Globalization and Its Nuances

The PBS TV program History Detectives had an episode entitled “Atocha Spanish Silver” where the wreck of the Spanish ship Atocha was described like this:

“In 1985, one of the greatest treasure discoveries was made off the Florida Keys, when the wreck of the Spanish ship Atocha was found. On board were some forty tons of silver and gold, which in 1622 had been heading from the New World to the Spanish treasury as the means to fund the Thirty Years’ War.”

Is this an obvious case of globalization? What about Marco Polo? RomeHan dynasty China trade in silks? Silk Road and Samarkand? Colombus? Magellan? Vasco da Gama?

All of these cases constitute a kind of harmless kind of “pop globalization” based on exotic voyages and travels.

Consider another such example, perhaps more academic:

“About the middle of the sixteenth century Antwerp reached its apogee. For the first time in history there existed both a European and a world market; the economies of different parts of Europe had become interdependent and were linked through the Antwerp market, not only with each other but also with the economies of large parts of the rest of the world. Perhaps no other city has ever again played such a dominant role as did Antwerp in the second quarter of the sixteenth century.”

(Europe in the Sixteenth Century, Koenigsberger and Mosse, Holt Rinehart Publishers, 1968, page 50)

Debt repudiations in several places in the 1550s are described like this:

“This caused the first big international bank crash, for the Antwerp bankers now could not meet their own obligations.”

(Europe in the Sixteenth Century, Koenigsberger and Mosse, Holt Rinehart Publishers, 1968, page 51)

This sounds like some kind of identifiably global period.

Actually, modern historians define globalization as “price convergence” (i.e., wheat has now a unified “world price,” implying a world market). This rigorous definition is confirmed by and also shows up in the data in the 1820s and may or may not be prefigured by all the Marco Polo and Atocha silver stories, mentioned above.

These episodes in history are not there yet.

One sees wheat prices and other commodity prices converging in the 1820s and thereafter based on railroads, steamships and telegrams.

The classic in this kind of analysis is:

Globalization and History: The Evolution of a Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Economy, by Kevin O’Rourke and Jeffrey Williamson.

Kevin O’Rourke and Jeffrey Williamson present a coherent picture of In Globalization and History, Kevin O’Rourke and Jeffrey Williamson present a coherent picture of trade, migration, and international capital flows in the Atlantic economy in the century prior to 1914—the first great globalization boom, which anticipated the experience of the last fifty years. The authors estimate the extent of globalization and its impact on the participating countries, and discuss the political reactions that it provoked. The book’s originality lies in its application of the tools of open-economy economics to this critical historical period—differentiating it from most previous work, which has been based on closed-economy or single-sector models. The authors also keep a close eye on globalization debates of the 1990s, using history to inform the present and vice versa. The book brings together research conducted by the authors over the past decade—work that has profoundly influenced how economic history is now written and that has found audiences in economics and history, as well as in the popular press.

(book summary)

In everyday language, we associate the word globalization with some ever-increasing Marco Polo phenomena. While that’s not entirely wrong, globalization in the more technical sense begins to show up in the data only from the 1820s. At this point, we begin to see the convergence of worldwide wheat prices, for example. This makes the world, for the first time, a global “store” with unified prices. Here is the technical beginning of globalization. The years 1870-1914 are subsequently the first real era of modern globalization and represent a kind of “take-off” from the first stirrings of the 1820s. World Wars I & II might be seen as globalization backlash.

At this moment in world history, whether Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will constitute a new wave of deglobalization remains to be seen.

Russia-Watching: Economic Dysfunctionalities

[from the Russian Analytical Digest]

This issue deals with dysfunctionalities in the Russian economy. The first three contributions look at the direct impact of sanctions. Ilya Matveev provides an overview, while Andrei Yakovlev compares the government’s anti-sanctions measures to its reaction to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Janis Kluge offers a more detailed picture of the short- and long-term effects of the unfolding sanction regime. Michael Rochlitz then goes on to explain the lack of strategic planning in the country’s economic policy. Finally, Olga Masyutina and Ekaterina Paustyan provide a case study of inefficient governance mechanisms looking at waste management.

Read the full issue [archived PDF].


Sanctions against Russia: No Blitzkrieg, but a Devastating Effect Nonetheless

by Ilya Matveev

In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, over 40 countries have introduced sanctions against Russia. The new restrictions concern finance, trade, logistics, and personal sanctions against businessmen and officials. In addition, more than 1,000 companies have ceased or limited their activities in Russia. In this article, Ilya Matveev argues that the sanctions, despite their unprecedented scale, have not led to the collapse of the Russian economy, yet their effect is dramatic, multi-faceted, and will increase over time.

Read the full issue [archived PDF].

Fighting the Pandemic and Fighting Sanctions: Can the Russian Economy Now Benefit from Its Experience with Anti-Crisis Measures?

by Andrei Yakovlev

Faced with tough international sanctions in reaction to its war against Ukraine, the Russian government has resorted to measures developed during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to stabilize the economy. This short analysis discusses the rationale behind this approach and demonstrates its limits.

Read the full issue [archived PDF].

Russia’s Economy under Sanctions: Early Impact and Long-Term Outlook

by Janis Kluge

Four months after a coalition of Western states imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia, the Russian economy seems to be holding up better than expected. The Central Bank has managed to stabilize the country’s financial system and Russian officials are trying to project optimism about the future. However, this optimism is likely to be short-lived. The sanctions’ effects are only just beginning to unfold: supply-chain problems are intensifying and demand is falling quickly. In the longer run, Russia’s economy will become more primitive as it partially decouples from international trade. To avoid social tensions, the government will intervene to support Russian businesses, leading to more protectionism and a larger state footprint in the economy.

