Direktsändning från ECB:s styrelsemöte … eller?

30 November, 2011 at 15:41 | Posted in Varia | Comments Off on Direktsändning från ECB:s styrelsemöte … eller?

Europa är inte USA

30 November, 2011 at 10:38 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Europa är inte USA

Martin Feldstein påminner oss om fundamentala skillnader och varför en valuta fungerar over there och inte alls här:

The key argument made by European officials and other defenders of the euro has been that, because a single currency works well in the United States, it should also work well in Europe. After all, both are large, continental, and diverse economies. But that argument overlooks three important differences between the US and Europe.

First, the US is effectively a single labor market, with workers moving from areas of high and rising unemployment to places where jobs are more plentiful. In Europe, national labor markets are effectively separated by barriers of language, culture, religion, union membership, and social-insurance systems …

A second important difference is that the US has a centralized fiscal system. Individuals and businesses pay the majority of their taxes to the federal government in Washington, rather than to their state (or local) authorities … There is no comparable offset in Europe, where taxes are almost exclusively paid to, and transfers received from, national governments …

The third important difference is that all US states are required by their constitutions to balance their annual operating budgets. While “rainy day” funds that accumulate in boom years are used to deal with temporary revenue shortfalls, the states’ “general obligation” borrowing is limited to capital projects like roads and schools …

None of these features of the US economy would develop in Europe even if the eurozone evolved into a more explicitly political union …

The most likely effect of strengthening political union in the eurozone would be to give Germany the power to control the other members’ budgets and prescribe changes in their taxes and spending. This formal transfer of sovereignty would only increase the tensions and conflicts that already exist between Germany and other EU countries

Greg Mankiw and Richard Epstein – libertarian mumbo jumbo on inequality

29 November, 2011 at 21:11 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | 2 Comments

As yours truly has commented on earlier, walked-out Harvard economist and George Bush advisor Greg Mankiw  is having problems with explaining the rising inequality we have seen for the last 30 years in both the US and elsewhere in Western societies, that says it . He writes:

Even if the income gains are in the top 1 percent, why does that imply that the right story is not about education?

I then realized that Paul is making an implicit assumption–that the return to education is deterministic. If indeed a year of schooling guaranteed you precisely a 10 percent increase in earnings, then there is no way increasing education by a few years could move you from the middle class to the top 1 percent.

But it may be better to think of the return to education as stochastic. Education not only increases the average income a person will earn, but it also changes the entire distribution of possible life outcomes. It does not guarantee that a person will end up in the top 1 percent, but it increases the likelihood. I have not seen any data on this, but I am willing to bet that the top 1 percent are more educated than the average American; while their education did not ensure their economic success, it played a role.

This is, of course, nothing but really one big evasive action trying to explain away a very disturbing structural shift that has taken place in our societies. And change that has very little to do with stochastic returns to education. Those were in place also 30 or 40 years ago. At that time they meant that perhaps a CEO earned 10-12 times what “ordinary” people earns. Today it means that they perhaps earn 100-200 times  what “ordinary” people earns. A question of education? No way! It is a question of greed and a lost sense of a common project of building a sustainable society. A result of stochastic returns to education? No, this has to do with income and wealth increasingly being concentrated in the hands of a very small and privileged elite.

Mankiw has stubbornly refused to nudge on his libertarian stance on this issue. So, rather consistently, this week he links – on his blog – to a PBS-interview with libertarian professor of law, Richard Epstein:

RICHARD EPSTEIN: What’s good about inequality is if, in fact, it turns out that inequality creates an incentive for people to produce and to create wealth, it’s a wonderful force for innovation.

PAUL SOLMAN: Aren’t many of the top 1 percent or 0.1 percent in this country rich because they’re in finance?

RICHARD EPSTEIN: Yes. Many of the very richest people in the United States are rich because they are in finance.

 And one of the things you have to ask is, why is anyone prepared to pay them huge sums of money if in fact they perform nothing of social value? And the answer is that when you try to knock out the financiers, what you do is you destroy the liquidity of capital markets. And when you destroy the liquidity of those markets, you make it impossible for businesses to invest, you make it impossible for people to buy home mortgages and so forth, and all sorts of other breakdowns.

 So they should be rich. It doesn’t bother me.

 PAUL SOLMAN: Are you worried that a small number of people controlling a disproportionate share of the wealth can control a democratic system?

 RICHARD EPSTEIN: Oh, my God no.

Mankiw does not in any way comment on Epstein’s amazing stupidities or gives us a hint of why he has chosen to link to the interview. But sometimes silence perhaps says more than a thousand words …

En tidsinställd bomb

29 November, 2011 at 16:54 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on En tidsinställd bomb

Der Spiegel ger oss den här bilden (och glöm inte att man kan klicka på bilden för att göra den större) av storleken på statslån som förfaller till betalning i några euroländer:

Go Canada Go!

28 November, 2011 at 19:05 | Posted in Varia | Comments Off on Go Canada Go!

Bleak prospects for the future

28 November, 2011 at 18:29 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Bleak prospects for the future

The prospects for the future do indeed look bleak according to the OECD:

Decisive policies must be urgently put in place to stop the euro area sovereign debt crisis from spreading and to put weakening global activity back on track, says the OECD’s latest Economic Outlook.

