Helikopterski denar = free lunch

Odličen komentar Michaela Biggsa v Project Syndicate o tem, zakaj je helikopterski denar (monetarno financiranje proračuna z namenom zmanjšanja davkov / povečanja socialnih transferjev oziroma povečanja javnih investicij) “zastonjsko kosilo”. Med običajnim kvantitativnim sproščanjem (QE) in helikopterskim denarjem (HD) je računovodska razlika v tem, da gre pri QE za začasno povečanje denarne mase, pri čemer proračun plačuje obresti na obveznice, ki jih je odkupila centralna banka, slednja pa te prihodke postopoma vrača v proračun v obliki senioraže (seigniorage). Pri HD pa gre za trajni dvig denarne mase, ki ne pomeni brezobrestnega posojila državi, pač pa trajno darilo. HD torej ne poveča javnega dolga, pač pa ga je računovodsko mogoče prikazati kot enkratni dohodek od senioraže, ki ga lahko država porabi za karkoli.

In seveda: HD ne zmanjšuje neodvisnosti centralne banke, saj lahko CB v času krize spreminja obrestno mero ali bodisi začasno bodisi trajno povečuje denarno maso. Neodvisnosti CB ne zmanjšujejo standardne operacije CB na odprtem trgu z odkupi/prodajami obveznic in še pred kratkim neortodoksne, zdaj pa že standardne operacije QE z odkupi obveznic na sekundarnem trgu. Podobno je s trajnim povečanjem denarne mase v primeru HD. Gre zgolj za presojo nujnosti posameznih ukrepov v luči razraščajoče se deflacije in sekularne stagnacije ter seveda ustreznega nacionalnega računovodskega prikazovanja. Nobene potrebe torej ni, da bi se države bale HD.

In periods characterized by deflation, helicopter money is as close to a free lunch as economics has to offer. The reason this is not widely understood is because of the traditional method used to calculate seigniorage – the profits governments make from the printing of money.

At present, our methods of calculation treat all increases in the money supply as temporary. This is true of, say, QE; with helicopter money, however, the change is permanent. The two interventions thus require different methods for calculating the revenue that governments receive from seigniorage.

Under QE, the central bank buys government bonds, expanding the monetary base. As time passes, the central bank receives interest income on its bonds, and, if it does not pay interest on excess reserves, this income increases its net worth. This additional net worth is transferred to the government every year as seigniorage revenue, which is accounted for as it is received, over a number of years.

The increase in the monetary base, however, is only temporary; when the bonds are redeemed, it reverts to its original level. This eventual need to reduce the monetary base is an implicit claim on a central bank’s assets; thus, the increase is rightly considered a liability on its balance sheet.

Under a fiscal stimulus financed by helicopter money, however, the central bank never has to reverse the increase in the monetary base. Because the holders of the distributed funds have no claim on the central bank, the increase in the monetary base should not be viewed as a liability, but as an increase in the central bank’s net worth.

In other words, helicopter money is not an interest-free loan to the government; it is a gift. And the seigniorage should be recognized when the gift is received. Recognizing this difference is important, because under the current convention for calculating seigniorage, a fiscal stimulus financed with helicopter money widens the fiscal deficit and increases public-sector debt. As a result, governments with limited fiscal room might be reluctant to consider it as an option.

If, however, a permanent increase in the monetary base is transferred to the government as seigniorage revenue, it can use the windfall to fund tax cuts or increase spending without affecting its balance sheets.

Nor does helicopter money necessarily have an impact on central bank independence; it can simply be another weapon in its arsenal. When an economy is at risk of falling into deflation, a central bank can change interest rates, temporarily increase the monetary base, or increase it permanently. The choice of which tool to use can remain entirely the responsibility of the central bank.

Vir: Michael Biggs, Project Syndicate

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