Read the full issue [archived PDF].

Why Russia Is Lacking an Economic Strategy for the Future

by Michael Rochlitz

Even before the economic crisis caused by Russia’s full-scale attack against Ukraine and the ensuing sanctions, the Russian economy was plagued by a number of growing problems. As a result, Russia’s economy has hardly grown for almost a decade, with an average annual growth rate of just 0.5% between 2013 and 2021. However, the Russian government does not have a strategy for addressing the fundamental economic challenges that are looming just over the horizon. There also seem to be no public debates about these challenges, whether in the policy circles around the government or among the wider public.

Read the full issue [archived PDF].

The Political Economy of Waste Management in Russia

by Olga Masyutina and Ekaterina Paustyan

The problem of household waste is one of the numerous environmental challenges facing Russia today. The 2019 nation-wide waste management reform was designed to tackle this problem by promoting recycling. However, the reform is stalling, due in large part to the nature of state-business relations in Russia. The lack of transparency in the public procurement process and the importance of personal connections between businesses and the federal and regional authorities undermine the implementation of the reform and produce suboptimal outcomes in the fight against waste.

Read the full issue [archived PDF].

WANG Huiyao: To Save Global Trade, Start Small

[from the Center for China and Globalization]

by WANG Huiyao (王辉耀), Founder of the Center for China and Globalization

The global economy is being rocked by war, sanctions and spiraling commodity prices—not to mention the ongoing strain of the pandemic, geopolitical tensions and climate change. These compounding risks present a serious challenge to the system of open trade that the World Trade Organization was designed to uphold. But it also offers a chance for the beleaguered organization, which is holding its first ministerial conference since 2017, to prove its continuing relevance.

The WTO has traditionally focused on combating protectionism—measures designed to insulate producers from international competition. Now, though, the biggest threats to free trade come from policies meant to safeguard national security and protect citizens from risks, such as those related to health, the environment or digital spaces.

Former WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy has called this growing use of export controls, cybersecurity laws, investment blacklists, reshoring incentives and the like “precautionism.” It’s been on the rise since the start of the pandemic, when many countries moved to restrict exports of medical supplies and other essentials. COVID-19 has also raised concerns about the vulnerability of supply chains, particularly those dependent on geopolitical rivals.

The world’s two biggest trading nations, the United States and China, have both engaged in precautionism. The U.S. is actively pursuing a policy of “friend-shoring”—shifting trade flows from potentially hostile countries to friendlier ones. China’s “dual circulation” strategy aims in part to reduce dependence on foreign imports, especially technology, while its government has long imposed limits on data flows in and out of the country.

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the momentum toward friend-shoring has grown. Meanwhile, food shortages and surging prices have triggered another round of precautionary measures: Since the war began, 63 countries have imposed a more than 100 export restrictions on fertilizer and foodstuffs.

While the impulse driving such policies is understandable, the trend could cause great harm if allowed to run unchecked. It will increase inflation and depress global growth, especially if it involves costly redeployment of supply chains away from efficient producers such as China. A recent WTO study estimated that decoupling the global economy into “Western” and “Eastern” blocs would wipe out nearly 5% in output, the equivalent of $4 trillion.

As a recent study by the International Monetary Fund points out, the way to make global value chains more resilient is to diversify, not dismantle them. Turning away from open trade will only make states more vulnerable to economic shocks such as war, disease or crop failures.

The WTO is an obvious vehicle to rally collective action on these issues. However, like other global institutions, it has been weakened by years of deadlock. At this week’s meeting, countries should start to build positive momentum with some small but symbolically significant breakthroughs to show the WTO can still mobilize joint action.

Given current threats to food security, at the very least members should agree not to restrict exports of foodstuffs purchased for the World Food Programme. A step further would be a joint statement calling on members to keep trade in food and agricultural products open and avoid imposing unjustified export restrictions. There should also be closer coordination to smooth supply chains and clogged logistics channels.

Another low-hanging fruit is finally securing a  waiver covering intellectual property rights for COVID-19-related products. This proposal has languished for over 18 months but has now been redrafted to address concerns from the U.S. and European Union. Signing it would go some way to expanding global access to vaccines, which are still sorely needed in many parts of the world.

Beyond this week, the WTO secretariat and members need to develop a work program to reform the organization. This should include developing a framework to ensure that if states do take precautionary measures, they do so in a transparent, rules-based manner that does not slide into more harmful forms of protectionism.

Reviving the WTO’s defunct dispute settlement mechanism is a clear priority. Twenty-five members have agreed to an interim arrangement that would function in a similar way. More members should join this agreement, ideally including the U.S., and start negotiating the full restoration of a binding mechanism. They should also set clear criteria for carveouts for legitimate precautionary measures related to national security, healthcare and environmental issues.

No one should expect big breakthroughs in Geneva. But practical agreements on immediate priorities such food security and vaccines would at least help to reassert the WTO’s relevance and show that the world’s trading partners are not simply going to give up on multilateralism. At this dangerous moment, even small victories are welcome.

Emerson on Education

The entire approach to education or re-education presented here can be fruitfully thought of in terms of this journal entry (dated July 15? 1831) from the journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“The things taught in schools & colleges are not an education but the means of education…”

(Emerson in his Journals, 1982, selected and edited by Joel Porte, Harvard University Press, page 79)

This insight on education comports well with the approach we are taking here: courses and majors, lectures and tests, grades and discussions are “raw material” for a more composite understanding or perhaps understandings “in motion” as one goes through life. This is true whether you major in English lit. or polymer chemistry.

