Tag Archives: currency war

Dispatches from the Currency Wars

The value of the yen has fallen sharply since November, owing to the monetary component of Japan’s efforts to jump-start its economy (“Abenomics”).  Thus the issue of currency wars is expected to feature on the agenda at the G-8′s upcoming summit in Enniskillen, UK, June 17-18.

The phrase “currency wars” is catchy.  But does it have genuine analytical content?   It is another way of saying “competitive devaluation.”  To use the language of IMF Article IV(1) iii, it is what happens when countries are “manipulating exchange rates…to gain an unfair competitive advantage over other members…” To use the language of the 1930s, this manipulation would be a kind of beggar-thy-neighbor policy, with each country seeking to shift net exports toward its own goods at the expense of its neighbors.

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The FOMC is Right to Stay the Course on QE2

 
            The Fed has come in for a surprising amount of criticism since its decision in the fall of 2010 to launch a new round of monetary easing — Quantitative Easing 2.  Ben Bernanke and his colleagues are right not to give in to these attacks.

            Critiques seem to be of four sorts. (Some are mutually exclusive.)

            1)  “QE is weird.”    Quantitative Easing entails the central bank buying a somewhat wider range of securities than the traditional short-term Treasury bills that are the usual focus of the Fed’s open market operations.    This has been a bold strategy, which nobody would have predicted 3 or 4 years ago.   But it has been appropriate to the equally unexpected financial crisis and recession.    Some who find QE alarmingly non-standard may not realize that other central banks do this sort of thing, and that the US authorities themselves did it in the more distant past.    It is amusing to recall that when Ben Bernanke was first appointed Chairman, some reacted “He is a fine economist, but he doesn’t have the market experience of a Wall Street type.”  The irony is that nobody who had spent his or her career on Wall Street would have had the relevant experience to deal with the shocks of the last three years, since none of them were there in the 1930s.  But as an economic historian, Bernanke had just the broader perspective that was needed.   Thank heaven he did.

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