Boj proti deflaciji vse bolj postaja glavni fokus ECB. Ključni problem glede tega je dvojen. Prvi problem je v kredibilnosti centralne banke: centralna banka mora kredibilno signalizirati, da bo v nedogled vztrajno povečevala maso denarja. Le na tak način lahko prepriča finančne trge, da preobrnejo deflacijska pričakovanja v inflacijska (glejte moj prejšnji zapis Nekredibilnost ECB in deflacijska pričakovanja).
Drugi problem pa je v sposobnosti akademskega preklopa iz okolja kvantitativne teorije denarja (QTM), ki jo je tako dolgo in uspešno v naše možgane cementiral Milton Friedman (čeprav ni bil njen avtor). Po Friedmanu je inflacija čisti monetarni fenomen: več denarja v obtoku (ob dani hitrosti kroženja denarja) povzroči rast inflacije in obratno. Iz tega vidika deflacija sploh ne bi smela biti problem: centralna banka pač podvoji količino denarja v obtoku in inflacija se podvoji. Problem je, da ta teorija v času likvidnostne pasti (ničelnih obrestnih mer), kot jo ima Japonska ali ZDA in EU danes, odpove. Ne deluje. Poglejte si ponesrečene poskuse Fed, BoE in BoJ s kvantitativnim sproščanjem (QE). Kljub povečanju monetarne mase za petkrat, inflacija ostaja blizu ničle in se noče premakniti navzgor. Gospodinjstva, podjetja in banke iz likvidnostnih in previdnostnih namenov držijo likvidnost pri sebi in je ne dajo naprej (kar je opisoval Keynes). No kljub temu, večina monetaristov (in seveda nemških inflacijskih jastrebov v Bundesbanki in ECB) vztraja v tej teoretski paradigmi in napoveduje eksplozijo inflacije. Samo što nije.
Spodaj je teoretski pogled na to, zakaj ta teorija QTM v časih, kot so sedaj, ne deluje in zakaj je denimo Paul Krugman leta 1998 moral spremeniti svoje zacementirano mnenje o tem.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard pushes back against my in-passing criticism of a column I mainly agree with, in which I argued that it’s hard to see why anyone believes that money supply increases will do the trick after the past six years. I understand where Evans-Pritchard is coming from, because I’ve been there. Indeed, it’s where I started. But I had my road-to-Damascus moment — or more accurately road-to-Tokyo moment — back in 1998. And maybe describing my own conversion to monetary pessimism may help clarify what’s happening now.
So, back in 1998 I was looking at Japan’s troubles, and — like Evans-Pritchard and many others now — believed that the Bank of Japan could surely end deflation if it really tried. IS-LM said not, but I was sure that if you really worked it through carefully you could show that, say, doubling the monetary base will always raise prices, even if you’re at the zero lower bound. So I set out to show the point with a minimalist New Keynesian model; link to the little paper I wrote here. (By the way, I screwed up the aside on fiscal policy. In that model, the multiplier is one.)
To my own surprise, what the model actually said was that when you’re at the zero lower bound, the size of the current money supply does not matter at all. You might think that it’s a fundamental insight that doubling the money supply will eventually double the price level, but what the models actually say is that doubling the current money supply and all future money supplies will double prices. If the short-term interest rate is currently zero, changing the current money supply without changing future supplies — and hence raising expected inflation — matters not at all.
And as a result, monetary traction is far from obvious. Central banks can change the monetary base now, but can they commit not to undo the expansion in the future, when inflation rises? Not obviously — and certainly “credibly promising to be irresponsible”, to not undo expansion in the face of future inflation, is a much harder thing to achieve than simply acting when the economy is depressed.
But, asks Evans-Pritchard, what if the central bank simply gives households money? Well, that is, as he notes, really fiscal policy — it’s a massive transfer program rather than a conventional monetary operation. (And Ricardian equivalence, for what it’s worth, says that it would have no effect even if you could do it — households would know that future taxes will have to rise to pay for today’s gift, and save all of it.) You may say that you don’t care what it’s called. But the distinction isn’t just one of academic classification: Central banks aren’t in the business of just giving money away; what they do is always some kind of asset swap, in which they buy assets or make loans which then become assets. I’m pretty sure that neither the Fed nor the Bank of England has the legal right to just give money away as opposed to lending it out; if I’m wrong about this, put me down for $10 million, OK?
Still, isn’t this just theory? Well, no. Huge increases in the monetary base in previous liquidity trap episodes had no visible effect. And now we have the post-2008 experience, and it’s certainly not an example of central banks easily dealing with economic downdrafts.
Just to be clear, I have supported QE in both Britain and the US, on the grounds that (a) central bank purchases of longer-term and riskier assets may help and can’t hurt, and (b) given political paralysis in the US and the dominance of bad macroeconomic thinking in the UK, it’s all we’ve got. But the view I used to hold before 1998 — that central banks can always cause inflation if they really want to — just doesn’t hold up, theoretically or empirically.
Vir: Paul Krugman, New York Times