Posts Tagged ‘Milton Friedman’

‘Money talks’ is a series of mini-videos the Institute of International Monetary Research (IIMR) will start to release every week on the 18th of June, Monday.

The name of the series says it all: experts in money and central banking will be covering key concepts to understand better monetary economics in less than two minutes long videos. Tim Congdon (Chairman of the IIMR) and Geoffrey Wood (IIMR Academic Advisory Council) along with myself and many others to come will be addressing the fundamentals in money and banking to be able to understand how our monetary systems work and which are the roles and functions of modern central banks.

The topics address include the following:

Episode 1: What is Money?

Episode 2: What is the Central Bank?

Episode 3: What is the Monetary Base?

Episode 4: What is the Money Multiplier?

Episode 5: What does Monetary Policy consist of?

Episode 6: What is Central Bank Independence?

Episode 7: The Central Bank as the Lender of Last Resort

Episode 8: Bail outs and Bank Failures

Episode 9: Basel Rules

Episode 10: What os ‘Narrow Banking’?

Episode 11: Fiat Money

Episode 12: What is a monetary policy rule?

Episode 13: What is Monetarism?

Episode 14: Monetary Policy Tasks

But of course, these are just the ones we are starting with. The list will be expanded in the next few weeks and the aim is to produce a library of mini-videos that could be a good reference to search for short definitions on money, banking and central banking.

If you are interested in this project, please subscribe to the IIMR YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLudZPVEs3S82iu2zb-QZfcK7pqnrHfPgO) to stay tuned.

As ever, comments and feedback most welcome!


Juan Castañeda






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This is the title of a research paper I have written with my colleague and leading monetarist, Professor Tim Congdon, and published by the Institute of International Monetary Research (IIMR). This is a brief summary extracted from the paper, which is fully available at http://www.mv-pt.org/research-papers:

The quantity of money matters in the design of a monetary policy regime, if that regime is to be stable or even viable on a long-term basis. The passage of events in the Eurozone since 1999 has shown, yet again, that excessive money growth leads to both immoderate asset price booms and unsustainably above-trend growth in demand and output, and that big falls in the rate of change in the quantity of money damage asset markets, undermine demand and output, and cause job losses and heavy unemployment. This is nothing new. The ECB did not sustain a consistent strategy towards money growth and banking regulation over its first decade and a half. The abandonment of the broad money reference value in 2003 was followed in short order by three years of unduly high monetary expansion and then, from late 2008, by a plunge in money growth to the lowest rates seen in European countries since the 1930s. The resulting macroeconomic turmoil was of the sort that would be expected by quantity theory- of-money analyses, including such analyses of the USA’s Great Depression as in Friedman and Schwartz’s Monetary History of the United States.

This paper argues, from the experience of the Eurozone after the introduction of the single currency in 1999, that maintaining steady growth of a broadly-defined measure of money is crucial to the achievement of stability in demand and output. The ECB did not sustain a consistent strategy towards money growth and banking regulation over its first decade and a half.

The chart below illustrates our point very well:












As ever, comments very welcome.

Juan Castañeda


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It is a privilege to work so close to Tim Congdon particularly since I was appointed Director of the Institute of International monetary Research (IIMR) in January 2016. Tim is the Chairman of the Institute and indeed a leading reference for those who want to understand monetary economics and central banks’ policy decisions; and in particular the role played by changes in the amount of money in circulation on changes in prices (all prices, CPI and asset prices) and nominal income along the business cycle. Changes in the amount of money do lead to portfolio decisions made by households, financial institutions and non-financial companies. The rationale is quite straightforward: in normal times agents tend to keep a rather stable cash to total assets ratio in their portfolios, so the greater the amount of money in the hands of (say) banks and insurance companies, the greater their willingness to invest it in other assets such as real estate, bonds (either long term or short term maturity bonds, or public or private bonds) or equity looking for a greater remuneration. And, should the creation of more and more money continues, it will eventually lead to an increase in the demand of consumption goods and services. Consequently asset prices (and CPI prices, though to a lesser extent) will change as a result of the greater demand for assets in the market and thus higher prices. The new equilibrium in the economy will be reached when agents have got rid of the excess in cash balances in their portfolios so now they keep again their desired cash to asset ratio. As a result of it all the amount of money in the economy will be greater and so will be the price level. M. Friedman and A. Schwartz explained it as clear as marvellously in the 1960s and it remains valid today as a theoretical framework to assess inflation and changes in nominal income.