This Emersonian insight is what is missing from campuses and schoolyards and what we are exploring here. Pedagogy can’t be on the right track without this sense of “parts and wholes” where the raw material of school is a “component” of something that includes the larger context of your life as a person as well as student and paradoxically, the whole “surround” of global commerce and the techno-commercial world which cannot be hidden away in specialized schools such as business schools (say, Harvard Business School). You are “in” all of these dimensions and storms and some tentative integration must be attempted.

Every student is a a person who is born, lives, and dies. This takes place in a world-system of global finance, technology, trade, tensions.

Deep education shows the student that the ongoing “amalgamation” of all of these dimensions is where real and deep education lies. Everything else (ie as done now) is a kind of “perfect myopia.”

This is how we implement Emerson’s point from his Journals, given above.

Federal Reserve Review of Monetary Policy Strategy, Tools, and Communications: Some Preliminary Views

(Speech by Governor Lael Brainard, at the Presentation of the 2019 William F. Butler Award New York Association for Business Economics, New York, New York)

It is a pleasure to be here with you. It is an honor to join the 45 outstanding economic researchers and practitioners who are past recipients of the William F. Butler Award. I want to express my deep appreciation to the New York Association for Business Economics (NYABE) and NYABE President Julia Coronado.

I will offer my preliminary views on the Federal Reserve’s review of its monetary policy strategy, tools, and communications after first touching briefly on the economic outlook. These remarks represent my own views. The framework review is ongoing and will extend into 2020, and no conclusions have been reached at this time.1

Outlook and Policy

There are good reasons to expect the economy to grow at a pace modestly above potential over the next year or so, supported by strong consumers and a healthy job market, despite persistent uncertainty about trade conflict and disappointing foreign growth. Recent data provide some reassurance that consumer spending continues to expand at a healthy pace despite some slowing in retail sales. Consumer sentiment remains solid, and the employment picture is positive. Housing seems to have turned a corner and is poised for growth following several weak quarters.

Business investment remains downbeat, restrained by weak growth abroad and trade conflict. But there is little sign so far that the softness in trade, manufacturing, and business investment is affecting consumer spending, and the effect on services has been limited.

Employment remains strong. The employment-to-population ratio for prime-age adults has moved up to its pre-recession peak, and the three-month moving average of the unemployment rate is near a 50-year low.2 Monthly job gains remain above the pace needed to absorb new entrants into the labor force despite some slowing since last year. And initial claims for unemployment insurance—a useful real-time indicator historically—remain very low despite some modest increases.

Data on inflation have come in about as I expected, on balance, in recent months. Inflation remains below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent symmetric objective, which has been true for most of the past seven years. The price index for core personal consumption expenditures (PCE), which excludes food and energy prices and is a better indicator of future inflation than overall PCE prices, increased 1.7 percent over the 12 months through September.

Foreign growth remains subdued. While there are signs that the decline in euro-area manufacturing is stabilizing, the latest indicators on economic activity in China remain sluggish, and the news in Japan and in many emerging markets has been disappointing. Overall, it appears third-quarter foreign growth was weak, and the latest indicators point to little improvement in the fourth quarter.

More broadly, the balance of risks remains to the downside, although there has been some improvement in risk sentiment in recent weeks. The risk of a disorderly Brexit in the near future has declined significantly, and there is some hope that a U.S.China trade truce could avert additional tariffs. While risks remain, financial market indicators suggest market participants see a diminution in such risks, and probabilities of recessions from models using market data have declined.

The baseline is for continued moderate expansion, a strong labor market, and inflation moving gradually to our symmetric 2 percent objective. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) has taken significant action to provide insurance against the risks associated with trade conflict and weak foreign growth against a backdrop of muted inflation. Since July, the Committee has lowered the target range for the federal funds rate by ¾ percentage point, to the current range of 1½ to 1¾ percent. It will take some time for the full effect of this accommodation to work its way through economic activity, the labor market, and inflation. I will be watching the data carefully for signs of a material change to the outlook that could prompt me to reassess the appropriate path of policy.


The Federal Reserve is conducting a review of our monetary policy strategy, tools, and communications to make sure we are well positioned to advance our statutory goals of maximum employment and price stability.3 Three key features of today’s new normal call for a reassessment of our monetary policy strategy: the neutral rate is very low here and abroad, trend inflation is running below target, and the sensitivity of price inflation to resource utilization is very low.4

First, trend inflation is below target.5 Underlying trend inflation appears to be running a few tenths below the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective, according to various statistical filters. This raises the risk that households and businesses could come to expect inflation to run persistently below our target and change their behavior in a way that reinforces that expectation. Indeed, with inflation having fallen short of 2 percent for most of the past seven years, inflation expectations may have declined, as suggested by some survey-based measures of long-run inflation expectations and by market-based measures of inflation compensation.

Second, the sensitivity of price inflation to resource utilization is very low. This is what economists mean when they say that the Phillips curve is flat. A flat Phillips curve has the important advantage of allowing employment to continue expanding for longer without generating inflationary pressures, thereby providing greater opportunities to more people. But it also makes it harder to achieve our 2 percent inflation objective on a sustained basis when inflation expectations have drifted below 2 percent.

Third, the long-run neutral rate of interest is very low, which means that we are likely to see more frequent and prolonged episodes when the federal funds rate is stuck at its effective lower bound (ELB).6 The neutral rate is the level of the federal funds rate that would keep the economy at full employment and 2 percent inflation if no tailwinds or headwinds were buffeting the economy. A variety of forces have likely contributed to a decline in the neutral rate, including demographic trends in many large economies, some slowing in the rate of productivity growth, and increases in the demand for safe assets. When looking at the Federal Reserve’s Summary of Economic Projections (SEP), it is striking that the Committee’s median projection of the longer-run federal funds rate has moved down from 4¼ percent to 2½ percent over the past seven years.7 A similar decline can be seen among private forecasts.8 This decline means the conventional policy buffer is likely to be only about half of the 4½ to 5 percentage points by which the FOMC has typically cut the federal funds rate to counter recessionary pressures over the past five decades.

