Guest post by Marios Zachariadis: On the Greek Crisis and German Imbalances

Policies undertaken from a narrow national perspective that encourage systematic fiscal surpluses coupled with a national consensus on wage suppression between unions and industry facilitated by the state, impact negatively upon domestic spending while increasing national saving and may lead to mercantilist outcomes of systematic policy-induced positive trade balances with large financial flows going the other way. This mechanism in relation to export-dependent countries like Germany has been recognized for a while by leading American economists like Obstfeld (the IMF’s new chief economist succeeding Blanchard) or Bernanke, while many have also pointed out low domestic investment, consumption taxes, and rigidities in the service sector as additional policy-related reasons for this German systematic phenomenon. Continue reading “Guest post by Marios Zachariadis: On the Greek Crisis and German Imbalances”

Call for Proposals DEW Conference 2015

The Dublin Economics Workshop will hold its annual economic policy conference at the Hodson Bay Hotel in Athlone October 16th and 17th next. Proposals in any area of economic policy are invited and should be forwarded, ideally before September 4th, to both of the following: charles.larkin@gmail.com and colm.mccarthy@ucd.ie.

Programme and booking details will be circulated in due course. The Dublin Economics Workshop is kindly sponsored by Dublin Chamber of Commerce.

More on Greece

Colm McCarthy and I were up in front of the Oireachtas Finance Committee last week to talk about Greece.  I attach my speaking notes. (Colm’s were essentially as published in the Sunday Independent the other day). I think it’s fair to say that we both kicked to touch on Pat Rabbitte’s question as to what politically acceptable solution could have been pulled out of the hat. This is a question for the diplomats and politicians rather than economists.  The radicals and the establishment parties across Europe had manoeuvered each other so that they ended up painted not so much into a corner as up against an open 10th floor window.  Someone was going to be defenestrated.  And it was never going to be the strong.

Diary Date: Workshop on Well-Being and Recent Irish Economic History

Kevin Denny and I are organising a half-day workshop to look at Changes in Well-being in Ireland over the last 10 to 15 years. Obviously this has been an eventful time in Ireland and we think it would be very useful at this stage to draw together what is known about the Irish case.  Our specific aim is to consider a  wide range of possible outcomes including physical and mental health as well as subjective well-being. Moreover we want to draw on a range of approaches from epidemiology, psychological medicine and the social sciences as well as different types of data. Our intention is to have  around 7 presentations with plenty of time for discussion. The event will be held in the UCD Geary Institute on Tuesday November 17th from 12pm to 4pm. A light lunch would be provided. Further details of the talks and how to register will be provided here in due course. Suggestions on the programme still welcome.

Economics, Psychology and Policy Meetings

Since 2008 a number of us have organised an annual conference for people working at the interface of economics, psychology and related areas. Speakers have included international thought-leaders in this area including David Laibson, David Halpern, Robert Sugden, Arie Kapteyn, Ruth Byrne and John O’Doherty as well a diverse range of speakers from across economics, psychology and policy in Ireland and they have contributed to maintaining an active discussion of the potential for this area in Ireland. The next one will take place at the ESRI in Dublin on November 27th. At the previous session we agreed to organise some more adhoc meet-ups in between the events partly to disseminate new ideas and also with a view to establishing a more structured network in this area in Ireland. The first of these meetings takes place in Dublin on July 22nd organised by myself and Sean Gill. It will take place at 7pm sharp at the Roasted Brown coffee shop in Temple Bar. There will be 5 short presentations (to be listed here in the next couple of days) and some discussion about future events. Meet-ups around this area are now taking place in several cities including London and Sydney. I spoke at the Sydney event recently and it was extremely lively and led to several useful follow-ups. There are many people interested in this broad area in Dublin and Ireland more generally. This is intended to a broad forum and we welcome attendance and contribution from academics interested in exchanging ideas with a broad audience, people across different areas including students and people with business and policy interests in this area. For now we envisage the events being structured around short talks where a speaker describes briefly an idea they are working on or thinking about and potentially some suggestions for collaboration. Though there are many other event formats that could be considered. If you are attending please drop me an email at liamdelaney2011@gmail.com

Speakers:

Liam Delaney: Overview of behavioural economics, policy and business.

