I believe that the engine of economic life is in the cities. Of course, it is important the national economic policy, but there probably is too much of a bias towards the national level, this is true for academics and policy makers.

I think this bias in the US comes in part after the WWII, the Manhattan Project and Annevar Bush (he basically asked to brutally fund his Ivy League schools to bring national victory through science – he was a very intelligent person), and the traditional nationalistic tendencies of the European countries (I’ll put also a little blame to the Marshall Project for funding them at national level).But anyways, the fact is a professor has more chances to succeed if he focused on the national level, (or even regional level in the case of Wales, Catalonia or Basque Country for their political-economic system – is in it a coincidence that the Regional, instead of National System of Innovation, was created in those places?), instead of cities. Also the national media plays an important role into tell citizens, that they’re not citizens of a city, but of a country. It was not until my research in Latin America for my Master thesis that I started realizing of the importance of the city-region, instead of the national level.

However, sometimes I can not avoid to think about the policies at the national-global level. Today I would like to comment on how screwed up can be the monetary policies of the Central Banks or Federal Reserve during the last decade.

I remember a decade ago, all the pressure that the Euro Zone was receiving to lower the interest rates. I remember all the economic press on how stupid the Euro was going to be with such a high interest rate. For many years Frankfurt, had to defend itself. The idea was fighting inflation and control the economy. After all, Japan had 0% interest rate for almost 15 years, and this did not help them. The American economy was growing well, and everyone though it was because of quasi-god Greenspan, who so smartly had the interest rates low.

What happen when we have low interest rates? Nobody wants to save. If you put the money in the bank they will give you a 0,5% a year, with an inflation of 2% a year, this is loosing your money. You have to spend it, as fast as you can. And yeah, consumption… and the economy grows… Fantastics isn’t? (True, much better than in the 1980s, with double digit rates.)

Wall Street also loves the idea of lower interests, for two reasons. First, because people with savings instead of putting in their savings account in the bank, they will put it in the stock market, you can make up to 10% a year!! without any effort!!. Second, the investment firms they can play, yeah play, easier with cheap money.

There is someone else who likes a low interest rate: The US government. And this is for two reasons. First because they can do all the projects they want printing money, instead of having to tax the people. Something that of course it’s against the “freedom” of the American people. Second, because they borrow so much money to foreigners (especially Asian), if they raise their interest rates, then they have to pay them back more Billions, (or is it Trillions?) in interest.

One of my heros, or one of my former heroes?

Me with the Krugman's name tag, right after his speech at the American Association of Geographers in DC last April

So, is it a good idea to low interest rates in the face of deficits and high unemployment?. This question is highly relevant in 2010. Here it is Nobel Prize in Economics, Dr. Paul Krugman answering:

“it is quite possible to reduce the deficit and increase employment at the same time. All you need to do is cut interest rates, so that private spending takes up the slack” (Krugman, 1998; The Accidental Theorist, p. 37)

This is found in the Chapter “Unmitigated Gauls: Liberte, Egalite, Inanite” in which Krugman bashes the French for maintaining relatively high interest rates. Many Anglos, (German and Spaniards too) think that one can not go wrong criticizing the French, but I have to admit that they were not that wrong, and their influence to have the ECB maintain realistic interest rates. Even though finally after all the pressure, they took it almost as low as the Fed. Which was a bad decision in my opinion.

Looking at the statement of Krugman, sounds pretty ridicule today. Yes, we have to give him that this was after the 1990s US economic growth, but are these articial low interest rates the cause of this? (hint: look at the cities), Did not these low rates contributed to the dot.com bubble? Are not these artificial interest rates the trigger of the today’s housing bubble & bust? Did they not greatly affect  the financial mess in which we are? Did not the low rates helped governments, firms and families got into a huge amounts of debt? With all my regret I have to say, yes, yes, yes, yes and freaking yes.

Yeah, Krugman and others “foresaw” the housing bubble when it was in its last throats, but that was not that hard. Heck, I myself tried to convince all my family and friends to don’t buy an overpriced house!!

Yesterday Krugman, he kept saying how wise it was to keep interest rates low. He says

In 2008 and 2009, it seemed as if we might have learned from history. Unlike their predecessors, who raised interest rates in the face of financial crisis, the current leaders of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank slashed rates and moved to support credit markets. (Krugman, The Third Depression, June 27, 2010)

This time I agree with him. That is Economic 101, from the textbooks he writes! That is when the economy is slow keep interest rates low. But WHY, WHY by the end of the 1990s??

Having expressed all these things, I have to say that I really respect and admire Krugman. Specially for stand against many of the Bush policies and supply-side economics (I think now they go by the name of Tea Party :), and the academic field for his proposition in geographical economics, importance of the cities, and his efforts to bring together Economists and Geographers. And of course because his theories convinced the Swedes to give him that golden medal :)

 

I believe that the engine of economic life is in the cities. Of course, it is important the national economic policy, but there probably is too much of a bias towards the national level, this is true for academics and policy makers. I think this bias in the US comes after the WWII, the Manhattan Project and Vannevar Bush (he basically asked to brutally fund his Ivy League schools to bring national victory through science – he was a very intelligent person), and the traditional nationalistic tendencies of the European countries (I’ll put also a little blame to the Marshall Project for funding them at national level). But anyways, the fact is a professor has more chances to succeed if he focused on the national level, (or even regional level in the case of Wales, Catalonia or Basque Country for their political-economic system – is in it a coincidence that the Regional, instead of National System of Innovation, was created in those places?), instead of cities. Also the national media plays an important role into tell citizens, that they’re not citizens of a city, but of a country. It was not until my research in Latin America for my Master thesis that I started realizing of the importance of the city-region, instead of the national level.