This large loss of policy space will tend to increase the frequency or length of periods when the policy rate is pinned at the ELB, unemployment is elevated, and inflation is below target.9 In turn, the experience of frequent or extended periods of low inflation at the ELB risks eroding inflation expectations and further compressing the conventional policy space. The risk is a downward spiral where conventional policy space gets compressed even further, the ELB binds even more frequently, and it becomes increasingly difficult to move inflation expectations and inflation back up to target. While consumers and businesses might see very low inflation as having benefits at the individual level, at the aggregate level, inflation that is too low can make it very challenging for monetary policy to cut the short-term nominal interest rate sufficiently to cushion the economy effectively.10

The experience of Japan and of the euro area more recently suggests that this risk is real. Indeed, the fact that Japan and the euro area are struggling with this challenging triad further complicates our task, because there are important potential spillovers from monetary policy in other major economies to our own economy through exchange rate and yield curve channels.11

In light of the likelihood of more frequent episodes at the ELB, our monetary policy review should advance two goals. First, monetary policy should achieve average inflation outcomes of 2 percent over time to re-anchor inflation expectations at our target. Second, we need to expand policy space to buffer the economy from adverse developments at the ELB.

Achieving the Inflation Target

The apparent slippage in trend inflation below our target calls for some adjustments to our monetary policy strategy and communications. In this context and as part of our review, my colleagues and I have been discussing how to better anchor inflation expectations firmly at our objective. In particular, it may be helpful to specify that policy aims to achieve inflation outcomes that average 2 percent over time or over the cycle. Given the persistent shortfall of inflation from its target over recent years, this would imply supporting inflation a bit above 2 percent for some time to compensate for the period of underperformance.

One class of strategies that has been proposed to address this issue are formal “makeup” rules that seek to compensate for past inflation deviations from target. For instance, under price-level targeting, policy seeks to stabilize the price level around a constant growth path that is consistent with the inflation objective.12 Under average inflation targeting, policy seeks to return the average of inflation to the target over some specified period.13

To be successful, formal makeup strategies require that financial market participants, households, and businesses understand in advance and believe, to some degree, that policy will compensate for past misses. I suspect policymakers would find communications to be quite challenging with rigid forms of makeup strategies, because of what have been called time-inconsistency problems. For example, if inflation has been running well below—or above—target for a sustained period, when the time arrives to maintain inflation commensurately above—or below—2 percent for the same amount of time, economic conditions will typically be inconsistent with implementing the promised action. Analysis also suggests it could take many years with a formal average inflation targeting framework to return inflation to target following an ELB episode, although this depends on difficult-to-assess modeling assumptions and the particulars of the strategy.14

Thus, while formal average inflation targeting rules have some attractive properties in theory, they could be challenging to implement in practice. I prefer a more flexible approach that would anchor inflation expectations at 2 percent by achieving inflation outcomes that average 2 percent over time or over the cycle. For instance, following five years when the public has observed inflation outcomes in the range of 1½ to 2 percent, to avoid a decline in expectations, the Committee would target inflation outcomes in a range of, say, 2 to 2½ percent for the subsequent five years to achieve inflation outcomes of 2 percent on average overall. Flexible inflation averaging could bring some of the benefits of a formal average inflation targeting rule, but it would be simpler to communicate. By committing to achieve inflation outcomes that average 2 percent over time, the Committee would make clear in advance that it would accommodate rather than offset modest upward pressures to inflation in what could be described as a process of opportunistic reflation.15

Policy at the ELB

Second, the Committee is examining what monetary policy tools are likely to be effective in providing accommodation when the federal funds rate is at the ELB.16 In my view, the review should make clear that the Committee will actively employ its full toolkit so that the ELB is not an impediment to providing accommodation in the face of significant economic disruptions.

The importance and challenge of providing accommodation when the policy rate reaches the ELB should not be understated. In my own experience on the international response to the financial crisis, I was struck that the ELB proved to be a severe impediment to the provision of policy accommodation initially. Once conventional policy reached the ELB, the long delays necessitated for policymakers in nearly every jurisdiction to develop consensus and take action on unconventional policy sapped confidence, tightened financial conditions, and weakened recovery. Economic conditions in the euro area and elsewhere suffered for longer than necessary in part because of the lengthy process of building agreement to act decisively with a broader set of tools.

Despite delays and uncertainties, the balance of evidence suggests forward guidance and balance sheet policies were effective in easing financial conditions and providing accommodation following the global financial crisis.17 Accordingly, these tools should remain part of the Committee’s toolkit. However, the quantitative asset purchase policies that were used following the crisis proved to be lumpy both to initiate at the ELB and to calibrate over the course of the recovery. This lumpiness tends to create discontinuities in the provision of accommodation that can be costly. To the extent that the public is uncertain about the conditions that might trigger asset purchases and how long the purchases would be sustained, it undercuts the efficacy of the policy. Similarly, significant frictions associated with the normalization process can arise as the end of the asset purchase program approaches.

For these reasons, I have been interested in exploring approaches that expand the space for targeting interest rates in a more continuous fashion as an extension of our conventional policy space and in a way that reinforces forward guidance on the policy rate.18 In particular, there may be advantages to an approach that caps interest rates on Treasury securities at the short-to-medium range of the maturity spectrum—yield curve caps—in tandem with forward guidance that conditions liftoff from the ELB on employment and inflation outcomes.

