Posts Tagged ‘Tim Congdon’

‘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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Last month I had the pleasure to contribute to the IIMR/IEA annual monetary conference (8 November 2017) in London, ‘Has Financial Regulation Gone Too Far? And do banks really need all the extra capital?‘. I gave a short talk in session 3, ‘The role of the central bank in financial regulation‘, chaired by Charles Goodhart (LSE), on the essential nature of central banks as banking institutions. It may sound silly to state the obvious but, as my good friend, mentor and excellent colleague – Pedro Schwartz – always reminds me, we should not take for granted the fundamentals in economics, even less in money and central banking. Let me then start by saying that modern central banks were established to cope with two major tasks: (1) to be the bankers of the State (the Bank of England and other continental European central banks are good examples of this, see here) but also (2) to become the bankers of the banks in monetary systems operated under a fractional reserve (again, the Bank of England is the first modern central bank in this regard); the latter is what we call the lender of last resort function of central banks.

In the early years of the establishment of central banks, with the running of the gold standard, strictly speaking, there was no monetary policy nor the pursue of a macroeconomic target as we understand it now; but a bank of issue with a privilege position in the monetary market, and mainly focused on maintaining the convertibility of its currency at the pre-announced rate. It was only quite recently (historically speaking), after the abandonment of the gold standard in the interwar years, that central banks have explicitly adopted or given other tasks, and indeed macroeconomic tasks, such as keeping price stability or achieving economic growth.

But we should not forget that central banks are at the core of the monetary system and the banking sector, providing financial services to a ‘club’ of commercial banks which create money in the currency issued by the central banks. Which money? ‘Bank money’, that is, bank deposits under a fractional reserve system. This money constitutes the bulk of the money supply in modern economies, and it is vital for the central bank to keep a steady growth of the amount of money in circulation to preserve stable and long term economic growth; thus avoiding too much money during the expansion of the economy or too little in a banking crisis. What I state in my talk is that privately-owned central banks are genuinely interested in maintaining financial stability, and thus will be willing to intervene in a liquidity crisis much more promptly and efficiently than a central bank under the shadow – if not the control – of the State. This is something I have supported in other articles (recently in this article), and my colleague at the IIMR, Tim Congdon, has written on (see chapter 7 in ‘Central Banking in a Free Society‘).

This is the video of the talk:

Comments are very welcome as ever!


Juan Castañeda

PS. To the best of my knowledge the characterisation of central banks as the bankers of a ‘club’ was first coined by Charles Goodhart in his seminal 1988 book, ‘The Evolution of Central Banks‘, a book anyone interested in the history and functions of central banks must read. However, unlike Goodhart’s position in his book, I do not see a conflict of interest for a self-interested central bank to become a lender of last resort in times of crisis. Actually, central banks did make a profit when lending in times of crisis, such as the Bank of England in several banking crises in the 19th century.


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This is the title of an article written with my colleague, Tim Congdon (Institute of International Monetary Research and University of Buckingham), published in CityAM on 27/10/2017.

Our main point is that more regulation won’t make banks safer and is counterproductive. It is a sort of an instinctive reaction by politicians, policy-makers and regulators to respond to a crisis with more and tighter regulation, in an effort to tackle the ‘excesses’ in the market economy left of its own will. This is both very naive and irresponsible, as much as empirically and theoretically wrong. The recent announcement and approval of the Basell III tighter bank capital ratios is an example of it: this tougher set of regulations was announced and approved in the midst of a severe financial crisis (2008-2010), and resulted in banks shrinking their balance sheets even more; with the expected dramatic fall in money growth and nominal spending.

It is again a dire example of the running of the law of the unintended consequences of regulation; which would recommend the need to assess in advance the expected consequences of regulation, rather than quickly and desperately calling for more and tougher laws on banks and the rest of the financial system.

As we put it in the article:

Far too many people believe that “better” regulation is the answer to financial crises. But further regulation involves an expansion of the power of the state, and a loss of freedom for the financial system. Remember that Britain had no explicit official rules on bank capital until the 1980s, yet no British bank suffered a run on its deposits over the preceding century. Crucial to the success of British banking in the decades before the Northern Rock fiasco was the Bank of England’s willingness to lend to solvent banks if they were having difficulty funding their assets. Good central banking helped Britain’s commercial banks to run their businesses efficiently and profitably, and to the benefit of their customers.’

There was a time, not that far away, when regulation was not that prominent and financial markets flourished; and when a banking institution failed, that occasionally they did, there were solid policies and institutions willing to intervene in an decisively and orderly manner (the Bank of England had been an example of that, at least until the collapse of Norther rock in the recent crisis).

You will find the article in full here: http://www.cityam.com/274672/tighter-bank-regulation-wont-stop-boom-and-bust-but-damage.

