Don’t say you weren’t warned.
What follows are some excerpts from Banana Republic Ben’s latest blog post titled, What Tools Does the Fed Have Left? Part 3: Helicopter Money.
When monetary policy alone is inadequate to support economic recovery or to avoid too-low inflation, fiscal policy provides a potentially powerful alternative – especially when interest rates are ‘stuck’ near zero. However, in recent years, legislatures in advanced industrial economies have for the most part been reluctant to use fiscal tools, in many cases because of concerns that government debt is already too high. In this context, Milton Friedman’s idea of money-financed (as opposed to debt-financed) tax cuts – ‘helicopter money’ – has received a flurry of attention, with influential advocates including Adair Turner, Willem Buiter, and Jordi Gali.
In this post, I consider the merits of helicopter money as a (presumably last-resort) strategy for policymakers. I make two points. First, in theory at least, helicopter money could prove a valuable tool. In particular, it has the attractive feature that it should work even when more conventional monetary policies are ineffective and the initial level of government debt is high. However, second, as a practical matter, the use of helicopter money would involve some difficult issues of implementation. These include (1) the need to integrate the approach with standard monetary policy frameworks and (2) the challenge of achieving the necessary coordination between fiscal and monetary policymakers, without compromising central bank independence or long-run fiscal discipline. I propose some tentative solutions for these problems.
This post was published at Liberty Blitzkrieg on Apr 11, 2016.