To be specific, once the policy rate declines to the ELB, this approach would smoothly move to capping interest rates on the short-to-medium segment of the yield curve. The yield curve ceilings would transmit additional accommodation through the longer rates that are relevant for households and businesses in a manner that is more continuous than quantitative asset purchases. Moreover, if the horizon on the interest rate caps is set so as to reinforce forward guidance on the policy rate, doing so would augment the credibility of the yield curve caps and thereby diminish concerns about an open-ended balance sheet commitment. In addition, once the targeted outcome is achieved, and the caps expire, any securities that were acquired under the program would roll off organically, unwinding the policy smoothly and predictably. This is important, as it could potentially avoid some of the tantrum dynamics that have led to premature steepening at the long end of the yield curve in several jurisdictions.

Forward guidance on the policy rate will also be important in providing accommodation at the ELB. As we saw in the United States at the end of 2015 and again toward the second half of 2016, there tends to be strong pressure to “normalize” or lift off from the ELB preemptively based on historical relationships between inflation and employment. A better alternative would have been to delay liftoff until we had achieved our targets. Indeed, recent research suggests that forward guidance that commits to delay the liftoff from the ELB until full employment and 2 percent inflation have been achieved on a sustained basis—say over the course of a year—could improve performance on our dual-mandate goals.19

To reinforce this commitment, the forward guidance on the policy rate could be implemented in tandem with yield curve caps. For example, as the federal funds rate approaches the ELB, the Committee could commit to refrain from lifting off the ELB until full employment and 2 percent inflation are sustained for a year. Based on its assessment of how long this is likely take, the Committee would then commit to capping rates out the yield curve for a period consistent with the expected horizon of the outcome-based forward guidance. If the outlook shifts materially, the Committee could reassess how long it will take to get inflation back to 2 percent and adjust policy accordingly. One benefit of this approach is that the forward guidance and the yield curve ceilings would reinforce each other.

The combination of a commitment to condition liftoff on the sustained achievement of our employment and inflation objectives with yield curve caps targeted at the same horizon has the potential to work well in many circumstances. For very severe recessions, such as the financial crisis, such an approach could be augmented with purchases of 10-year Treasury securities to provide further accommodation at the long end of the yield curve. Presumably, the requisite scale of such purchases—when combined with medium-term yield curve ceilings and forward guidance on the policy rate—would be relatively smaller than if the longer-term asset purchases were used alone.

Monetary Policy and Financial Stability

Before closing, it is important to recall another important lesson of the financial crisis: The stability of the financial system is important to the achievement of the statutory goals of full employment and 2 percent inflation. In that regard, the changes in the macroeconomic environment that underlie our monetary policy review may have some implications for financial stability. Historically, when the Phillips curve was steeper, inflation tended to rise as the economy heated up, which prompted the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. In turn, the interest rate increases would have the effect of tightening financial conditions more broadly. With a flat Phillips curve, inflation does not rise as much as resource utilization tightens, and interest rates are less likely to rise to restrictive levels. The resulting lower-for-longer interest rates, along with sustained high rates of resource utilization, are conducive to increasing risk appetite, which could prompt reach-for-yield behavior and incentives to take on additional debt, leading to financial imbalances as an expansion extends.

To the extent that the combination of a low neutral rate, a flat Phillips curve, and low underlying inflation may lead financial stability risks to become more tightly linked to the business cycle, it would be preferable to use tools other than tightening monetary policy to temper the financial cycle. In particular, active use of macroprudential tools such as the countercyclical buffer is vital to enable monetary policy to stay focused on achieving maximum employment and average inflation of 2 percent on a sustained basis.


The Federal Reserve’s commitment to adapt our monetary policy strategy to changing circumstances has enabled us to support the U.S. economy throughout the expansion, which is now in its 11th year. In light of the decline in the neutral rate, low trend inflation, and low sensitivity of inflation to slack as well as the consequent greater frequency of the policy rate being at the effective lower bound, this is an important time to review our monetary policy strategy, tools, and communications in order to improve the achievement of our statutory goals. I have offered some preliminary thoughts on how we could bolster inflation expectations by achieving inflation outcomes of 2 percent on average over time and, when policy is constrained by the ELB, how we could combine forward guidance on the policy rate with caps on the short-to-medium segment of the yield curve to buffer the economy against adverse developments.

