Michael McMahon's picture
Affiliation: 
University of Warwick
Credentials: 
Associate Professor of Economics

Voting history

Deal or no deal: The Greece standoff

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Question 1:  

Do you agree that, on balance, the implementation of the agreement as outlined in media reports will have a non-trivial negative effect on Greek GDP?

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Answer:
Agree
Confidence level:
Very confident

Monetary policy and the zero lower bound (ZLB)

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Question 2: Do you agree that the benefits of reforming the monetary system to allow materially negative policy interest rates outweigh the possible costs?

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Answer:
Agree
Confidence level:
Very confident
Comment:
Real interest rates in developed economies have tended to trend down over the last 30 years. Given the established norm of a 2% inflation target, this has meant that interest rates now hover much closer to the zero lower bound than they used to even in relatively neutral economic conditions. Given this, it seems all the more likely that the zero lower bound constraint will bind more and more regularly in future business cycles. One option is to raise inflation targets to push nominal interest rates away from the zero lower bound but to, for example, a 4% inflation target risks losing some of the hard-earned anchoring of inflation expectations. This is particularly likely if, after another 10 years, it is decided that actually a 6% target is suitable. While I am sure that any of the changes implemented would be controversial at the time of implementation, such a change of the system to allow negative real interest rates as a normal policy choice stands more likely to be a one-off change in system. And given the likelihood that monetary policy is constrained by the zero bound more and more often, a single interest rate policy that can set negative interest rates seems more desirable than permanently having central banks conducting large-scale asset purchases (especially if the central bank ends up holding ever larger shares of the pool of government securities).

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Question 1: Do you agree that it is feasible for the UK authorities to change the monetary system so that materially negative policy interest rates could be safely implemented? (In answering, you may wish to explain your reasons and define your view of 'material')

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Answer:
Strongly Agree
Confidence level:
Very confident
Comment:
There are actually a few ways that central bank could redesign the monetary system such that interest rates of -4,-5, and even more negative rates would be possible. Essentially, the central bank could adjust rates symmetrically above and below zero rather than face the asymmetry that there is now. Each have different practical costs and benefits which need to be explored, but materially negative interest rates of the sort I have described are certainly technically possible.

The Importance of Elections for UK Economic Activity

Question 2: Do you agree that the outcome of the general election will have non-trivial consequences for aggregate economic activity (employment and GDP)?

Answer:
Agree
Confidence level:
Confident
Comment:
I think the election winner will face a need for further austerity and the result will (broadly speaking) determine the balance between tax increases and expenditure cuts.

Question 1: Do you agree that the austerity policies of the coalition government have had a positive effect on aggregate economic activity (employment and GDP) in the UK?

Answer:
Disagree
Confidence level:
Confident
Comment:
The fact that the pursued austerity have reduced aggregate economic activity is not to say that the UK is not overall better having pursued the policies. The counterfactual can not simply be what would have happened without any austerity. Perhaps the right comparison is what would have happened under an alternative government. In this regard, the actual plans pursued are quite close to what labour had proposed as the scale and timing of deficit reduction (though the coalition revised the plans in a major way in 2012 and it is likely that a labour or other coalition government would also have changed their plans).

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