The euro area crisis remains the key risk to the world economy, the Outlook says. Concerns about sovereign debt sustainability are becoming increasingly widespread. If not addressed, recent contagion to countries thought to have relatively solid public finances could massively escalate economic disruption. Pressures on bank funding and balance sheets increase the risk of a credit crunch.

Another serious downside risk is that no action would be agreed to offset the large degree of fiscal tightening implied by current law in the United States. This could tip the economy into a recession that monetary policy could do little to counter.

Better late than never – or as Paul Krugman has it:

That’s all perfectly sensible. But how did we get here? In large part, by listening to people like … the OECD, which demanded both fiscal austerity and interest rate hikes back in early 2010. And yes, it was the same people now running scared of the consequences of those spending cuts and rate hikes.

Vinst hör inte hemma i skattefinansierad skola och vård

28 November, 2011 at 15:01 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | 2 Comments

Lena Sommestad skriver åter klokt om vinstdrivande bolag i skattefinansierad offentlig verksamhet:

Idag står vi där vi står, med en borgerlig regering som under fem års tid har släppt vinstintressena fullständigt fria i offentlig sektor. Vem anser idag att vinstmaximering i offentlig sektor inte kan skapa problem? Borgerlighetens valseger blev jackpot för välfärdens entreprenörer.

Mest märkligt är dock att Socialdemokraterna i opposition inte skärpte analysen av välfärdsföretagen. Istället blev det tvärtom. I valrörelsen 2010 drev Socialdemokraterna inte någon tydlig linje för non profit i välfärdssektorn. Istället hade partiet faktiskt anammat samma paroll, som Friskolornas riksförbund använde år 2006 i kritiken mot Ibrahim Baylan: Fokusera på skolans kvalitet istället för vinst. En strålande framgång för välfärdens vinstdrivande entreprenörer, deras PR-firmor och fristående, (s)-märkta lobbyister.

Borde inte Lena Sommestad vara ett namn att ha i åtanke när Håkan Juholt svajat färdigt?

Tillägg: Att forskare sedan länge varnat för problemen med vinstdriven skattefinansierad skola och vård kan du försäkra dig om t ex här och här.

Statsobligationsräntan redux

28 November, 2011 at 00:18 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | 2 Comments

            Hmm … vilket land var det nu som är med i eurosamarbetet?

Oj så fel det kan bli trots alla dessa “rigorösa” och “precisa” modeller!

27 November, 2011 at 13:45 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Oj så fel det kan bli trots alla dessa “rigorösa” och “precisa” modeller!

Neoklassiska nationalekonomer brukar ofta – i linje med Milton Friedmans metodologiska instrumentalism  – säga att det inte har någon betydelse hur realistiska de antaganden modellerna man laborerar med  är. Huvudsaken är  att prediktionerna blir riktiga.

Om det nu är så kan vi bara dra en enda slutsats – kasta skiten på soptippen! För oj vad fel de har haft!

Simon Potter har analyserat de prediktioner Federal Reserve Bank of New York gjort över utvecklingen av real BNP och arbetslöshet under åren 2007-2010. Det visar sig att prediktionerna slog fel med respektive 5.9% och 4.4% (vilket motsvarar 6 miljoner arbetslösa):

Economic forecasters never expect to predict precisely. One way of measuring the accuracy of their forecasts is against previous forecast errors. When judged by forecast error performance metrics from the macroeconomic quiescent period that many economists have labeled the Great Moderation, the New York Fed research staff forecasts, as well as most private sector forecasts for real activity before the Great Recession, look unusually far off the mark.

    One source for such metrics is a paper by Reifschneider and Tulip (2007). They analyzed the forecast error performance of a range of public and private forecasters over 1986 to 2006 (that is, roughly the period that most economists associate with the Great Moderation in the United States).

    On the basis of their analysis, one could have expected that an October 2007 forecast of real GDP growth for 2008 would be within 1.3 percentage points of the actual outcome 70 percent of the time. The New York Fed staff forecast at that time was for growth of 2.6 percent in 2008. Based on the forecast of 2.6 percent and the size of forecast errors over the Great Moderation period, one would have expected that 70 percent of the time, actual growth would be within the 1.3 to 3.9 percent range. The current estimate of actual growth in 2008 is -3.3 percent, indicating that our forecast was off by 5.9 percentage points.

    Using a similar approach to Reifschneider and Tulip but including forecast errors for 2007, one would have expected that 70 percent of the time the unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2009 should have been within 0.7 percentage point of a forecast made in April 2008. The actual forecast error was 4.4 percentage points, equivalent to an unexpected increase of over 6 million in the number of unemployed workers. Under the erroneous assumption that the 70 percent projection error band was based on a normal distribution, this would have been a 6 standard deviation error, a very unlikely occurrence indeed.

Med andra ord – dessa tvärsäkra mainstream-ekonomer med sina rigorösa, precisa och matematiska modeller, hade fel. Och vi andra får betala för det. 

New Keynesianism – what a gross misnomer!

27 November, 2011 at 13:08 | Posted in Economics, Theory of Science & Methodology | Comments Off on New Keynesianism – what a gross misnomer!

Back in 1994 Laurence Ball and Greg Mankiw argued that

although traditionalists are often called ‘new Keynesians,’ this label is a misnomer. They could just as easily be called ‘new monetarists.’