  1. I am grateful to Ivan Vidangos of the Federal Reserve Board for assistance in preparing this text. These remarks represent my own views, which do not necessarily represent those of the Federal Reserve Board or the Federal Open Market Committee. (return to text)
  2. Claudia Sahm shows that a ½ percentage point increase in the three-month moving average of the unemployment rate relative to the previous year’s low is a good real-time recession indicator. See Claudia Sahm (2019), “Direct Stimulus Payments to Individuals” [archived PDF], Policy Proposal, The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution (Washington: THP, May 16). (return to text)
  3. Information about the review of monetary policy strategy, tools, and communications is available on the Board’s website. Also see Richard H. Clarida (2019), “The Federal Reserve’s Review of Its Monetary Policy Strategy, Tools, and Communication Practices” [archived PDF], speech delivered at the 2019 U.S. Monetary Policy Forum, sponsored by the Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, New York, February 22; and Jerome H. Powell (2019), “Monetary Policy: Normalization and the Road Ahead” [archived PDF] speech delivered at the 2019 SIEPR Economic Summit, Stanford Institute of Economic Policy Research, Stanford, Calif., March 8. (return to text)
  4. See Lael Brainard (2016), “The ‘New Normal’ and What It Means for Monetary Policy” [archived PDF] speech delivered at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Chicago, September 12. (return to text)
  5. See Lael Brainard (2017), “Understanding the Disconnect between Employment and Inflation with a Low Neutral Rate” [archived PDF], speech delivered at the Economic Club of New York, September 5; and James H. Stock and Mark W. Watson (2007), “Why Has U.S. Inflation Become Harder to Forecast?” [archived PDF], Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, vol. 39 (s1, February), pp. 3–33. (return to text)
  6. See Lael Brainard (2015), “Normalizing Monetary Policy When the Neutral Interest Rate Is Low” [archived PDF] speech delivered at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Stanford, Calif., December 1. (return to text)
  7. The projection materials for the Federal Reserve’s SEP are available on the Board’s website. (return to text)
  8. For example, the Blue Chip Consensus long-run projection for the three-month Treasury bill has declined from 3.6 percent in October 2012 to 2.4 percent in October 2019. See Wolters Kluwer (2019), Blue Chip Economic Indicators, vol. 44 (October 10); and Wolters Kluwer (2012), Blue Chip Economic Indicators, vol. 37 (October 10). (return to text)
  9. See Michael Kiley and John Roberts (2017), “Monetary Policy in a Low Interest Rate World” [archived PDF], Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Spring, pp. 317–72; Eric Swanson (2018), “The Federal Reserve Is Not Very Constrained by the Lower Bound on Nominal Interest Rates” [archived PDF] NBER Working Paper Series 25123 (Cambridge, Mass.: National Bureau of Economic Research, October); and Hess Chung, Etienne Gagnon, Taisuke Nakata, Matthias Paustian, Bernd Schlusche, James Trevino, Diego Vilán, and Wei Zheng (2019), “Monetary Policy Options at the Effective Lower Bound: Assessing the Federal Reserve’s Current Policy Toolkit” [archived PDF], Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2019-003 (Washington: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, January). (return to text)
  10. The important observation that some consumers and businesses see low inflation as having benefits emerged from listening to a diverse range of perspectives, including representatives of consumer, labor, business, community, and other groups during the Fed Listens events; for details, see this page. (return to text)
  11. See Lael Brainard (2017), “Cross-Border Spillovers of Balance Sheet Normalization” [archived PDF] speech delivered at the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Monetary Economics Summer Institute, Cambridge, Mass., July 13. (return to text)
  12. See, for example, James Bullard (2018), “A Primer on Price Level Targeting in the U.S.” [archived PDF], a presentation before the CFA Society of St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo., January 10. (return to text)
  13. See, for example, Lars Svensson (2019), “Monetary Policy Strategies for the Federal Reserve” [archived PDF] presented at “Conference on Monetary Policy Strategy, Tools and Communication Practices,” sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Chicago, June 5. (return to text)
  14. See Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (2019), “Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, September 17–18, 2019,” press release, October 9; and David Reifschneider and David Wilcox (2019), “Average Inflation Targeting Would Be a Weak Tool for the Fed to Deal with Recession and Chronic Low Inflation” [archived PDF] Policy Brief PB19-16 (Washington: Peterson Institute for International Economics, November). (return to text)
  15. See Janice C. Eberly, James H. Stock, and Jonathan H. Wright (2019), “The Federal Reserve’s Current Framework for Monetary Policy: A Review and Assessment” [archived PDF] paper presented at “Conference on Monetary Policy Strategy, Tools and Communication Practices,” sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Chicago, June 4. (return to text)
  16. See Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (2019), “Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, July 31–August 1, 2018” [archived PDF] press release, August 1; and Board of Governors (2019), “Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, October 29–30, 2019” [archived PDF] press release, October 30. (return to text)
  17. For details on purchases of securities by the Federal Reserve, see this page. For a discussion of forward guidance, see this page. See, for example, Simon Gilchrist and Egon Zakrajšek (2013), “The Impact of the Federal Reserve’s Large-Scale Asset Purchase Programs on Corporate Credit Risk,” Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, vol. 45, (s2, December), pp. 29–57; Simon Gilchrist, David López-Salido, and Egon Zakrajšek (2015), “Monetary Policy and Real Borrowing Costs at the Zero Lower Bound,” American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, vol. 7 (January), pp. 77–109; Jing Cynthia Wu and Fan Dora Xia (2016), “Measuring the Macroeconomic Impact of Monetary Policy at the Zero Lower Bound,” Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, vol. 48 (March–April), pp. 253–91; and Stefania D’Amico and Iryna Kaminska (2019), “Credit Easing versus Quantitative Easing: Evidence from Corporate and Government Bond Purchase Programs” [archived PDF], Bank of England Staff Working Paper Series 825 (London: Bank of England, September). (return to text)
  18. See Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (2010), “Strategies for Targeting Interest Rates Out the Yield Curve,” memorandum to the Federal Open Market Committee, October 13, available at this page; and Ben Bernanke (2016), “What Tools Does The Fed Have Left? Part 2: Targeting Longer-Term Interest Rates” [archived PDF] blog post, Brookings Institution, March 24. (return to text)
  19. See Ben Bernanke, Michael Kiley, and John Roberts (2019), “Monetary Policy Strategies for a Low-Rate Environment” [archived PDF], Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2019-009 (Washington: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System) and Chung and others, “Monetary Policy Options at the Effective Lower Bound,” in note 9. (return to text)

Essay 115: Novels as Another University: Joseph Conrad

One can say that the first wave of imperial “neocons” was not the group that got the U.S. into the Iraq War (2003) but the group described by Warren Zimmerman in his classic book on the rise of the American Empire from the 1890s onwards:

First Great Triumph

How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power.