This is in a nutshell the core of the explanation of monetarism; of course the process by which a greater amount of money in circulation ends up in higher asset and CPI prices can be more complex and, particularly when applied to a policy scenario, it will require a more detailed explanation. Of course there are lags in the transmission of money changes onto prices, as agents take time to assess the market conditions and make their own portfolio adjustments. In addition, institutions matter so a more regulated (less free) economy will require more time to reflect the new monetary conditions on the price level. On top of that the central bank and other financial regulators may interfere further in markets by making new monetary policy decisions, or even changing regulation regarding banks’ capital and/or liquidity ratios. This will make the picture given above more nuanced but by no means invalid; what we know, and there is plenty of evidence about it, is that a sustained increase in the amount of money over the increase in the supply of goods and services in the economy (say the GDP growth) will over time lead to higher prices.

On the 20th of April at the University of Buckingham I had the privilege to discuss with Tim Congdon on (1) what monetarism means nowadays, (2) which are the common criticisms of monetarism and (3) the relevance of monetarism for investment and monetary policy decisions. In fact, in the last few minutes in the video Tim sets up very clearly what it can well be labelled as an operational monetary policy rule for central banks to make policy decisions.

Many will find monetarism a not very fancy or topical term; call it instead rigorous monetary analysis then. As long as we focus on the impact of changes in the amount of money on prices and nominal income I do not think we should pay too much attention to labels. Unfortunately there is virtually a vacuum in this field in our days, as most central banks (not all) and financial regulators have seemed to forget or even disregard the valuable information provided by the analysis of changes in the amount money (and how it is created) for monetary policy purposes.

Enjoy the video with the interview below; comments, as ever, very much welcome.

Juan Castañeda

PS. You can find further videos on money and central banking at the IIMR Youtube channel



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Tuve el placer de visitar la Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM) en Guatemala el pasado mes de Febrero e impartir unas charlas sobre moneda y banca; lo que me permitió conocer mejor a sus estudiantes así como los programas que desarrollan en las áreas de economía y finanzas. Es una universidad muy exitosa y totalmente independiente del gobierno, lo que le da la autonomía financiera y profesional para seleccionar sus alumnos, profesorado y los programas que ofrece a los mismos. Solo así se puede ser realmente responsable como institución y aspirar a la excelencia académica.

Una de las ventajas de operar en un país donde el Estado no ha crecido tanto como en la vieja Europa es que da oportunidades a la iniciativa privada para innovar y prosperar de maneras difícilmente previsibles ni controlables por el regulador; aunque sólo sea porque no tiene una maquinaria administrativa lo suficientemente desarrollada como para poder intervenir de manera más activa (no es porque no quiera es porque no puede!). Esto ha sido una bendición para quienes pusieron en práctica en su día, y lo continúan desarrollando y expandiendo en la actualidad, el proyecto de una universidad independiente y comprometida con la educación y formación de personas libres y responsables de sus decisiones, en una una economía de libre empresa. Acostumbrado a vivir en países donde el Estado ‘llega a todo’, fue un gusto comprobar cómo proyectos distintos e innovadores pueden desarrollarse y asentarse de manera tan exitosa. Como la UFM, la Universidad de Buckingham es una institución verdaderamente independiente del Estado, que no por casualidad está a la cabeza de la excelencia docente en el Reino Unido.  He trabajado 14 años en una universidad estatal y desde 2012 en Buckingham y puedo dar fe de las diferencias entre ambos ‘modelos’ institucionales; uno representativo de una universidad altamente burocratizada donde se desincentiva la innovación, y el otro donde la iniciativa individual y la buena docencia son premiadas.