That is still true today. New Keynesianism is a gross misnomer. The macroeconomics of people like Greg Mankiw has a lot to do with Milton Friedman, Robert Lucas and Thomas Sargent – and very little, or next to nothing, to do with the founder of macroeconomics, John Maynard Keynes.

In a more recent paper on modern macroeconomics, Greg Mankiw writes:

The real world of macroeconomic policymaking can be disheartening for those of us who have spent most of our careers in academia. The sad truth is that the macroeconomic research of the past three decades has had only minor impact on the practical analysis of monetary or fiscal policy. The explanation is not that economists in the policy arena are ignorant of recent developments. Quite the contrary: The staff of the Federal Reserve includes some of the best young Ph.D.’s, and the Council of Economic Advisers under both Democratic and Republican administrations draws talent from the nation’s top research universities. The fact that modern macroeconomic research is not widely used in practical policymaking is prima facie evidence that it is of little use for this purpose. The research may have been successful as a matter of science, but it has not contributed significantly to macroeconomic engineering.

So, then what is the raison d’être of macroeconomics, if it has nothing to say about the real world and the economic problems out there?

The final court of appeal for macroeconomic models is the real world, and as long as no convincing justification is put forward for how the inferential bridging de facto is made, macroeconomic modelbuilding is little more than “hand waving” that give us rather little warrant for making inductive inferences from models to real world target systems. If substantive questions about the real world are being posed, it is the formalistic-mathematical representations utilized to analyze them that have to match reality, not the other way around. As Keynes has it:

Economics is a science of thinking in terms of models joined to the art of choosing models which are relevant to the contemporary world. It is compelled to be this, because, unlike the natural science, the material to which it is applied is, in too many respects, not homogeneous through time.

If macoeconomic models – no matter of what ilk –  assume representative actors, rational expectations, market clearing and equilibrium, and we know that real people and markets cannot be expected to obey these assumptions, the warrants for supposing that conclusions or hypothesis of causally relevant mechanisms or regularities can be bridged, are obviously non-justifiable. Macroeconomic theorists – regardless of being “New Monetarist”, “New Classical” or “New Keynesian” – ought to do some ontological reflection and heed Keynes’ warnings on using  thought-models in economics:

The object of our analysis is, not to provide a machine, or method of blind manipulation, which will furnish an infallible answer, but to provide ourselves with an organized and orderly method of thinking out particular problems; and, after we have reached a provisional conclusion by isolating the complicating factors one by one, we then have to go back on ourselves and allow, as well as we can, for the probable interactions of the factors amongst themselves. This is the nature of economic thinking. Any other way of applying our formal principles of thought (without which, however, we shall be lost in the wood) will lead us into error.

Greg Mankiw Walkout – the movie

26 November, 2011 at 20:58 | Posted in Economics, Education & School | Comments Off on Greg Mankiw Walkout – the movie

Set fire to the rain

26 November, 2011 at 20:30 | Posted in Varia | Comments Off on Set fire to the rain

This one is for you, Jeanette Meyer.

Eurofördel? I’ll be dipped!

26 November, 2011 at 13:20 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Eurofördel? I’ll be dipped!

Frågan om Sverige ska ansluta sig till EMU dyker då och då upp i debatten. I Tillämpad makroekonomi (SNS, 4 uppl 2011) har exempelvis ekonomiprofessorn Harry Flam ett kapitel som diskuterar huruvida Sverige skulle förlora eller vinna på att gå med i EMU. Här radas de vanliga argumenten för (ökad utrikeshandel och investeringar, minskad valutaväxling, mer integrerade finansiella marknader m m) och mot (dålig penningpolitisk anpassning till enskilda länders behov, premiering av kortsiktig och oansvarig finanspolitik m m) upp. Efter att ha vägt dessa för- och nackdelar mot varandra kommer sedan Flam fram till bedömningen att

det är oklart om de makroekonomiska kostnaderna av att vara med i den monetära unionen kan förväntas vara större eller mindre än de makroekonomiska kostnaderna av att stå utanför, och att de mikroekonomiska vinsterna – i form av ökad handel med varor, ökade investeringar och ökad finansiell integration – överväger.

Jo man tackar! Fördelar med finansiell integration? Låt oss titta lite på hur det ser ut där ute i verkligheten och inte bara hänge oss åt lek med tankemodeller:

    Källa: Der Spiegel

Vem bryr sig om EU?

26 November, 2011 at 11:03 | Posted in Politics & Society | Comments Off on Vem bryr sig om EU?

       Source: Der Spiegel

Går euron att rädda?

26 November, 2011 at 10:50 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | Comments Off on Går euron att rädda?

Ja, men då behövs enligt The Economist en vidare tolkning av ECB:S penningpolitiska mandat:

Can anything be done to avert disaster? The answer is still yes, but the scale of action needed is growing even as the time to act is running out. The only institution that can provide immediate relief is the ECB. As the lender of last resort, it must do more to save the banks by offering unlimited liquidity for longer duration against a broader range of collateral. Even if the ECB rejects this logic for governments—wrongly, in our view—large-scale bond-buying is surely now justified by the ECB’s own narrow interpretation of prudent central banking. That is because much looser monetary policy is necessary to stave off recession and deflation in the euro zone.