By Warren Zimmermann.

Illustrated. 562 pp. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Americans like to pretend that they have no imperial past,” Warren Zimmermann tells us in First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power. But they do.

The United States had been expanding its borders from the moment of its birth, though its reach had been confined to the North American continent until 1898, when American soldiers and sailors joined Cuban and Filipino rebels in a successful war against Spain. When the war was won, the United States acquired a “protectorate” in Cuba and annexed Hawaii, the Philippine Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and Hawaii. “In 15 weeks,” Zimmermann notes, “the United States had gained island possessions on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of its continental mass. It had put under its protection and control more than 10 million people: whites, blacks, Hispanics, Indians, Polynesians, Chinese, Japanese and the polyethnic peoples of the Philippine archipelago.”

John Hay, at the time the American ambassador to Britain, writing to his friend Theodore Roosevelt in Cuba, referred to the war against Spain as “a splendid little war, begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by that Fortune which loves the brave.” He hoped that the war’s aftermath would be concluded “with that fine good nature, which is, after all, the distinguishing trait of the American character.” More than a century later, we are still asking ourselves just how splendid that little war and its consequences really were.

Zimmermann, a career diplomat and a former United States ambassador to Yugoslavia, begins his brilliantly readable book about the war and its aftermath with biographical sketches of the five men — Alfred T. Mahan, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, John Hay and Elihu Root — who played a leading role in making “their country a world power.”

Ironically, it turns out that any reader of Joseph Conrad’s (died in 1924) famous novel Nostromo from 1904 would have encountered the “manifesto” of the American Empire, very clearly enunciated by one of the characters in the novel:

“Time itself has got to wait on the greatest country in the whole of God’s universe. We shall be giving the word for everything; industry, trade, law, journalism, art, politics and religion, from Cape Horn clear over to Smith’s Sound (i.e., Canada/Greenland), and beyond too, if anything worth taking hold of turns up at the North Pole. And then we shall have the leisure to take in hand the outlying islands and continents of the earth.

“We shall run the world’s business whether the world likes it or not. The world can’t help it—and neither can we, I guess.”

Joseph Conrad, Nostromo, Penguin Books, 2007, pages 62/63

The political stances of Conrad which seem so denunciatory of imperialism here in Nostromo seem very disrespectful of Africans in his Heart of Darkness as Chinua Achebe (Nigerian novelist, author of Things Fall Apart) and other Africans have shown and decried. Thus one sees layer upon layer of contradiction both in American empire-mongering and Conrad’s anticipation of it in his novel Nostromo.

Essay 104: Economics—A Decade after the Global Recession: Lessons and Challenges for Emerging and Developing Economies

from M. Ayhan Kose, Director, Prospects Group, World Bank Group:

Dear Colleagues.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the 2009 global recession. Most emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs) weathered the global recession relatively well, in part by using the sizeable fiscal and monetary policy buffers accumulated during the prior years of strong growth. However, a short-lived rebound in activity has been followed by a decade of protracted weakness in EMDEs amid bouts of financial market stress, falling commodity prices, and subdued trade and investment.

Are EMDEs ready to face a deeper global downturn, if it materializes? Our new study A Decade After the Global Recession: Lessons and Challenges for Emerging and Developing Economies [PDF] takes on this question. It examines developments of the past decade, draws lessons for these economies, and discusses policy options. The study is the first comprehensive analysis on the topic with a truly EMDE focus. It offers three main conclusions. First, perhaps for the first time, many EMDEs were able to implement large-scale countercyclical fiscal and monetary policy stimulus during the last global recession. Second, looking ahead, policymakers in many EMDEs are now equipped with stronger policy frameworks than in earlier global downturns or financial crises. Third, EMDEs have now less policy room to face a global downturn than they had before the 2009 global recession. Irrespective of the timing of the next global downturn, the big lesson of the past decade for EMDEs is clear: since they are less well prepared today than prior to the 2009 episode, they urgently need to undertake cyclical and structural policy measures to be able to effectively confront the next downturn when it happens.

You can download the book here [PDF]. Its table of contents is below (each chapter individually downloadable). All charts featured in the book (with underlying data series) are also available below.

A Decade After the Global Recession: Lessons and Challenges for Emerging and Developing Economies [PDF]

Edited by M. Ayhan Kose and Franziska Ohnsorge

Part I: Context

Chapter 1: A Decade After the Global Recession: Lessons and Challenges [PDF]
Chapter 2: What Happens During Global Recessions? [PDF]

Part II: In the Rearview Mirror

Chapter 3: Macroeconomic Developments [PDF]
Chapter 4: Financial Market Developments [PDF]
Chapter 5: Macroeconomic and Financial Sector Policies [PDF]

Part III: Looking Ahead

Chapter 6: Prospects, Risks, and Vulnerabilities [PDF]
Chapter 7: Policy Challenges [PDF]

Part IV: Implications for the World Bank Group

Chapter 8: The Role of the World Bank Group [PDF]

Excel Charts

Complete archive [ZIP]

Chapter 1 [XLSX]
Chapter 2 [XLSX]
Chapter 3 [XLSX]
Chapter 4 [XLSX]
Chapter 5 [XLSX]
Chapter 6 [XLSX] Box [XLSX]
Chapter 7 [XLSX]
Chapter 8 [XLSX]

PS: This study follows on the World Bank Group’s recent book on Inflation in Emerging and Developing Economies. For their main periodical products, please visit: Global Economic Prospects and Commodity Markets Outlook. For their full menu of monitoring publications, please visit: World Bank Economic Monitoring. For their analytical work on topical policy issues, please visit Prospects Group Policy Research Working Papers.