Michael Daly: Psychology, Self-Control and Policy

Sean Gill: Behavioural Economics and Health

Pete Lunn: Behavioural Economics and Regulation

Audience Contributions,

Q+A and Suggestions for Development of Network

More miscellaneous irritations

1.  “We averted the plan of a financial choking and banking system collapse.” (Tspiras)

You are the prime minister Mr Tspiras. Did you not have a plan B to deal with ECB blackmail? If not, why not? Did you really think that the others would back down because of the possibility of Grexit, when it was so clear that you would be willing to do almost anything to avoid it?

2. The new (and conveniently self-interested) German doctrine that defaults are impossible within the Eurozone. Remember the no bailout clause? Ashoka Mody is surely right: these negotiations will kill the entire European project sooner or later. Better to let countries default when that is what is required.

3. Nice to hear Merkel saying that Greece may win back her trust. If I were Greek I might not trust European promises regarding debt rescheduling. Have we not heard those before?

4. How high is Greece’s debt to GDP ratio going to be now? Over 200%? Even if there is some reprofiling, does anyone think this makes sense?

All in all a great day for Golden Dawn. As for the rest of us: I don’t suppose that any other left wing party that may come to power in the future seeking to challenge the current European economic policy mix will be as feckless as the Tspiras government. The lesson that they will draw from this debacle is: negotiating with Germany is a waste of time; be willing to act unilaterally, be willing to default unilaterally, have a plan for achieving primary surplus if you haven’t already achieved it, have a hard default and euro exit (now possible, thanks to the Germans) option in your back pocket, and be willing to use it at the first sign of hassle from the ECB. A deal could have been done today that would have strengthened the Eurozone, but instead it has just become a lot more fragile.

Update: Wolfgang Münchau is well worth reading, here.

Update: this is also well worth a read.

Update: Charles Wyplosz is well worth reading here. Good to see someone pointing out the obvious about this extraordinary programme, and also taking on the (to my mind bizarre) argument that the headline debt/GDP ratio is irrelevant.

Update: Dae Woong Kang and Ashoka Mody offer a historical perspective here.

SSISI – 2015/2016 Call for Papers & Barrington Medal

The site’s readership might be interested in two announcements by the Statistical & Social Inquiry Society of Ireland:

  1. The first is a general call for papers [PDF] for the Society’s 169th Session, with a deadline of August 7th. Papers are presented to the society and then published in its Journal, which has – if I’m not mistaken – been going since the 1840s, which must make it one of the world’s longest-running social science journals.
  2. The second is the specific call for submissions for the Barrington Medal, which is intended to recognise promising new researchers in the economic and social sciences in Ireland. More details are available here, and the deadline is July 31st.

Miscellaneous irritations

1. I see that Juncker is saying that it is a shame that the Greeks walked out of the negotiations last week; and yet the creditor negotiating stance seems to have been “give us everything we want, and maybe we will discuss what you want (debt relief) at some later date”. For an account of the negotiations, see here.

2. I see that Hugo Dixon was describing the parties that got Greece into this mess over the course of several decades as “pro-European”, implying that Syriza is anti-European. Come again? Since when does opposing a particular policy mix (in this case one that has failed disastrously over the course of several years) make you anti-European?

3. I see that Martin Schulz is now denying having said that a no vote meant that Greece would have to leave the euro.

4. I can’t count the number of times I have heard French friends tell me that the problem is that the Greeks don’t pay taxes. (All Greeks, you understand.) What about Troika officials?

5. Aside altogether from the immense catastrophe of the last several years, Greece’s GDP shrank 0.4% in the last quarter of 2014, before Syriza got to power. Just saying.

6. Like Paul Krugman, I gave a cheer when I read Wolfgang Münchau’s stating the obvious:

What I found most galling was the argument that Grexit would bring about an economic catastrophe, as though the catastrophe had not already happened.

Some of the crocodile tears being shed on Sunday night about the humanitarian catastrophe that the Greeks were now supposedly bringing down on themselves (as if the ECB’s refusal to ensure financial stability in that country is irrelevant) I found pretty hard to take. Where have these humanitarians been hiding for the last seven years?

7. No comment necessary:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Herr Fuest, angenommen, Sie wären wahlberechtigt, wie würden Sie am Sonntag beim griechischen Referendum über die Reformpolitik abstimmen?

Fuest: Mit Ja. Nachdem Ministerpräsident Tsipras sein politisches Schicksal an den Ausgang der Wahl gebunden hat, wäre mein primäres Ziel, ihn und seine Regierung loszuwerden.

8. Faymann: “Europe is known for compromises. Renegotiation until the last minute. Greece didn’t do this when it walked out of negotation.” The Greeks have been making compromises for months; where is the German compromise on debt relief?