Fears of moral hazard mean less now that all peripheral-country governments are committed to austerity and reform. Debt mutualisation can be devised to stop short of a permanent transfer union. Mrs Merkel and the ECB cannot continue to threaten feckless economies with exclusion from the euro in one breath and reassure markets by promising the euro’s salvation with the next. Unless she chooses soon, Germany’s chancellor will find that the choice has been made for her.

Angela Merkel – Iron Lady of the euro

25 November, 2011 at 15:00 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | Comments Off on Angela Merkel – Iron Lady of the euro

In today’s The Telegraph we could read:

Ms Merkel instead used a three-way summit with France and Italy in Strasbourg to insist that new treaty powers to intervene and punish sinner states remained the key focus of Europe’s rescue efforts. She said: “The countries who don’t keep to the stability pact have to be punished – those who contravene it need to be penalised. We need to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Merkel reminds me of another Iron Lady – the one that had tea with a murderer and dictator, Augusto Pinochet, telling  him how greatful she was for all he had done to restore democracy in his country, Chile.

Europa år 2021

25 November, 2011 at 10:59 | Posted in Varia | Comments Off on Europa år 2021

Wall Street Journal gav Niall Ferguson häromdagen sin vision av Europa år 2021 …

Min förtjänst att Anders Borg fick sin utmärkelse

25 November, 2011 at 08:45 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | 1 Comment

Financial Times rankade i veckan som gick Europas finansminstrar efter politisk förmåga, ekonomi och trovärdighet. Anders Borg toppade listan och utsågs till “European finance minister of the year.”

Till skillnad från Anders Borg  – som med näbbar och klor ville ha in oss i EMU vid folkomröstningen år 2003 – röstade yours truly och majoriteten svenskar nej till euron. Vi var klokare än vår finansminister. Tack vare vår riktiga analys av de grundläggande och svåröverkomliga problemen med euron slapp Sverige undan detta ekonomisänke. Hade svenska folket lyssnat på Borg år 2003 hade Borg år 2011 inte fått någon utmärkelse för välskött ekonomi.

Why Does Merkel Oppose Euro Bonds?

24 November, 2011 at 22:23 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Why Does Merkel Oppose Euro Bonds?

Charles Hawley tries to give an answer to that question in a lengthy article on today’s Der Spiegel Online. He concludes:

Merkel, though, remains convinced that euro-zone leaders must keep the pressure on in order to ensure that debt-laden countries institute the austerity programs necessary to begin bringing debt levels down. That, she never tires of intoning, is the only thing that will convince markets in the long term that the euro zone can survive.

As such, she prefers that European Union treaties be changed to allow for greater integration of euro-zone countries — a position she repeated on Wednesday in response to Barroso’s euro bond proposal and again on Thursday following the meeting with Sarkozy.

Specifically, she wants clear consequences to be anchored in the Lisbon Treaty should a euro-zone member state fall afoul of EU debt rules. “We have to take steps toward the creation of a fiscal union,” Merkel said on Thursday in Strasbourg. Those that violate the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact must “be taken to task.” She and Sarkozy said that they would be presenting a proposal for possible amendments to the Lisbon Treaty in the coming days.

Only once such fiscal discipline is anchored in the EU’s underlying treaty can a collectivization of euro-zone debt enter the discussion, Merkel insists. That, though, may not happen for some time to come. The last time a fundamental change was made to the fundamental treaties governing the EU, it took years before all 27 members granted their approval.

After taking part of that analysis it is perhaps easier to concur with Robert Skidelsky‘s verdict on the euro:

In the long run, the eurozone must be recognized as a failed experiment. It should be reconstituted with far fewer members, including only countries that do not run persistent current-account deficits. Everything else that has been proposed to save the eurozone in its current form – a central treasury, a monetary authority that does more than target inflation, fiscal harmonization, a new treaty – is a political pipe dream.


Economics and the importance of non-ergodicity

24 November, 2011 at 21:48 | Posted in Statistics & Econometrics, Theory of Science & Methodology | Comments Off on Economics and the importance of non-ergodicity

To understand real world ”non-routine” decisions and unforeseeable changes in behaviour, ergodic probability distributions are of no avail. In a world full of genuine uncertainty – where real historical time rules the roost – the probabilities that ruled the past are not those that will rule the future.

When we cannot accept that the observations, along the time-series available to us, are independent … we have, in strict logic, no more than one observation, all of the separate items having to be taken together. For the analysis of that the probability calculus is useless; it does not apply … I am bold enough to conclude, from these considerations that the usefulness of ‘statistical’ or ‘stochastic’ methods in economics is a good deal less than is now conventionally supposed … We should always ask ourselves, before we apply them, whether they are appropriate to the problem in hand. Very often they are not … The probability calculus is no excuse for forgetfulness.

John Hicks, Causality in Economics, 1979:121

Time is what prevents everything from happening at once. To simply assume that economic processes are ergodic – and a fortiori in any relevant sense timeless – is not a sensible way for dealing with the kind of genuine uncertainty that permeates open systems such as economies.

