The ECB’s Original Sin and Franco Modigliani’s Long View

Naked Capitalism has posted the article The ECB’s Original Sin and Franco Modigliani’s Long View.

However, unemployment is not a potent instrument to control inflation when there is plenty of slack, while it has a considerable impact on social welfare.

Note the emphasis above that I have added. Too often people seem to think that a prescription to cure a particular ailment should be used to cure every ailment. Decent economists always tell you the specific circumstances that call for a specific remedy.

Even for me, some of the terminology of the article was a bit confusing. The section below explains how central banks could stimulate investment when the only power they seem to have is to control monetary policy. Monetary policy is weak to completely ineffective in stimulating investment when there is plenty of slack in the economy.

As the manifesto itself recognised, the proposed reinterpretation of the ECB role would meet with serious objections. One was that central banks are unable to stimulate investment.
The ECB has proven unable to raise inflation through its QE programme. Higher price dynamics cannot be achieved if the monetary stimulus fails to reach the real economy. When the latter is in deep recession or deflation, and fiscal space is limited, only monetary finance can be effective as it allows newly created money to be transformed into additional (public or private sector) spending without raising public debt. One way to apply money finance at the whole EZ level would be through an initiative whereby the European Investment Bank would issue bonds to finance a large investment plan for the area, and the ECB would purchase the EIB bonds with newly created money. Through such initiative, money finance would pursue the inflation target by stimulating demand and reducing unemployment. The new investment financed would strengthen the output potential of the Eurozone.

When people wonder why their is no private investment in more production capacity, I like to frame it as “What part of no freakin’ customers do you not understand?”

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