Comments, even more if critical, most welcome!

Juan Castañeda

PS. We will be discussing these issues with the member of the Bank of England’ s Financial Policy Committee, Martin Taylor, in the IIMR Annual Public Lecture on the 7/10 in London: https://www.mv-pt.org/events/public-lecture-the-committee-of-public-safety-the-work-of-the-financial-policy-committee-by-m



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Following up my last post on the eurozone crisis and the monetary policy of the ECB (see IIMR esearch Paper 3: Have Central Banks forgotten about money? by my colleague Tim Congdon and myself), please find below a video with further details on the changes made to the monetary strategy of the ECB since its establishment.

What I claim in the video is that the ECB did give a prominent role to the analysis of the changes in broad money up to 2003, when it reviewed its strategy, and not surprisingly it led to a higher rate of growth of money in the Eurozone in the years running up to the Global Financial Crisis. Just to be clear, I do not support that any central bank should adopt a ‘mechanistic’ monetary growth policy rule, by which the bank adheres to an intermediate M3 (or broad money) rate of growth target come what may. The link between money and prices and nominal income is indeed very strong over the medium and long term, but it is of course affected by other variables/phenomena in the short term that need to be properly considered and taken into account by policy makers. So rather than a mechanistic approach to such a monetary target, changes in money growth should be given a primary role in assessing inflation and nominal income forecasts, and thus in the making of monetary policy decisions; and this is precisely what the ECB did from 1999 to 2003 under its two-pillar strategy. So when money growth continuously exceeds the rate deemed to be compatible with monetary stability, this would signal inflationary pressures and even financial instability the central bank would eventually tackle by tightening its monetary policy. This rationale would show the commitment of the central bank to both monetary and financial stability over the long term, and the use of a broad monetary aggregate would serve as a credible indicator to make monetary policy decisions and as a means to transmit the central bank’s expectations on inflation and output growth.

As ever, comments very welcome.

Juan Castañeda

PS. More videos on the IIMR YouTube channel




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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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As announced last month on this blog, you can find now the video of the IIMR 2016 Public Lecture given by Charles Goodhart (Financial Markets Group, LSE) available on the Institute of International Monetary Research website: http://www.mv-pt.org/2016-lecture-and-conference

Professor Goodhart, indeed a distinguished academic figure in monetary economics in the UK and a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, criticised many features of monetary policy-making both before and after the sharp global downturn of 2008 and early 2009. He also underlined some of the most important flaws in current macroeconomic models:

(1) The use of macroeconomic models with no money, nor a banking sector.
(2) No analysis of the monetary transmission mechanisms via the banking or the wider financial sectors.
(3) The assumption that there is a direct correlation between changes in the monetary base and changes in the amount of money.

In my view those flaws are yet to be properly addressed and if we could just agree on those very simple points we would make a major progress in current monetary economics! And we will very much reduce monetary instability and thus minimise the risk another financial collapse.

Just a final note on the Institute of International Monetary Research. Its main purpose is to demonstrate and to bring public attention to the strong relationship between the quantity of money on the one hand, and the levels of national income and expenditure on the other. The Institute has been established in association with the university of Buckingham and is heavily involved in the analysis of banking systems, particularly their role in the creation of new money balances. You can subscribe to its newsletter and publications here: http://www.mv-pt.org/contactus

Juan Castañeda

PS. The text with the lecture will be available soon at the IIMR website.


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Tim Congdon en Madrid

Tim Congdon es un economista de prestigio en la City de Londres, que ha dedicado la mayor parte de su carrera profesional al análisis monetario y de la coyuntura económica. Ha sido consejero del gobierno británico al más alto nivel entre 1992 y 1996, columnista de prensa económica y ha fundado y liderado una prestigiosa firma de consultoría macroecnómica y financiera (Lombard Street Research), que ha sido reconocida por su capacidad para analizar y predecir la evolución de los principales indicadores financieros en el Reino Unido desde su fundación en 1989. Ahora desarrolla su carrera profesional desde una consultora más modesta que fundó en 2009, International Monetary Research , en la que continua haciendo análisis monetarios muy atinados sobre EEUU, la Eurozona y el Reino Unido. Les recoemindo que visiten esta página para estar al día en lo que concierne a moneda y banca central en las economías desarrolladas. Ello lo hace compatible con la publicación frecuente de trabajos académicos y es precisamente uno de ellos, su último libro, el que viene a presentarnos a Madrid este martes 22 de Mayo (19:00 hrs. Fundación Rafael del Pino, Madrid).

