Central Banks at a Crossroads: What Can We Learn from History?

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Throughout their long history, the primary concern of central banks has oscillated between price stability in normal times and financial stability in extraordinary times. In the wake of the recent global financial crisis, central banks have been given additional responsibilities to ensure financial stability, which has sparked intense debate over the nature of their role. Bankers and policy makers face an enormous challenge finding the right balance of power between the central bank and the state. This volume is the result of an international conference held at Norges Bank (the central bank of Norway). International experts and policy makers present research and historical analysis on the evolution of the central bank. They specifically focus on four key aspects: its role as an institution, the part it plays within the international monetary system, how to delineate and limit its functions, and how to apply the lessons of the past two centuries.
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About the author

Michael D. Bordo is Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Monetary and Financial History at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.

Øyvind Eitrheim is a Director at the Governor's office, Norges Bank, Oslo.

Marc Flandreau is a Professor of International History at the Graduate Institute of International Studies and Development in Geneva.

Jan F. Qvigstad is the Executive Director of Norges Bank, Oslo.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Cambridge University Press
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Published on
Jun 9, 2016
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Pages
719
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ISBN
9781316654323
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Banks & Banking
Business & Economics / Economic History
Business & Economics / Economics / Macroeconomics
Business & Economics / International / General
Business & Economics / Money & Monetary Policy
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This book is based on a conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Deutsche Bundesbank. Since the 1950s, there have been fundamental changes in the monetary order and financial systems, in our understanding of the effects of monetary policy, the best goals for central banks and the appropriate institutional setting of central banks. Prominent monetary economists and central bankers give their views on the most significant developments during this period and the lessons we should draw from them.

The book contains four sections on central issues. The first part discusses the main successes and failures of monetary policy since the 1950s. The second part asks what economists have learned about monetary policy over the past 50 years. It gives an overview on experiences with various monetary strategies, focusing in particular on monetary targeting and its problems, on inflation targeting and why it was successful and the institutional framework for monetary policy. The next section outlines the progress that monetary economists have made since the Bundesbank was founded and discusses the extent to which central banks can rely on "scientific" principles. The final part describes the interaction between monetary policy, fiscal policy and labour markets.

The book provides a comprehensive overview of the main challenges faced by central bankers in the past and how and to what extent monetary economics have been helpful in tackling them. It outlines our current knowledge about the effects of monetary policy and the appropriate institutional framework for central banks and raises some open questions for the future. It will be of great interest to monetary economists, central bankers and economic historians.

In 1971, President Nixon imposed national price controls and took the United States off the gold standard, an extreme measure intended to end an ongoing currency war that had destroyed faith in the U.S. dollar. Today we are engaged in a new currency war, and this time the consequences will be far worse than those that confronted Nixon.

 

Currency wars are one of the most destructive and feared outcomes in international economics. At best, they offer the sorry spectacle of countries' stealing growth from their trading partners. At worst, they degenerate into sequential bouts of inflation, recession, retaliation, and sometimes actual violence. Left unchecked, the next currency war could lead to a crisis worse than the panic of 2008.

Currency wars have happened before-twice in the last century alone-and they always end badly. Time and again, paper currencies have collapsed, assets have been frozen, gold has been confiscated, and capital controls have been imposed. And the next crash is overdue. Recent headlines about the debasement of the dollar, bailouts in Greece and Ireland, and Chinese currency manipulation are all indicators of the growing conflict.

As James Rickards argues in Currency Wars, this is more than just a concern for economists and investors. The United States is facing serious threats to its national security, from clandestine gold purchases by China to the hidden agendas of sovereign wealth funds. Greater than any single threat is the very real danger of the collapse of the dollar itself.

Baffling to many observers is the rank failure of economists to foresee or prevent the economic catastrophes of recent years. Not only have their theories failed to prevent calamity, they are making the currency wars worse. The U. S. Federal Reserve has engaged in the greatest gamble in the history of finance, a sustained effort to stimulate the economy by printing money on a trillion-dollar scale. Its solutions present hidden new dangers while resolving none of the current dilemmas.

While the outcome of the new currency war is not yet certain, some version of the worst-case scenario is almost inevitable if U.S. and world economic leaders fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. Rickards untangles the web of failed paradigms, wishful thinking, and arrogance driving current public policy and points the way toward a more informed and effective course of action.

Charles Wheelan’s wonderfully whimsical, best-selling Naked series tackles the weird, surprisingly colorful world of money and banking.

Consider the $20 bill.

It has no more value, as a simple slip of paper, than Monopoly money. Yet even children recognize that tearing one into small pieces is an act of inconceivable stupidity. What makes a $20 bill actually worth twenty dollars? In the third volume of his best-selling Naked series, Charles Wheelan uses this seemingly simple question to open the door to the surprisingly colorful world of money and banking.

The search for an answer triggers countless other questions along the way: Why does paper money (“fiat currency” if you want to be fancy) even exist? And why do some nations, like Zimbabwe in the 1990s, print so much of it that it becomes more valuable as toilet paper than as currency? How do central banks use the power of money creation to stop financial crises? Why does most of Europe share a common currency, and why has that arrangement caused so much trouble? And will payment apps, bitcoin, or other new technologies render all of this moot?

In Naked Money, Wheelan tackles all of the above and more, showing us how our banking and monetary systems should work in ideal situations and revealing the havoc and suffering caused in real situations by inflation, deflation, illiquidity, and other monetary effects. Throughout, Wheelan’s uniquely bright-eyed, whimsical style brings levity and clarity to a subject often devoid of both. With illuminating stories from Argentina, Zimbabwe, North Korea, America, China, and elsewhere around the globe, Wheelan demystifies the curious world behind the paper in our wallets and the digits in our bank accounts.

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