Category Archives: Banking

The Globalization Backlash: It’s Both Culture and the Economy, Stupid

BOOK REVIEW

Euroscepticism and the Future of European Integration, Author: Catherine De Vries.
Globalization represents a “trilemma” for societies, Author: Dani Rodrik.

By Catherine De Vries – While many thought the process of greater cross-border cooperation to be irreversible, in part because it was expected to lead to a universal acceptance of liberal and capitalist values, isolationism, nationalism and protectionism are back on the political scene with a vengeance.

While Donald Trump’s slogan to “Make America Great Again” is at the heart of his campaign and current administration, Nigel Farage’s mantra of taking back control (“we will win this war and take our country back”) dominated the Brexit campaign.

A fierce debate has developed about the origins of these developments. Are they the result of economic grievances of those who feel threatened by globalization (a term for increasing international cooperation and increasing interdependence), or do current developments represent a cultural backlash based on immigration fears and prejudice.

Opposition to globalization is gaining such a foothold in the political and public domain in advanced industrial democracies, precisely because processes of economic interdependence have coincided with increasing migration flows.

Although current societal and academic debates are mostly framed in either economic or cultural terms, it is important to realize that these types of explanations are not mutually exclusive. We should focus more of our efforts on trying to understand how cultural and economic fears interact and fuel the recent popular backlash against globalization. more>

The Overlapping Crises Of Democracy, Globalization And Global Governance

BOOK REVIEW

Gridlock: Why Global Cooperation is Failing when We Need It Most, Authors: Thomas Hale, David Held, Kevin Young.

By David Held – The crisis of contemporary democracy has become a major subject of political commentary. But the symptoms of this crisis, the vote for Brexit and Trump, among other things, were not foreseen. Nor were the underlying causes of this new constellation of politics.

The virtuous circle between deepening interdependence and expanding global governance could not last because it set in motion trends that ultimately undermined its effectiveness.

Why?

There are four reasons for this or four pathways to gridlock: rising multipolarity, harder problems, institutional inertia, and institutional fragmentation. Each pathway can be thought of as a growing trend that embodies a specific mix of causal mechanisms.

To manage the global economy, reign in global finance, or confront other global challenges, we must cooperate. But many of our tools for global policy making are breaking down or prove inadequate – chiefly, state-to-state negotiations over treaties and international institutions – at a time when our fates are acutely interwoven.

The result is a dangerous drift in global politics punctuated by surges of violence and the desperate movement of peoples looking for stability and security. more>

American power at stake in great innovation race


By Peter Engelke – Americans like to think of themselves as the most innovative people in the world. At least since 1945, they have had good reason to believe so. During the Cold War, the United States built the most formidable technology-producing innovation system the world has ever seen.

Coordinated action by the U.S. government, the private sector and academia, combined with America’s unique postwar culture, crafted this system.

But the American system has seen better days. America’s leaders, at federal and state levels, have failed to maintain this system much less upgrade it.

As a result, America’s long list of difficulties includes falling public investment in research and development (R&D, a critical and under-appreciated factor in national innovativeness), an under-skilled workforce, flagging support for public higher education, decaying infrastructure and much more.

The global tech-innovation economy therefore is more than a just crowded place. It is also crowded where it counts: at the very top, where it no longer can be said that the U.S. stands alone. Several of the countries listed here, plus others, routinely score higher than the United States in global innovation rankings.

The U.S. will not long remain the global leader in innovation unless it takes decisive action across several fronts. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Behavioral economics from nuts to ‘nudges’
By Richard H. Thaler – In the beginning there were stories.

People think in stories, or at least I do. My research in the field now known as behavioral economics started from real-life stories I observed while I was a graduate student at the University of Rochester. Economists often sneer at anecdotal data, and I had less than that—a collection of anecdotes without a hint of data. Yet each story captured something about human behavior that seemed inconsistent with the economic theory I was struggling to master in graduate school.

But I had no idea what to do with these stories. A collection of anecdotes was not enough to produce a publishable paper, much less a research paradigm. And, certainly, no one could have expected these stories to someday lead to a Nobel Prize.