Straight from the horse’s mouth – Bank of England’s Andrew Haldane on the inadequacy of modern finance

23 November, 2011 at 18:16 | Posted in Economics | 1 Comment

Does the financial sector really make a net contribution to society? Many have perhaps doubted it. In an interesting article Andrew Haldane – executive director for financial stability at the Bank of England – largely comes down on the side of those who – like yours truly – have questioned the social value of the overinflated financial sector of the neo-liberal deregulation-era:

There is no doubting the financial sector has a significant impact on the real economy. Financial crisis experience makes this only too clear … But that does not answer the question of what positive contribution finance makes in normal, non-recessionary states … As currently measured, however, it seems likely that the value of financial intermediation services is significantly overstated in the national accounts.

In fact, high pre-crisis returns to banking had a much more mundane explanation. They reflected simply increased risk-taking across the sector. This was not an outward shift in the portfolio possibility set of finance. Instead, it was a traverse up the high-wire of risk and return. This hire-wire act involved, on the asset side, rapid credit expansion, often through the development of poorly understood financial instruments. On the liability side, this ballooning balance sheet was financed using risky leverage, often at short maturities.

In what sense is increased risk-taking by banks a value-added service for the economy at large? In short, it is not.

The financial system provides a number of services to the wider economy, including payment and transaction services to depositors and borrowers; intermediation services by transforming deposits into funding for households, companies or governments; and risk transfer and insurance services. In doing so, financial intermediaries take on risk …

But bearing risk is not, by itself, a productive activity. The act of investing capital in a risky asset is a fundamental feature of capital markets … Similarly, a household that decides to use all of its liquid deposits to purchase a house, instead of borrowing some money from the bank and keeping some of its deposits with the bank, is bearing liquidity risk.

Neither of these acts could be said to boost overall economic activity or productivity in the economy. They re-allocate risk in the system but do not fundamentally change its size or shape … Indeed, a banking system that does not accurately assess and price risk could even be thought to subtract value from the economy.

We now know that the risk being taken by banks was not in fact borne by them, fully or potentially even partially. Instead it has been borne by society.

Are We Greg Mankiw or Not?

22 November, 2011 at 00:04 | Posted in Economics, Education & School | 2 Comments

As I wrote about the other week (here), a walkout was staged early this month by students in the introductory economics class Ec10 at Harvard, taught by Greg Mankiw. Robin Wells comments on this cause célèbre on  INET are worth pondering on:

Is Mankiw simply the target of fuzzy-minded youth who are more intent on making a statement than engaging in reasoned inquiry? Or, is Mankiw – and much of the profession, for that matter – getting a needed reality check about the need to re-orient the way we teach economics? 

[W]hat I will say is this: something is shifting out there, and we ignore it at our peril. It would be very easy to dismiss the student walk-out as an exercise in intellectual laziness and grandstanding.  (After all, as many have pointed out, Keynesian models can’t be taught until second semester of Harvard Ec10.)  But perceptive instructors know that sometimes a stupid question is more than a stupid question.  And a really perceptive instructor will take a seemingly stupid question and turn it into the insightful question that the student should have asked. 

Right now the general public views the economics profession with a large measure of distrust and in some cases outright contempt. Students are entering the worst job market in well over a generation, without much prospect of improvement.  Many of them have seen their parents’ lives turned upside down by financial troubles.  They face being members of the first generation in American history with a lower standard of living than their parents.  Income inequality has reached levels not seen since the Gilded Age.  There are over 4 million long-term unemployed.

In this environment, instructors who lecture on the superiority of free markets without acknowledging the dysfunction in the wider economy are at risk of appearing out of touch and exacerbating antipathy towards economics.

But how does an instructor do this in an introductory economics?  I think it’s largely a matter of shifting our perspective to let go of the certainties that were part of our economic training and admit to the painful economic uncertainties that many Americans now inhabit.

Bad theories underpinning even worse policies are in dire need of healthy antidotes – so, after all, there seems to be a connection between Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Ec10 … 

Den svenska modellen – ett minne blott!

21 November, 2011 at 21:22 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | Comments Off on Den svenska modellen – ett minne blott!

En gång i tiden var Sverige ett föregångsland när det gällde jämlikhet. Det var då det. Enligt nyreviderade data från SCB har utvecklingen av disponibel inkomst per konsumtionsenhet (exklusive kapitalvinst efter deciler, samtliga personer 1995-2010, medelvärden i tusen kr per k.e. i 2010 års priser) de senaste åren sett ut så här:

Den svenska modellen och jämlikheten verkar ha försvunnit någonstans på resan. Undrar just vilken roll sänkta skatter för de som tjänar mest och minskade ersättningar för låginkomsttagare, sjuka och arbetslösa spelat …

Ständigt denne Krugman!

21 November, 2011 at 19:44 | Posted in Economics | 2 Comments

Om man stöter på något riktigt intelligent, kunnigt och relevant om makroekonomi idag, så nog kan man ge sig den på att författaren påfallande ofta heter Paul Krugman. Som nu senast i NewYork Times där han igår sopade mattan med alla “euroteknokrater”: 

Let me single out in particular the European Central Bank (E.C.B.), which is supposed to be the ultimate technocratic institution, and which has been especially notable for taking refuge in fantasy as things go wrong. Last year, for example, the bank affirmed its belief in the confidence fairy — that is, the claim that budget cuts in a depressed economy will actually promote expansion, by raising business and consumer confidence. Strange to say, that hasn’t happened anywhere.

