Sunday , March 24 2019
Home / Matias Vernengo
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

Bretton Woods and corporate defaults

2 days ago

In the Eatwell and Taylor book, Global Finance at Risk, they had, I think, a graph with the percentage of corporate bonds in default in the US (I don’t have the book here, it’s my office). I think this is a close one, with data that is more recent (from this Moody’s report).

The graph shows corporate bond default rates (and also the speculative-grade bond defaults). Note that defaults fall significantly during the Bretton Woods era of capital controls and low interest rates.

Read More »

Galbraith on MMT and the Hyperinflation Boogeyman

7 days ago

From his recent piece: "Does this mean that ‘deficits don’t matter’? I know of no MMT adherent who has made such a claim. MMT acknowledges that policy can be too expansionary and push past resource constraints, causing inflation and exchange-rate depreciation – which may or may not be desirable. (Hyperinflation, on the other hand, is a bogeyman, which some MMT critics deploy as a scare tactic.)"Also, this: "And MMT is not about Congress ordering the Fed to use its “balance sheet as a cash cow.” Rather, it is about understanding how monetary operations actually work, how interest rates are set, and what economic powers the US government has. This, in turn, requires recognizing that the dual mandate is not a collection of empty words, but something that can – and should – be pursued on a

Read More »

Lara-Resende and MMT in the Tropics

12 days ago

So André Lara-Resende, who I discussed here before, is again writing on the crisis of macroeconomics (in Portuguese and you might need to have a subscription), and now instead of embracing the Fiscal Theory of the Price Level (FTPL), has supposedly embraced Modern Money Theory (MMT). Many US MMTers cheered this as a demonstration of the reach of MMT in other countries. I would be less cheerful.Lara-Resende, let me explain to non-Brazilian readers, was a student of Lance Taylor at MIT, and then a professor at the Catholic University in Rio, being a key author of inertial inflation, an heterodox view of inflation, that was central for the failed Cruzado Stabilization Plan back in 1986. He then participated in the successful stabilization of the economy with the Real Plan, when Fernando

Read More »

MMT and its Discontents: Again (Wonkish and Longish)

15 days ago

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) has been in the news again, and for good reasons. I actually had a post with the same title back in February of 2012, hence the again in the title. But now, with the irruption of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the political scene ,and with the discussion of a Green New Deal (discussed here 7 years ago) and the feasibility of higher taxes (here, also long ago, among the many on the topic) taking the center of the political debate, MMT has become trendy. The rise of democratic socialist ideas, since Bernie’s 2016 campaign, has brought the fiscal feasibility or responsibility, in the more conservative terminology, of such progressive  plans into the center of economic policy debates. Also, the fact that Stephanie Kelton a prominent MMTer is an advisor to Bernie,

Read More »

Keynesian Economics: Back from the Dead

16 days ago

The Godley-Tobin Lecture by Bob Rowthorn, to be published by the Review of Keynesian Economics.
[embedded content]
Rowthorn suggests that many Keynesian features are part of the mainstream now, in particular showing a stable Phillips Curve without a natural rate. I remain more skeptical about the return of Keynesianism within the mainstream, but worth listening to his thoughts.

Read More »

Inequality and Stagnation by Policy Design

February 18, 2019

By Thomas Palley (guest blogger)This paper argues the mainstream economics profession is threatened by theories of the financial crisis and ensuing stagnation that attribute those events to the policies recommended and justified by the profession. Such theories are existentially threatening to the dominant point of view. Consequently, mainstream economists resist engaging them as doing so would legitimize those theories. That resistance has contributed to blocking the politics and policies needed to address stagnation, thereby contributing to a political vacuum which is being filled by odious forces. Those ugly political consequences are unintended, but they are still there and show the dangerous consequences of the death of pluralism in economics. The critique of mainstream economists is

Read More »

Still time to save the euro

January 26, 2019

New book edited by Herr, Priewe and Watt. Free download at the website (both pdf and for e-reader). I’ve only seen it now, and have been reading the great chapter by Cesaratto and Zezza. But look forward to others by Uxó, Álvarez and Febrero, Priewe, Bibow, Dullien, Simonazzi, Celi and Guarascio,  and Bofinger to mention a few.Read full book here.