Behavioral economics has come a long way from my initial set of stories. Behavioral economists of the current generation are using all the modern tools of economics, from theory to big data to structural models to neuroscience, and they are applying those tools to most of the domains in which economists practice their craft. This is crucial to making descriptive economics more accurate.

Although not every application of behavioral economics will make the world a better place, I believe that giving economics a more human dimension and creating theories that apply to humans, not just econs, will make our discipline stronger, more useful, and undoubtedly more accurate. more>

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An Inside Look at Smart Cities

Bank of America Merrill Lynch – Countless people and technologies keep our cities safe, clean, and efficient; some we interact with in plain sight, and others operate beneath the surface, improving our lives in ways we don’t fully realize.

But for all the richness of cities, urban living can be filled with challenges, from traffic jams to taxed energy systems to overcrowded sidewalks and transit. Many of these difficulties are rooted in dated infrastructure – so as the number of people living in cities continues to rise, investing in and modernizing city infrastructure becomes critical.

The ultimate goal? Creating a “smart city” – one that leverages technology to improve quality of life for its residents, and creates better systems and structures to support it. One that looks ahead to future generations and starts the work now to meet those needs. Investing in the “smartness” of a city not only modernizes it, but creates a stronger, more sustainable place to live and work.

The good news is that the challenge of creating a smart city presents great opportunities. In fact, the smart city market could grow from an estimated US$1 trillion in 20174 to US$3.5 trillion by the mid-2020s. This means opportunities for companies, investors and, of course, the residents themselves. How do you uncover those opportunities?

Step one is imagining what it might be like to live in a “smart city”. more>

Why The Only Answer Is To Break Up The Biggest Wall Street Banks

By Robert Reich – Glass-Steagall’s key principle was to keep risky assets away from insured deposits. It worked well for more than half century. Then Wall Street saw opportunities to make lots of money by betting on stocks, bonds, and derivatives (bets on bets) – and in 1999 persuaded Bill Clinton and a Republican congress to repeal it.

Nine years later, Wall Street had to be bailed out, and millions of Americans lost their savings, their jobs, and their homes.

Why didn’t America simply reinstate Glass-Steagall after the last financial crisis? Because too much money was at stake. Wall Street was intent on keeping the door open to making bets with commercial deposits. So instead of Glass-Steagall, we got the Volcker Rule – almost 300 pages of regulatory mumbo-jumbo, riddled with exemptions and loopholes.

Now those loopholes and exemptions are about to get even bigger, until they swallow up the Volcker Rule altogether. If the latest proposal goes through, we’ll be nearly back to where we were before the crash of 2008. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Globalization is close to its ‘holy cow’ moment. Why we must rethink our outdated ideas about international trade.
By Richard Baldwin – Globalization has changed.

The globalization we knew and understood for most of the 20th century resembled more the globalization that emerged from the Industrial Revolution than it did the globalization we experience today.

That globalization was based on the movement of goods across borders—measurable, limited by physical infrastructure, and parried by policies such as tariffs. But globalization today is about more than trading goods; it’s about trading ideas and, increasingly, services.

Our 20th-century paradigms of globalization are ill-equipped to understand what cross-border trade means for the present and near future. Globalization has changed, but the way we think about it hasn’t.

The one thing that hasn’t changed about globalization is that it is a phenomenon with the power to change the world. If you trace the share of world income going to two groups of countries—India and China in one group and the G7 countries in the other group—back to the year 1000, you’ll see that back then, India and China had about half the world’s GDP, and the G7 had less than 10 percent of it.

Starting around the 1820s—the decade economists Kevin H. O’Rourke of Oxford and Jeffrey G. Williamson of Harvard have pegged as the start of modern globalization—the G7 share starts to swell. Over the course of about 170 years, it goes from about one-fifth up to about two-thirds of world income. That’s how powerful globalization—the movement of goods across borders—was.