Entrevista sobre dinero y banca central

Durante mi estancia en la UFM, Luis Figueroa y yo mantuvimos una entrevista sobre moneda y banca central; en concreto, hablamos de la posibilidad de tener un sistema monetario sin un banco central estatal y de como reformar la política monetaria a la luz de los errores que condujeron a la crisis financiera de 2007/08. Aquí podéis encontrar el contenido completo de la entrevista para el canal online ‘NewMedia UFM’: http://newmedia.ufm.edu/video/es-posible-un-sistema-monetario-sin-banca-central/. Para aquellos interesados en el tema, podeis leer mi entrada en el blog del mes pasado sobre la viabilidad de un sistema monetario con un banco central privado (entrevista con Standard and Poor’s).

Como siempre, los comentarios y críticas sobre el contenido de la entrevista serán muy bienvenidos.

Juan Castañeda




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This was the title of George Selgin (CFMA, Cato) talk at the Institute of International Monetary Research (IIMR) and the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) seminar, ‘Quantitative Easing. Triumph or Folly?’ (3rd Nov. 2016). The title of course evokes Ben Bernanke‘s words at the conference held in 2002 to honour Milton Friedman for his 90th birthday; in his speech Bernanke ended with some words that have resonated everywhere in the midst and the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis in 2007-09: ‘Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.‘ True, banks’ deposits have not contracted (as it did happened in the early 1930’s) around 30% in the recent crisis, but broad monetary growth (M2) plummeted in 2009 and did have a subsequent impact in the extension, amplitude and the severity of the crisis.

The 1930’s crisis is the historical precedent used by George Selgin to judge the Fed’s response to the two major financial crises occurred since the establishment of the US Fed in 1913; the Great Depression and the Global Financial Crisis. Selgin resorts to well-established monetary theory to recommend an early intervention in monetary markets in case of a banking crisis occurs in order to prevent the payment system and financial markets from falling. And he does so by using Walter Bagehot‘s well-known criteria for central banks to act effectively as the lenders of last resort in a monetary system where the reserves are held by a single bank: (1) the central bank must act promptly and provide loans to illiquid but solvent banks with no limit (2) against collateral (assets that would have been used in normal times) and (3) at a penalty rate; that is an interest rate higher than the normal or policy rate.

Did the Fed abide by those criteria?

As you can surely tell by the title of his talk, Selgin is very critical with the lack of an effective response of the Fed in 2008, which ended up in a drastic fall in monetary growth in the economy in 2009 (see the rate of growth of US M2 since 2007 here). Normally banks’ deposits at the central bank are a sort of a restriction that constraint the potential expansion of their balance sheets. The Fed’s policy of increasing the remuneration US banks’ deposits (or excess reserves) in the midst of the crisis (at a time where there were not many profitable investments options for banks) turned those deposits at the Fed as an asset. In this new policy scenario US banks comfortably sat on a vast amount of cash at the Fed, and did get a profit for doing so; this indeed discouraged them from channelling the money lent out by the Fed to the economy and resulted in an ineffective threefold expansion in the US monetary base. This recent example helps to explain the lack of a mechanical connection between expansions in the monetary base and those in  broader measures of money (such as M2, which hardly grew, if at all, at the time).

Watch out George Selgin’s video with his talk in full here for further details. In a nutshell, according to Selgin it was a combination of bad policy measures which caused the Great Contraction and not an inevitable policy outcome. Enjoy the talk!

Juan Castañeda


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 “Los Bancos Centrales deben hacer menos, no más”

Este es el acertado titular con que el periodista especializado en economía, Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, resume nuestra entrevista, que acaba de publicarse en Libre Mercado (10/3/2013). En un tiempo en que parece que todos piden al banco central que haga más, como si fuera una especie de Deus ex Machina  omnipotente capaz de sacarnos de la crisis y parálisis económica actuales, merece la pena recordar que fue precisamente el activismo y excesivo crecimiento monetario desarrollado en la última expansión económica lo que está en la base de los problemas que aún padecemos. Por eso, una vez solventada la crisis financiera (cuando quiera que ésto sea), convendría reflexionar sobre cuál es la mejor política monetaria para la nueva etapa expansiva que, en mi opinión, pasará por una reforma en profundidad de las reglas monetarias vigentes hasta 2007. Una política monetaria que sea menos activa y se centre en la estabilidad monetaria y no en el manejo de la economía, el control del ciclo (del “output gap”) ni tampoco la estabilización de los precios, menos aún si se hace persiguiendo un crecimiento (aunque sea moderado) de la inflación medida mediante el IPC.

