download two free articles.Over the last several years economic recovery has led to some monetary tightening in the United States, but it is likely that a future recession will restore the issue of negative interest rates to the fore of policy debate. That is also true for Europe where there has been a weaker recovery in the euro zone and the European Central Bank still has a zero interest rate. In many ways, as participants in this symposium suggest, negative interest rate policy (NIRP) is a throwback to pre-Keynesian ideas according to which interest rates can adjust private spending to a level

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Some unpleasant Keynesian arithmetic

April 11, 2019

By Thomas I. Palley (Guest Blogger)The last decade has witnessed a significant revival of belief in the efficacy of fiscal policy and mainstream economics is now reverting to the standard positions of mid-1970s Keynesianism. On the coattails of that revival, increased attention is being given to the doctrine of Modern Money Theory (MMT) which makes exaggerated claims about the economic costs and capability of money-financed fiscal policy. MMT proponents are now asserting society can enjoy a range of large government spending programs for free via money financed deficits, which has made it very popular with progressive policy advocates. This paper examines MMT’s assertion and rejects the claim that the US can enjoy a massive permanent free program spree that does not cause inflation. As

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