Read More »

On the crisis in Venezuela

January 25, 2019

I wrote a few entries over the last few years that might be useful to understand what is going on in Venezuela. This one from 2016, tries to explain how the crisis is related to an old problem, the dependence on oil exports and the balance of payments constraint. Venezuela can’t manage to get beyond the oil dependence in the boom, since a sort of Dutch Disease sets in. One can certainly blame the Chavista governments for not breaking with that dependence, but in all fairness conservative governments also were unable to do it. In the period of a fall in international oil prices a crisis normally occurs (this one is probably already worse than the Caracazo).Here for context the data on exports (note that about 90 percent of exports are basically oil, and those go mostly to the US that has

Read More »

Functional Finance, MMT and Blanchard’s Presidential Address

January 21, 2019

So Olivier Blanchard gave the AEA presidential address at the Atlanta meetings earlier this year. If you missed it you can watch it here. The paper is also here. In all fairness, there is nothing new there. He notes the famous rule by Evsey Domar about sustainability of public debt, meaning that if the rate of interest on debt is lower than the rate of growth, debt-to-GDP ratios tend to be stable and you are in no danger in pursuing active fiscal policies.Note that functional finance is in many ways compatible with Old Neoclassical Synthesis Keynesianism, and it should not be a surprise that New Keynesians accept some of the same arguments. Certainly Domar was an Old Keynesian in that mold, and although he was more difficult to classify, Abba Lerner the founder of functional finance

Read More »

A global macroeconomics – yes, macroeconomics, dammit – of inequality and income distribution

January 20, 2019

Below the text of the first Godley-Tobin Lecture by James K. Galbraith.According to an approximate count, there are 848 sub-categories in the classification codes of the Journal of Economic Literature. Of these, five relate to income inequality. Two are classed under Microeconomics: D31 ‘Personal Income, Wealth and Their Distribution’ and D33 ‘Factor Income Distribution.’ Two are classed under ‘Health, Education and Welfare’: I14 ‘Health and Inequality’ and I24 ‘Education and Inequality.’ One is classed under Labor: J31 ‘Wage Level and Structure/Wage Differentials.’Under Macroeconomics there is nothing, unless you count E25 ‘Aggregate Factor Income Distribution,’ which surely means the analysis of factor shares – Wages, Profits, Rent – also known as the functional distribution. Under

Read More »

Trade and Finance

January 14, 2019

Teaching a course on international economics (trade and finance) for international relations students. More on that later. Just wanted to post the exports to GDP ratio for the world.

This is to give students a sense of the increase in trade in the last few decades, and also the relative stagnation since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Note that while exports are about US$ 23 trillion in a year, the daily turnover in the foreign exchange market is about US$ 5 trillion, according to the last time I checked the BIS Report.I put the US recessions bars too. Note that it seems that US recessions always have a significant impact on the expansion of world exports.

Read More »

Heterodox Journals and Impact Factors

January 11, 2019

I blogged about journal rankings a while ago. As I said back then, journal rankings matter in decisions about grants and academic promotions, and there are biases against heterodox journals. So even if there are many problems with those measures (read previous post), they are still relevant. The Review of Keynesian Economics (ROKE), founded by Tom Palley, Louis-Philippe Rochon (now at ROPE) and myself, has now an impact factor of 0.738 in last year’s Clarivate Report (Thomson-Reuters citation index, previously known as the Science-Social Science Citation Index, SSCI), up from 0.515 in the 2015 report.For comparison, well-established heterodox journals were somewhat below, with the Review of Radical Political Economics scoring 0.377 and 0.579 in the same reports, and the Journal of

Read More »

Raúl Prebish’s Unpublished Manuscripts on the Buenos Aires Lectures on Economic Dynamics

January 7, 2019

By Esteban Pérez CaldenteyRaúl Prebish’s Unpublished Manuscripts on the Buenos Aires Lectures on Economic Dynamics edited by Esteban Pérez Caldentey (ECLAC) and Matías Vernengo (Bucknell University), have been published in the ECLAC Review, August 2018 Raúl Prebisch (1901–1986), the Second Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) which he joined in 1949 is mostly known for his long-run analysis and diagnostic of the development problem of Latin America, which he fully stated in “The economic development of Latin America and some of its principal problems” (1950), also known as Prebisch’s “Manifesto”.However, prior to joining ECLAC Prebisch also devoted a great part of his time and career the analysis of business cycles in theory and in

Read More »

The three caballeros: on populism and the economy

January 1, 2019

Cartoonish figures… and Disney toons too

With the incoming inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the United States and the two largest countries in the Latin American region will have what the press has more or less universally and uncritically referred to as populist leaders in power. It has been very common in the press to compare Trump and Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) as right and left-wing populists. And although the term has not been applied as often to Bolsonaro, comparisons with Trump abound. Yet, while they do share certain characteristics, I would argue that populism is not one of them. The comparisons that make them all similar are at the end of the day caricatures.Admittedly populism is a complicated and somewhat fuzzy term. It has a complicated history, and

Read More »

A primer on the economics of immigration: a surplus approach perspective

December 25, 2018

This is definitely not my topic of research. So you may very well ask why would I venture to wrote about it, beyond the obvious reason that it is probably one of the most debated issues these days in the US, with the government shutdown being related to the now infamous wall. I am myself twice an immigrant, I descend from immigrants (my parents returned to their country of origin, but had emigrated, and on my mother side my grandfather was also an immigrant, and the same goes on my father’s side a few generations before), I might add. But that is not the whole, or the most relevant, reason.Most debates about immigration center on labor market issues, and discuss the issue analytically with the tools of marginalism. The conclusions, by definition, are the logical consequence of the