Hablamos también de los recientes rescates bancarios, la política de préstamo (más o menos expreso)  de los bancos centrales a sus Estados, así  como de algunas alternativas al sistema actual de monopolio de emisión de moneda de curso legal controlado en última instancia por el Estado. Como siempre, vuestros comentarios serán muy bienvenidos en el blog.

Texto completo de la entrevista aquí:


Juan Castañeda


(A summary in English)

“Central banks should do less, not more”

This is the headline of my recent interwiew with the economic journalist, Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, just published in Libre Mercado (10/03/2013). In a time when all and sundry ask the central bank to do more, as if it were an omnipotent “Deus ex Machina”  able to overcome the current economic and financial crisis, it is worth remembering that it was central banks’ monetary activism and excessive money creation during the last economic expansion what ultimately caused a massive distortion in financial markets and led to the current crisis. As recessions and crises have its roots in the previous expansion, we should be discussing now which is the best monetary policy to be adopted in the next expansionary phase of the cycle (see here a summary of the debate in the UK). One less active and more focused on maintaining monetary stability and not the management of the economy, the stabilisation of the cycle (the “output gap”) or price stabilisation, let alone the stabilisation of a positive inflation target as measured by CPI.

We also discussed in the interview other “policies” of the central banks, such as the recent banks’ bailouts and the more or less explicit financial assistance to the(ir) States; finally, we also talk about some alternatives to the current monetary system ultimately controlled by the State. As always, your comments are very welcome.

Full access to the interview here:


Juan Castañeda

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Una crisis económica sorprendente (2007-2012)

La verdad es que esta profesión tiene una buena parte de vanidad y la entrada de hoy es una nueva muestra de ello. Hace ya meses, en septiembre de 2012 salió a la venta el libro que he escrito con el economista José Antonio Aguirre, titulado “Una crisis económica sorprendente (2007-2012)” (Ediciones Aosta), del que escribí un artículo en el blog sobre el contenido del libro.

José Antonio Aguirre es un economista profesional que sabe realmente de mercados financieros y de los economistas clásicos; de hecho, ha sido el editor pionero en la traducción al castellano de libros clásicos de economía de autores de referencia, como I. Fisher,  F. Hayek o K. Wicksell u otros más recientes e igualmente relevantes como James Buchanan o George Selgin. De la mano de mi director de tesis doctoral (Prof. Schwartz), tuve ocasión de leer su magnífico estudio sobre la banca central y la competencia monetaria, que acompañó a la edición en castellano del excelente libro de Vera Smith de 1936, “Fundamentos de la Banca Central y de la Libertad Bancaria“; ambos trabajos de lectura diría que obligatoria para quienes quieran entender los fundamentos del sistema de banca central actual y sus alternativas. Por ello, ha sido un verdadero placer para mi escribir este libro con quién, sin saberlo entonces, me ayudó tanto a entender un poco más sobre lo que es el dinero con su trabajos sobre economía monetaria.


Aquí podréis ver más información sobre el libro, una reseña y el índice de contenidos.

La presentación tendrá lugar el martes 5 de febrero de 2013 (19:00hrs.) en la Fundación Rafael del Pino (Madrid). Aquí encontraréis más datos prácticos sobre el acto. El profesor Pedro Schwartz hará la presentación, seguida de la intervención de los autores y de un tiempo para preguntas y comentarios del público. Por supuesto, como siempre, y lo saben bien quienes me conocen, las preguntas serán muy bienvenidas, especialmente si son críticas.

En fin, me permito invitarte a venir y quedo muy agradecido de antemano.

Juan Castañeda

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