Globalization is arbitrage. What is arbitrage? It’s taking advantage of a variation in price between two markets. When the relative prices of some goods are cheap in Mexico, that’s what they sell to us, and when other goods are relatively cheap in the US, that’s what we sell to them. A two-way, buy-low/sell-high deal—that’s arbitrage, and trade theory is all about what the direction of arbitrage, and especially arbitrage in goods, is. more>

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Crisis Of Globalization: Restoring Social Investment Is Key

By Robert Kuttner – Why is democracy under siege throughout the West? How much of the story is cultural or racial, and how much is economic? And can the slide into authoritarianism be reversed? I think it can.

In the remarkable three decades after World War II, the economy delivered for ordinary people and there was broad support for democracy. That era was unique in two key respects.

First, the economy not only grew at record rates for peacetime, but it also became more equal. Second—and not coincidentally—this was a period when raw capitalism was tightly regulated, on both sides of the Atlantic, economically and politically.

Banking was very limited in what products it could offer, and at what prices. It was almost like a public utility. There were no exotic securities like credit derivatives to deliver exorbitant profits and put the whole economy at risk. Globally, there were fixed exchange rates and capital controls, so bankers could not make bets against currencies and entire economies.

Organized labor was empowered. Unions were accepted as legitimate social partners and had substantial influence. This was true in both Europe and America.

In the years since then, political and financial elites have redefined trade agreements to mean not just reciprocal cuts in tariffs but broader changes in global rules to make it easier for banks and corporations to evade national regulation.

Laissez-faire, discredited and marginalized after 1929, got another turn at bat(ting). Hyper-globalization was a key instrument. And that reversion had economic and ultimately political consequences. more>

Fiscal Policy Remains In The Stone Age

By Simon Wren-Lewis – Or maybe the middle ages, but certainly not anything more recent than the 1920s. Keynes advocated using fiscal expansion in what he called a liquidity trap in the 1930s. Nowadays we use a different terminology, and talk about the need for fiscal expansion when nominal interest rates are stuck at the Zero Lower Bound or Effective Lower Bound.

When monetary policy loses its reliable and effective instrument to manage the economy, you need to bring in the next best reliable and effective instrument: fiscal policy.

The Eurozone as a whole is currently at the effective lower bound. Rates are just below zero and the ECB is creating money for large scale purchases of assets: a monetary policy instrument whose impact is much more uncertain than interest rate changes or fiscal policy changes (but certainly better than nothing). The reason monetary policy is at maximum stimulus setting is that Eurozone core inflation seems stuck at 1% or below. Time, clearly, for fiscal policy to start lending a hand with some fiscal stimulus.

You would think that causing a second recession after the one following the GFC would have been a wake up call for European finance ministers to learn some macroeconomics. Yet what little learning there has been is not to make huge mistakes but only large ones: we should balance the budget when there is no crisis. more>

Robots at the gate: Humans and technology at work


Barclays – Humans have often had a cautious relationship with new technology, particularly when it causes widespread disruption in the workforce. Yet historically, technological advances have not resulted in fewer jobs available to humans, but rather have led to the creation of new opportunities. Farriers and saddlemakers were hit hard when cars replaced horse carriages, but the petrol stations, mechanics, motels and related industries that sprung up created new, yet different, types of jobs.

More recently, the smartphone is a great example of technological advances creating new forms of work. Twenty years ago, mobile app developer was not a job; today, millions of such developers are at work around the world.

One of the most influential economists of all time, David Ricardo, flip-flopped on the issue. In 1821, he stated that while was a general good, he was now more worried about the substitution effect on labor. And the discussion was not always academic – the Luddite movement was an early example of workers resorting to violence to protest the use of technology in textile factories.

As the decades passed, the Industrial Revolution led to a visible, massive improvement in living standards. But the debate – on how technology affects work and whether it is an unequivocal positive – continued to wax and wane.

Machine learning represents a fundamental change. It is a subset of the much-abused term ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and is grounded in statistics and mathematical optimization. The computer is fed vast data sets and a few general parameters to point it in the right direction. Then, the machine executes simulations of how biological neurons behave, uses that to recognize recurring sequences in the data, and writes its own rules.

Suddenly, it is no longer limited to applying algorithms that
a human wrote; the machine is designing its own. more (pdf)>