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Willem Buiter’s Game Theoretical Explanation Of The Interaction Between Central Banks And Treasuries

Courtesy of Tyler Durden

Despite missing this most recent paper by Buiter at its first publication three weeks ago, it represents the bedtime reading for this evening as it is just as relevant now as it was then. In it, the Citi strategist asks “who will control the deep pockets of the central bank?” and does so from the perspective of a game of “chicken” in a prisoner dilemma context. Buiter summarizes the problem as follows: “As long as neither the monetary authority nor the fiscal authority gives in, the deficit is financed by public debt issuance. With the public-debt to GDP ratio rising without bound, an eventual catastrophe occurs: the sovereign defaults and banks holding large amounts of sovereign debt may collapse, triggering a financial crisis and a deep slump. Following default, the fiscal authority loses access to the government debt markets, at least for a while. The resulting need to instantaneously balance the government’s primary budget means sharp public  spending cuts and tax increases. This would be the “collision” outcome. The outcome where the monetary authority gives in and monetises public debt and deficits is called Fiscal Dominance. Monetary dominance is the outcome where the fiscal authority gives in and cuts public spending and/or  raises taxes to stabilise or reduce the public debt to GDP ratio to prevent a sovereign default.” Buiter does a dramatic deconstruction of this theoretical principal to the practicality of Europe, in a truly fascinating and must read analysis. His conclusion is that the “analysis emphasises that the Eurosystem can absorb much larger losses without risking its solvency or undermining the effective pursuit of its price stability target. We don’t, however, argue that the resources of the Eurosystem should be used in this quasi-fiscal manner. Openness, transparency and accountability suffer when the central bank is used/abused for quasi-fiscal purposes, and the legitimacy of the institution can be undermined.” Alas, this only means that fiscal stimulus fundamentalists like Krugman will now start pushing for monetary replacements to traditional policy. And with that QE2 (and its myriad of imminent associated alphabet soup programs) is even more of a certainty.

Games of ‘Chicken’ Between Monetary and Fiscal Authority: Who Will Control the Deep Pockets of the Central Bank?

 

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