Essay 86: World-Watching: India

(from ICRIER Newsletter | November 2019 | Vol. III, Issue 11)

The November 2019 issue of the Newsletter provides a quick recap of ICRIER’s research and policy engagements during the month of October 2019.

Three research reports were released by ICRIER last month in the areas of competition, trade and investment and climate change (See below).

ICRIER also organized consultation workshops, dissemination and outreach events during the month. ICRIER researchers published several articles in leading newspapers and other media platforms on a variety of current issues such as growth, agriculture, trade, FTAs, RCEP, single use plastics and the Economics Nobel. We sincerely hope that you will take a few moments to glance through these updates and engage further with anything that interests you. We hope you enjoy the newsletter’s new format. As always, we welcome your valuable feedback.

Competition Issues in India’s Mobile Handset Industry

(Rajat Kathuria, Mansi Kedia and Kaushambi Bagchi)

Mobile phones have been the key to India’s technology revolution. India is the second largest mobile phone market globally, next only to China. At the end of 2018, the estimated number of smart phone users in India was 337 million, compared to 2.53 billion users worldwide. One would imagine that the exponential increase in cheaper smart phone models would displace the market for feature phones; to the contrary, feature phones continue to dominate the Indian market. While smart phone and feature phone shipments in 2018 Q3 were about the same, a comparison of growth rates shows that both phablets (large screen smartphones) and regular smartphones eclipse feature phones.

Read more (archived PDF).

Exploring Trade and Investment Opportunities between India and Select African and Asian Economies

(Anirudh Shingal, Neha Gupta, Minakshee Das, Akshaya Aggarwal and Varsha Jain)

Using descriptive statistical analysis, this study examines trade and investment opportunities between India and 41 African and Asian economies (mostly LDCs) by focusing on the latter’s export opportunities in the Indian market and on India’s investment opportunities in the selected countries. It also discusses barriers to realizing the identified trade and investment opportunities between India and the selected economies, based on a review of the existing literature.

Read more (archived PDF).

Financing Resilience against Natural Disasters

(Saon Ray, Samridhi Jain and Vasundhara Thakur)

Disaster Risk Resilience can be interpreted as global policies working for improving disaster risk reduction. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is the guiding principle for efforts to improve resilience worldwide. This report links the global efforts for disaster risk reduction with resilient infrastructure. The report analyses the applicability of popular instruments for emerging economies, the role of the private sector, and challenges to implementation of resilience framework. It maps the evolution and status of disaster risk financing in India.

Read more (archived PDF).

ICANN 66 Pre-Meeting Briefing

ICRIER hosted the ICANN 66 Pre-Meeting Briefing on 18th October 2019 for its Indian stakeholders. This edition of the Pre-Meeting Briefing looked closely at the developments between ICANN 65 and ICANN 66 and highlighted some of the key policy discussions currently underway at ICANN. The event witnessed participation from various stakeholders from India, including representatives from the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY), National Internet Exchange of India (‘.in’ registry) along with Indian representatives active in various policy development processes at ICANN. ICANN 65 was held in Montreal, Canada, between 2-7 November 2019. ICRIER will also be hosting the ICANN 66 Readout during the first week of December 2019 to highlight some of the key takeaways from ICANN 66.

Read more [archived PDF].

Dissemination of the India-LDCs Trade and Investment Study

ICRIER organised Dissemination of the Report Exploring Trade and Investment Opportunities between India and Select African and Asian Economies on October 14, 2019 at Magnolia Hall, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi.

Welcome remarks were delivered by Dr. Rajat Kathuria, Director & CE, ICRIER and the Introductory Session was Chaired by Dr. Jayant Dasgupta, IAS (Retd.) Former Ambassador of India to the WTO. Dr. Anirudh Shingal, Sr. Fellow, ICRIER presented the key findings of the report, which was followed by a Panel discussion Chaired by Dr. Arpita Mukherjee, Professor, ICRIER.

Read more [archived PDF] [Presentation PDF] [Report PDF]

Market Incentives, Direct Income Support for Farmers are far more Effective in Increasing Agricultural Productivity

(Ashok Gulati, Sakshi Gupta)

Read article [archived PDF]

Cities at Crossroads: Single-use Plastic only Part of the Challenge

(Isher Judge Ahluwalia, Almitra Patel)

Read article [archived PDF]

From Plate to Plough: Agri-Policy Lessons from China

(Ashok Gulati & Sakshi Gupta)

Read article [archived PDF]

Growth, Income, Poverty and the Nobel

(Alok Sheel)

Read article [archived PDF]

Understanding the RCEP with Rajat Kathuria

(Rajat Kathuria)

Listen to podcast [archived MP3 audio] [PDF transcript]

The Five-trillion Math

(Alok Sheel)

Read article [archived PDF]

Has PM-Kisan Belied Expectations?

(Siraj Hussain)

Read article [archived PDF]

How Government Can Control Sudden Spike in Prices of Onion and Tomato

(Ashok Gulati & Harsh Wardhan)

Read article [archived PDF]

Best of Business Standard Opinion: Corporate Tax Cuts, Pollution Challenge…

(Durgesh K. Rai)

Read article [archived PDF]

India’s Trade with its FTA Partners: Experiences, Challenges…

(Durgesh K. Rai)

Read article [archived PDF]

India’s Trade Policy Should Lend an Ear to a Wider Range of Voices

(Ujjwal Krishna & Amrita Saha)

Read article [archived PDF]

Monsoon’s Late Surge Helps, But Floods Hurt Crop Prospects

(Siraj Hussain)

Read article [archived PDF]