However, sometimes I can not avoid to think about the policies at the national-global level. Today I would like to comment on how screwed up can be the monetary policies of the Central Banks or Federal Reserve during the last decade.

I remember a decade ago, all the pressure that the Euro Zone was receiving to lower the interest rates. I remember all the economic press on how stupid the Euro was going to be with such a high interest rate. For many years Frankfurt, had to defend itself. The idea was fighting inflation and control the economy. After all, Japan had 0% interest rate for almost 15 years, and this did not help them. The American economy was growing well, and everyone though it was because of quasi-god Greenspan, who so smartly had the interest rates low.

What happen when we have low interest rates? Nobody wants to save. If you put the money in the bank they will give you a 0,5% a year, with an inflation of 2% a year, this is loosing your money. You have to spend it, as fast as you can. And yeah, consumption… and the economy grows… Fantastics isn’t? (True much better than in the 1980s, with double digit rates.)

Wall Street also loves the idea of lower intererest, for two reasons. First, beacuse people with savings instead of puting in their savings account in the bank, they will put it in the stock market, you can make up to 10% a year!! without any effort!!. Second, the investment firms they can play, yeah play, easier with cheap money.

There is someone else who likes a low interest rate: The US government. And this is for two reasons. First because they can do all the projects they want printing money, instead of having to tax the people. Something that of course it’s against the “freedom” of the American people. Second, because they borrow so much money to foreigners (especially Asian), if they raise their interest rates, then they have to pay them back more Billions, (or is it Trillions?) in interest.

So, is it a good idea to low interest rates in the face of deficits and high unemployment?. This question is highly relevant in 2010. Here it is Nobel Prize in Economics, Dr. Paul Krugman answering:

“it is quite possible to reduce the deficit and increase employment at the same time. All you need to do is cut interest rates, so that private spending takes up the slack” (Krugman, 1998; The Accidental Theorist, p. 37)

This is found in the Chapter “Unmitigated Gauls: Liberte, Egalite, Inanite” in which Krugman bashes the French for maintaining relatively high interest rates. Many Anglos, (German and Spaniards too) will think that one can not go wrong criticizing the French, but I have to admit that they were not that wrong, and their influence to have the ECB maintain realistic interest rates. Even though finally after all the pressure, they took it almost as low as the Fed. Which was a bad decision in my opinion.

Looking at the statement of Krugman, sounds pretty ridicule today. Yes, we have to give him that this was after the 1990s US economic growth, but are these articial low interest rates the cause of this? (hint: look at the cities), Was not this low rates the cause of the dot.com bubble? Are not these artificial interest rates the trigger of the today’s housing bubble? Did they not greatly affect the financial mess in which we are? Did not the low rates helped governments, firms and families into into a huge amounts of debt? With all my regret I have to say, yes, yes, yes, yes and freaking yes.

Yeah, Krugman and others “foresaw” the housing bubble when it was in its last throats, but that was not that hard. Heck, I tried to convince all my family and friends to don’t buy an overpriced house!. It was not until yesterday (literally) that I read Krugman saying that the G-20 should consider rise interest rates. (I guess the only one in favor would be the Chinesse economists who always take the wrong decisions against the mainstream – please note irony)

Having expressed all these things, I have to say that I really respect and admire Krugman. Specially for stand against many of the Bush policies and supply-side economics (I think now they go by the name of Tea Party :), and the academic field for his proposition in geographical economics, importance of the cities, and his efforts to bring together Economists and Geographers. And of course because his theories convinced the Swedes to give him that golden medal :)

 

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My good friend Ana Luiza was talking today about the article “What went wrong with economics” published in the always interesting The Economist. She mentioned that it was a good analysis of the situation. She’s one of the best economists I know, so I listen to her.

The articles starts powerfully “Of all the economic bubbles that have been pricked, few have burst more spectacularly than the reputation of economics itself.” Something worth it to put in the recently open my quotes page. I enjoyed reading the whole thing. The only thing that I didn’t really agree is when he says “Macroeconomists, especially within central banks, were too fixated on taming inflation and too cavalier about asset bubbles.” I think central banks in the U.S., Spain and many other did not care at all about real inflation. We have to remember that the housing prices (which many say that this is what brought us here) , which is by far the highest expenditure of the families was rising around a 15% yearly, I did not see the central banks really calling for an action on this issue, like for example a tax on an empty house/apartment to avoid speculation.

Anyways what I found interesting is the quote of my man Paul Krugman. Last month at the London School of Economics (!!) he argued that much of the past 30 years of macroeconomics was “spectacularly useless at best, and positively harmful at worst.”

Professor teaching economics

A Professor teaching economics

I was never a fan of macroeconomics, so, obviously this assertion makes me feel really good. I remember in 1998, in my first year at the Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales (Economics and Business School at Universidad de Alcala, Spain), we were going over Mankiw’s textbook on micro and macro, and after a few classes we started questioning our Professor (sorry I can only remember his nickname). I remember raising my hand in a specific example about the labor maket and saying, “but, this does seem to happen in reality”, and he answered “well, you have to learn the theory, even if it does not happen in reality”. Later in class I wondered with friends why in the world we should learn something like the theories of flying pigs. Anyways I was happy to learn about it, but probably less hours on subjects like these would be good.

This non-sense long studies in the mainstream economics studies, among other reasons, was why I probably found Ana in the masters program at the Business Department of Aalborg University in 2005.