There, that feels better.

On the bright side, it seems that around 80% of young Greek voters voted no.

 

 

Thoughts on the Design of Grexit

Paul Krugman has a thoughtful op-ed piece in today’s New York Times in which he reluctantly calls for Greek exit from the euro. I share his view on the desirability of Grexit at this juncture, but not his reluctance in expressing that opinion. How could Grexit best be designed, for Greece, for Europe, and for international interests? Below are a few modest thoughts on this. Continue reading “Thoughts on the Design of Grexit”

McCarthy and Mody on what the Greek fiasco tells us about the ECB and IMF

Here, and here.

Three questions arise. Why would any non-European country be willing to accept another European IMF head? Would it not be better for the Europeans themselves if a non-European IMF head provided us with an “adult in the room” at times of crisis? And why would any European be happy living in a monetary union in which a politicized central bank cannot be relied upon to act as a lender of last resort, and in which their guns could be turned on any (sufficiently small) member state in a time of crisis?

Summer 2015 Issue of ESR

Articles

Network Social Capital and Labour Market Outcomes: Evidence For Ireland PDF
Gerard Brady 163–195
Spillover in Euro Area Sovereign Bond Markets PDF
Thomas Conefrey, David Cronin 197–231
A Formal Investigation of Inequalities in Health Behaviours After Age 50 on the Island of Ireland PDF
Eibhlín Hudson, David Madden, Irene Mosca 233–265
Is Fuel Poverty in Ireland a Distinct Type of Deprivation? PDF
Dorothy Watson, Bertrand Maitre 267–291

Policy Section Articles

Deciphering Ireland’s Macroeconomic Imbalance Indicators: Statistical Considerations PDF
Mary Cussen 293–313
Policy and Economic Change in the Agri-Food Sector in Ireland PDF
Cathal O’Donoghue, Thia Hennessy 315–337

 

When does a housing bubble start?

Yesterday, former Minister for Finance Charlie McCreevy appeared before the Oireachtas banking enquiry. His refusal to answer whether or not he believed Ireland suffered a property bubble that burst in 2007 was not only great TV, it also brings up some important issues. For example, the Irish Independent reports:

The conflict arose when Mr Doherty asked the former minister if he believed there had been a property bubble in the previous 15 years before the financial crisis. Mr McCreevy insisted he would only answer for his time in office and there had been no property bubble during that time… [after legal advice] Mr McCreevy said from 2003 to 2007 house prices grew at an extraordinary rate. He supposed that was a bubble. But he said: “I don’t believe the policies I pursued helped to create that bubble.”

The clear implication is that Mr McCreevy believes that, if there was any housing bubble at all, its roots do not lie in decisions made in the period 1997-2004, and that in reality there was no bubble at all. Given the title of my doctorate at Oxford was called “The Economics of Ireland’s Housing Market Bubble”, you might not be surprised to learn that I disagree.

First, I think it is important to note that there are two ways of diagnosing bubbles. They can be thought of as statistical bubbles and economic bubbles. A statistical bubble is one where the growth rate in the price of an asset, such as housing, grows at a rate that is unsustainable for any reasonable period of time. Between 1995 and 2007, house prices in Dublin increased by 300% in real terms (i.e. stripping out inflation), or 12.2% a year. Between 1997 and 2004, McCreevy’s term in office, the increase was 136%, or 13.1% a year. (Nationwide figures are comparable, although slightly lower for the period as a whole, although not necessarily in every year.) Thus, by any statisticians metric, it was a bubble – put another way, if 12% growth had continued for 25 years, a house costing €100,000 in 1995 would have cost €1.7m by 2020.

Continue reading “When does a housing bubble start?”

Canada Day

Yesterday, the First of July, was Canada Day.

Discussing  the crisis in the Eurozone with some visiting Canadian relatives led to the question How stable is the Canadian currency union?

At first sight it seems to be much more stable than its European counterpart. The Canadian banking system is renowned for its solidness. It is dominated by five national banks that operate coast to coast, supervised by the much-admired Bank of Canada.  There is a large national budget that includes important elements of inter-provincial fiscal equalization. Internal labour mobility is relatively high.

But on the other hand the provincial governments are not constrained in their borrowing, there are enormous differences between the economic structures of the provinces, and there is always the Quebec question.

In fact, to a surprising extent, the stability of the Canadian union appears to depend on the fact that, as the author of this article puts it,”there are no Greeces here”.  He draws attention to flaws in the design of the Canadian currency union that could come home to roost some day.