And now, with Europe in crisis — a crisis that can’t be contained unless the E.C.B. steps in to stop the vicious circle of financial collapse — its leaders still cling to the notion that price stability cures all ills. Last week Mario Draghi, the E.C.B.’s new president, declared that “anchoring inflation expectations” is “the major contribution we can make in support of sustainable growth, employment creation and financial stability.”

This is an utterly fantastic claim to make at a time when expected European inflation is, if anything, too low, and what’s roiling the markets is fear of more or less immediate financial collapse. And it’s more like a religious proclamation than a technocratic assessment.

Och här hemma får vi dras med ekonomer och europellejönsar av typen Carl Bastiat Hamilton, Stefan Fölster och Marian Radetzki. Det är inte utan att man längtar tillbaka till tiden over there …

Finansiell stabilitet och penningpolitik

21 November, 2011 at 15:20 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Finansiell stabilitet och penningpolitik

Torbjörn Becker har tillsammans med två amerikanska forskarkollegor granskat Riksbankens hantering av den finansiella krisen. I en artikel på Newsmill sammanfattar Becker lärdomarna:

Det svenska finansiella systemet är extra känsligt för störningar på internationella kapitalmarknader på grund av att svenska banker och andra finansiella institutioner har så stora tillgångar och fordringar i utlandet . . . För Sverige är det särskilt viktigt att regleringarna fokuseras på att begränsa effekterna av störningar från omvärlden.

Men regleringar av det finansiella systemet behövs inte bara för att begränsa effekter av störningar som kommer utifrån. De behövs också för att se till att de finansiella institutionerna inte tar för stora risker i normala tider bara för att de vet att stödåtgärder kommer att sättas in när det uppstår en kris …

Erfarenheterna från krisen och krishanteringen, i Sverige såväl som i andra länder, visar också att sambandet mellan penningpolitik och finansiell stabilitet är starkare än vad ansvariga myndigheter hittills trott när de organiserat sitt arbete. Åtgärder för att öka den finansiella stabiliteten kan ha effekter på det allmänna ränteläget, konjunkturen och inflationen till exempel genom att ökade kapitalkrav och andra restriktioner på bankernas beteende påverkar tillgången på krediter för hushåll och företag. Och Riksbankens räntesättning och villkor för utlåning till bankerna påverkar den finansiella stabiliteten genom att påverka både kortfristiga och långfristiga marknadsräntor. Detta slår inte bara igenom på konsumentpriser och produktion utan också på hur olika tillgångar prissätts och finansieras …

Samtidigt visar den senaste finansiella krisen att Riksbanken och andra centralbanker inte kan bortse från att traditionell penningpolitik, som i första hand handlar om att sätta en kortfristig ränta, också kan påverka risken för en framtida finanskris.

Riksbanken bör försöka hitta något sätt att beskriva osäkerheten och de subjektiva bedömningarna, så att inte allmänheten förleds att tro att Riksbankens räntebanor är något annat än högst osäkra bedömningar om framtiden …

Alla verkar vara överens om att det behövs nya regleringar av den finansiella sektorn. Men därutöver är det nödvändigt att inse att penningpolitik och finansiell stabilitet är intimt förknippade med varandra. Framtida åtgärder för att förebygga och hantera finansiella kriser, men också den löpande penningpolitiken, måste ta mycket mer hänsyn till detta samband än vad som hittills varit fallet.

Jämlikheten hotas av privatiseringar

20 November, 2011 at 16:02 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | Comments Off on Jämlikheten hotas av privatiseringar

Professor Marta Szebehely – en av författarna till den uppmärksammade SNS-rapporten om välfärdens privatisering- hade i förrgår en mycket läsvärd artikel  på SvT Debatt om effekterna av privatiseringar i äldreomsorgen: 

I politiska riktlinjer och svensk lagstiftning finns en tydlig jämlikhetsambition: den svenska äldreomsorgen ska vara ”tillgänglig efter behov, inte efter köpkraft”, ”solidariskt finansierad genom skattemedel” och ”demokratiskt styrd”.

Hotas dessa jämlikhetsambitioner av trender i dagens svenska äldreomsorg – i första hand av minskande resurser och ökad privatisering? …

Det finns en del som hävdar att vi inte har råd med en välutbyggd skattefinansierad äldreomsorg i framtiden. Jag delar inte den uppfattningen. Det är ingen tvekan om att det behövs mer resurser till äldreomsorgen – inte minst för att återställa de två senaste decenniernas åtstramning. Men det finns en bred vilja att betala skatt för äldreomsorg. Och det finns all anledning att sluta betrakta äldreomsorgen som enbart en kostnad …

Parallellt med åtstramningarna inom den skattefinansierade äldreomsorgen har det skett en ökning av privata utförare. Idag är var femte hemtjänsttimme och var femte plats i äldreboende i privat regi – en ökning från 2-3 procent år 1990. Hela ökningen har ägt rum i vinstsyftande företag. Den svenska äldreomsorgen är mycket attraktiv för internationella investerare – verksamheten karakteriseras av god och stabil finansiering, låg grad av reglering och höga vinster. Hälften av den privata äldreomsorgen bedrivs idag av två företag (Attendo och Carema), båda ägda av internationella riskkapitalbolag. Så vitt känt har inget annat land en så stark ägarkoncentration.