Read More »

Galbraith versus Piketty on Inequality

December 24, 2018

A new paper by James k. Galbraith has been published in Development & Change. It’s along the lines of his arguments in the Godley-Tobin Lecture delivered earlier this year, and to be published in the Review of Keynesian Economics (ROKE) in January. Basically, we need a macro story for inequality (which Piketty r-g framework tries, but ultimately fail to provide) and that the payroll data that Galbraith uses provides a more accurate measure of inequality than the tax records favored by Piketty and his co-authors.From the abstract:
This article reviews the World Inequality Report 2018, a large collaborative data project based on the work of Thomas Piketty and the late Anthony Atkinson, which critiques the entire literature of inequality measurement from survey data and purports to provide

Read More »

Financialization and the low burden of public debt

December 13, 2018

Financialization is a fuzzy concept. There are many definitions, and none is clear cut, at least to characterize the changes of the last 40 years or so, which is the period most authors associate with financialization. I’m not suggesting it’s not a useful concept though.* In some sense, financialization refers to the last phase in the capitalist system (even if there are ways in which one might argue that capitalism was always financialized).

At any rate, going to the point I wanted to make, the financial burden of public debt went down in the 2000s, but that is not necessarily a good sign. I was trying to check the financial burden of public debt (i.e. the total spending on interests, out of total current spending) in the United States. The figure above shows that the

Read More »

Middle Income Trap or the Return of US Hegemony

December 12, 2018

Short essay in Spanish for the special (40 year anniversary of the journal Coyuntura y Desarrollo, published by the Fundación de Investigaciones para el Desarrollo, FIDE). It is essentially a critique of the concept of middle-income trap and the idea of how the demographic transitions (discussed here before) affect the process of development. It suggests that the deindustrialization of the Latin American periphery results as much from the decisions in the hegemonic country to open up China, as from the decisions of the local elites to adopt neoliberal policies to punish its labor class. It is also noted that the deindustrialization of the central countries (particularly the US) should be taken with a certain degree of skepticism (see this old post), since manufacturing output went up

Read More »

Garegnani on Sraffa and Marx, with an intro by Petri

December 1, 2018

The Review of Political Economy has done a great service to those interested in political economy, and in particular those concerned with the revival of the surplus approach. It has published the manuscript of Pierangelo Garegnani’s unpublished paper.From Fabio Petri’s introduction:
In the last year of his life, Pierangelo Garegnani (1930–2011) worked on revising a paper on Marx’s labour theory of value drafted 30 years before, which had remained unpublished. This revised paper is what is reproduced below. 

The paper had been read at a 1980 Conference on Marx in Bielefeld, Germany. It was a new version, in English, of the paper ‘La teoria del valore: Marx e la tradizione marxista’, published, together with an early Italian version of Garegnani (1984) as well as some other material,

Read More »

Jamie Galbraith on Robert Skidelsky’s new book Money and Government

November 26, 2018

The review was just published in American Affairs.

The Past and Future of Political Economy

by James K. Galbraith

In this remarkable work, Robert Skidelsky—historian, biographer, and tribune of Keynesian ideas in the House of Lords—unites his experience, knowledge, and talents in a sweeping account of money and power. His topic is not money and power in the familiar (one might say Trumpish) sense of the use of one to obtain the other. Rather, he presents an intellectual history of the control over money as an instrument of state power.Whether money ought to be conceived as such an instrument is a matter of historic controversy and remains a contested theme in political economy. On one side are those who justify government control over money as a tool of policy: mercantilists,

Read More »

Arguments for austerity, old and new

November 21, 2018

Here what I think may be is Fernando Cardim de Carvalho’s last published paper (who passed away recently), published in Intervention. From the abstract:
Much of the criticism directed at austerity programs implemented after the 2007/2008 financial crisis, more forcefully in the eurozone, have relied on the same arguments Keynes and others raised against the (British) Treasury View developed in the 1920s and 1930s. Austerity, however, has been proposed most insistently in the 2010s by European authorities, led by the German Federal Ministry of Finance, the Bundesfinanzministerium (BMF). While the arguments for austerity then and now share some common elements, there are enough original arguments being presented by the BMF to make many of the criticisms ineffective. The paper reconstructs

Read More »

Heterodox Central Banking in the Periphery

November 11, 2018

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

Read More »

The End of Brazilian Democracy

November 2, 2018

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

Read More »

The Global Crisis: Beyond Secular Stagnation

October 23, 2018

[embedded content]

My talk last year (2017) at the Critical Economics Summer School of the Unviersidad de Valldolid (in Spanish). It was great to meet and interact with lots of progressive thinkers in Spain.

Read More »

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

October 23, 2018

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

Read More »

The budget, the fragile recovery and the next recession

October 21, 2018

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

Read More »

US technological hegemony

October 18, 2018

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.

Read More »