El título del libro es ya bastante revelador de su contenido y del tipo de análisis de este economista: “Money in a Free Society. Keynes, Friedman and the new crisis in capitalism“, 2011, Encounter Books). El libro es una recopilación de trabajos previos del autor, a los que añade algunos nuevos, que explican (1) los orígenes y, en mi opinión lo más importante, (2) las razones que pueden explicar la profundización de la crisis económica reciente. Si tienen ocasión de leerlo, algo que recomiendo y mucho, verán que es un autor que trata con rigurosidad y cuidado las enseñanzas de los clásicos de la economía monetaria; entre los que trata muy especialmente el legado de J.M. Keynes y el de M. Friedman. De hecho, las dos primeras partes del libro tratan de distinguir la teoría monetaria del propio Keynes de la de sus auto-proclamados seguidores, los Keynesianos; ya que, como verán, distan mucho de ser lo mismo. A partir de esta clarificación de ideas y conceptos, estudia las aportaciones del monetarismo y refuta que tuviera lugar en el propio Reino Unido la tan aludida “revolución Keynesiana”. De hecho, dedica varios capítulos (8-11) a refutar la propia eficacia de la política fiscal en EEUU y el Reino Unido como política activa  dirigida al manejo de la demanda agregada y, con ello, del empleo y de la renta nacional. Todo ello lo hace con una rigurosidad teórica y análisis empírico envidiables, que dejan poco margen de duda. Me temo que los defensores de las políticas fiscales expansivas tienen a partir de ahora una labor muy complicada para intentar recuperarse de este aluvión de críticas al keynesianismo, plagado de sólidos argumentos teóricos y detallada contrastación empírica.

T. Congdon termina su libro con una descripción y análisis de cómo funciona la economía en la actualidad (caps. 15-18). En ellos utiliza la explicación monetarista de la determinación de los precios y de la renta. De hecho, esta parte del libro puede entenderse como una actualización de la teoría macroecónomica de la renta nacional; esa que establece que la renta nominal de la economía viene determinada por la oferta monetaria (en su sentido más amplio). Si leen el ensayo 15 se darán cuenta de cómo se ajusta su descripción de las burbujas monetarias a lo ocurrido antes de 2007: describe cómo un exceso de crecimiento monetario se ha venido trasladando en aumentos continuados (e insostenibles) de la demanda de los activos reales (inmobiliarios incluidos) y financieros, así como en mayor demanda de bienes y servicios finales; lo que se ha reflejado en una verdadera inflación en la economía. Les sonará este argumento, porque es la actualización muy certera y ágil de la llamada “teoría cuantitativa del dinero”.

En fin, es un lujo poder ir a verle y escuchar sus aportaciones para el entendimiento de lo que está pasando en la economía; explicaciones en las que no faltará algo esencial que se pasó por alto a los economistas e instituciones de más relumbrón de la economía mundial en los últimos años, el análisis monetario y de las consecuencias del exceso de crecimiento monetario sobre la distorsión de la estructura productiva y de los precios de la economía que trae consigo. Así mismo, escucharán a un economista que critica y mucho a los bancos centrales y a la mayoría de los economistas y académicos por aplicar una “mala teoría económica” para salir de la crisis: Primero, una dominada por las viejas ideas keynesianas que recetaban una salida de la crisis a la desesperada en los años 2008 y 2009, en la forma de aumentos excepcionales del gasto público. Ya hemos comprobado que ello sólo ha traído más endeudamiento público y nula creación de empleo. Y, asimismo, critica las medidas igualmente desesperadas tomadas por los reguladores financieros nacionales (bancos centrales) e internacionales (el Banco Internacional de Pagos, con la nueva regulación bancaria de “Basilea III”), para intentar asegurar la solvencia del sistema financiero. Ello ha significado una proliferación de nuevas regulaciones dirigidas a aumentar las ratios de capitalización bancaria, así como la mayor disposición de liquidez en caja de las entidades bancarias, que está estrangulando el crédito desde 2008. Y, como sabemos, en el régimen monetario en que vivimos, ello ha supuesto el estancamiento de la oferta monetaria amplia (M3) y, siguiendo las explicaciones del Sr. Congdon, también el estancamiento de la renta nominal en los principales países desarrollados. Como ocurre una vez más en Economía, la clave está en el estudio de las consecuencias no intencionadas de las políticas económicas, pues no son ni intuitivas ni evidentes.

En definitiva, un economista que culpa de la crisis y de su profundización a las autoridades monetarias y a la utilización de una teoría económica incorrecta; como ven, una crítica similar a la que hicieran M. Friedman y A. Schwartz en 1963 a la penosa gestión de la política monetaria de la Reserva Federal de EEUU, que convirtió una recesión “normal” en una gran depresión.

Juan Castañeda

Nota: La información para asistir a la conferencia disponible en: http://www.frdelpino.es/convocatoria-tim-congdom/

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