Delvis för att motverka tendenserna till oligopol infördes LOV, lagen om valfrihet, år 2009. Genom att låta den äldre välja mellan olika utförare av hemtjänst och även äldreboenden hoppas lagstiftaren att konkurrensen ska leda till ökad kvalitet genom ”den enskildes möjlighet till val och omval”. Ett problem här är att även om de allra flesta äldre vill ha inflytande över sin vardag (framförallt vill de kunna påverka vad de ska få hjälp med och hur hjälpen ska utföras) så är det många som upplever det som stressande att tvingas välja mellan många olika utförare – inte minst i Stockholm där 60 procent av hemtjänsten är privat och valet rör sig om upp till 100 olika företag …

Tillbaka till den inledande frågan. Enligt min bedömning hotas den svenska äldreomsorgens jämlikhetsambitioner av både minskande resurser och ökad privatisering. En tudelad äldreomsorg, med bättre och dyrare insatser för den som har råd och ett basutbud för övriga, är klart i strid med lagstiftning och riktlinjer för den svenska äldrepolitiken. Om vi inte ska hamna där måste det finnas en välutbyggd offentligt finansierad äldreomsorg som är attraktiv även för mer resursstarka grupper i samhället.

Nationalekonomen som tandläkare

20 November, 2011 at 14:42 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Nationalekonomen som tandläkare

Ekonomihistorikern Roger Backhouse och nationalekonomen Bradley Bateman skriver tänkvärt i New York Times apropå bristen på perspektiv och alternativ i den pågående ekonomiska krisen:

Economists do much better when they tackle small, well-defined problems. As John Maynard Keynes put it, economists should become more like dentists: modest people who look at a small part of the body but remove a lot of pain.

However, there are also downsides to approaching economics as a dentist would: above all, the loss of any vision about what the economic system should look like. Even Keynes himself was driven by a powerful vision of capitalism. He believed it was the only system that could create prosperity, but it was also inherently unstable and so in need of constant reform. This vision caught the imagination of a generation that had experienced the Great Depression and World War II and helped drive policy for nearly half a century …

In the 20th century, the main challenge to Keynes’s vision came from economists like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who envisioned an ideal economy involving isolated individuals bargaining with one another in free markets. Government, they contended, usually messes things up. Overtaking a Keynesianism that many found inadequate to the task of tackling the stagflation of the 1970s, this vision fueled neoliberal and free-market conservative agendas of governments around the world.

THAT vision has in turn been undermined by the current crisis. It took extensive government action to prevent another Great Depression, while the enormous rewards received by bankers at the heart of the meltdown have led many to ask whether unfettered capitalism produced an equitable distribution of wealth. We clearly need a new, alternative vision of capitalism. But thanks to decades of academic training in the “dentistry” approach to economics, today’s Keynes or Friedman is nowhere to be found.

Nye ECB-chefen fortsätter vansinnespolitiken

20 November, 2011 at 11:01 | Posted in Economics | 2 Comments

Alla förhoppningar om att den nye ECB-chefen Mario Draghi skulle få euroskutan på rätt köl verkar snabbt grusas. I ett tal i Frankfurt i förrgår slog han fast:

Let me use this occasion to dwell a bit further on monetary policy in the current environment. Three principles are of the essence: continuity, consistency and credibility. Continuity first and foremost refers to our primary objective of maintaining price stability over the medium term. Consistency means to act in line with our primary objective and with our strategy both in time and over time. Credibility implies that our monetary policy is successful in anchoring inflation expectations over the medium and longer term. This is the major contribution we can make in support of sustainable growth, employment creation and financial stability. And we are making this contribution in full independence.

Kruxet är att ECB idag lägger för stor vikt vid sin “trovärdighet” och därmed hålla nere inflationen. Med både låg  inflation kommer eventuella kostnadssänkningar inte att kunna “belönas” med lägre nominella räntor eftersom – i enlighet med den så kallade Fisherekvationen –  realränta = nominell ränta – förväntad inflation. Givet nominalräntan innebär låg förväntad inflation en högre realränta. Det innebär att lägre kostnader avspeglas i än lägre – eventuellt negativ – inflation som leder till högre realränta, vilket i sin tur håller nere konsumtion, investeringar och export.
Resultatet blir alltså att vi får dras med både lägre BNP och sysselsättning än vi skulle behövt göra om inte dessa “ansvarsfulla” finansminstrar och centralbankschefer med dårars envishet höll fast vid ett i dessa svåra kristider fullständigt förödande och felaktigt (lågt) inflationsmål.
Men kanske ska vi vara glada. Om ECB fortsätter den här vansinnespolitiken och försvarar eurons “trovärdighet” finns det nämligen snart ingen euro kvar att försvara!

Vad Bill Gates och yours truly har gemensamt – kravet på införande av en Crash Tax

19 November, 2011 at 18:40 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Vad Bill Gates och yours truly har gemensamt – kravet på införande av en Crash Tax

Stödet för en Tobinskatt växer nu åter igen över hela världen. AlterNet förklarar varför den behövs:  

A Crash Tax would not only reduce the kind of speculation that crashed the global economy, but would also raise revenue in a time of government deficits worldwide. The 0.1% tax proposed for European Union would raise an estimated $78 billion a year, and the miniscule 0.03% tax proposed in legislation introduced this month in the US Congress would raise an estimated $350 billion over a decade.

Americans bailed out Wall Street, handing it a Marshall Plan for reconstruction after its bad bets blew up the world economy.  Now, three years later, happy days are here again for the Wall Street banksters. They’re hauling in big profits and paying outrageous bonuses. But the American middle class continues to suffer high unemployment, record foreclosures and rising poverty.

So it’s time for Wall Street to pay reparations. It’s time for a crash tax, a tiny sales tax on Wall Street transactions, the revenues from which would pay for Main Street restoration. It’s time for the 1 percent to repay the 99 percent, for Wall Street to share in the sacrifices necessitated by its rogue behavior.

The levy, sometimes called a Tobin Tax after the American economist and Nobel Laureate James Tobin, who endorsed it in the 1970s, is far from shocking or novel.  A financial transaction tax is advocated by a huge range of groups and individuals, from billionaires to conservative heads of state. Thirty nations, including Great Britain and Switzerland, already tax some financial transactions. The United States imposed a similar tax from 1914 to 1966. In addition to raising revenue in a time of government deficits worldwide, the tax would suppress the very kind of risky speculation that got the global economy into this mess …

Wall Street caused the crash. It caused devastating unemployment. It exacerbated deficit problems in the United States, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy. If the market hadn’t crashed, sustained higher tax revenues would have prevented these difficulties from intensifying …

The crash tax is, essentially, a sales tax on financial transactions. The middle class pays sales tax on all the stuff it purchases. There should be no special exceptions. The 1 percent should be paying sales tax on the purchase of risky derivatives and on bets that derivatives will fail. This is equity. This is simple fairness. 

Bland de som nu stödjer införandet av en Crash Tax återfinns bland annat Bill Gates, George Soros, Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman – och yours truly.

Privatiseringarnas logik

19 November, 2011 at 11:09 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | 1 Comment

Nu när omfattningen av Caremaskandalen växer för var dag som går reses också förslag på vad som bör göras för att undvika problemen.

Från Svenskt Näringsliv och landets alla ledarskribenter kommer en jämn ström av krav på ökad kontroll, tuffare granskning och inspektioner.

Men vänta lite nu! Var det inte så att när man på 1990-talet påbörjade systemskiftet inom välfärdssektorn ofta anförde som argument för privatiseringarna att man just skulle slippa den byråkratiska logikens kostnader i form av regelverk, kontroller och uppföljningar? Konkurrensen – denna marknadsfundamentalismens panacé – skulle ju göra driften effektivare och höja verksamheternas kvalitet. Marknadslogiken skulle tvinga bort de “byråkratiska” och tungrodda offentliga verksamheterna och kvar skulle bara finnas de bra företagen som “valfriheten” möjliggjort.

Och nu när den panglossianska privatiseringsvåtdrömmen visar sig vara en mardröm så ska just det som man ville bli av  med – regelverk och “byråkratisk” tillsyn och kontroll – vara lösningen?

Man tar sig för pannan – och det av många skäl!

För ska man genomföra de åtgärdspaket som förs fram undrar man ju hur det går med den där effektivitetsvinsten. Kontroller, uppdragsspecifikationer, inspektioner m m kostar ju pengar och hur mycket överskott blir det då av privatiseringarna när dessa kostnader också ska räknas hem i kostnads- intäktsanalysen? Och hur mycket värd är den där “valfriheten” när vi ser hur den gång på gång bara resulterar i verksamhet där vinst genereras genom kostnadsnedskärningar och sänkt kvalitet?   

All form av ekonomisk verksamhet bygger på eller inbegriper någon form av delegering. En part (uppdragsgivaren, principalen, beställaren) vill att en annan part (uppdragstagaren, agenten, utföraren) ska utföra en viss uppgift. Grundproblemet är hur beställaren ska få utföraren att utföra uppdraget på det sätt som beställaren önskar …

Det finns en uppenbar fara i att basera ersättningssystem på enkla objektiva mått när det vi vill ersätta i själva verket har flera och komplexa dimensioner, exempelvis ersättning efter antal utskrivna patienter, lärarlöner kopplade till betyg eller dylikt. Ofta har kommunala verksamheter denna karaktär av “fleruppgiftsverkamhet” och då fungerar ofta inte incitamentkontrakt eller provisioner. I sådana fall kan “byråkratier” vara mer ändamålsenliga än marknader …

Effektiv resursanvändning kan aldrig vara ett mål i sig. Däremot kan det vara ett nödvändigt medel för att nå uppsatta mål. Välfärdsstatens vara eller icke vara är därför i grunden inte bara en fråga om ekonomisk effektivitet, utan också om våra föreställningar om ett värdigt liv, rättvisa och lika behandling.

Lars Pålsson Syll et al, Vad bör kommunerna göra? (Jönköping University Press, 2002)

Så grundfrågan är inte om skattefinansierade privata företag ska få göra vinstutttag eller om det krävs hårdare tag i form av kontroll och inspektion. Grundfrågan är om det är marknadens och privatiseringarnas logik som  ska styra våra välfärdsinrättningar eller om det ske via “byråkratins” logik.  Grundfrågan handlar om den gemensammma välfärdssektorn ska styras av demokrati och politik eller av marknaden.

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