Tuesday, 30 September 2014
Despite my suspicions of the neoliberal tenor of the organizers and my post-Occupy reservations about marches without explicit political demands, I’m going to the People’s Climate March this morning.
But if we were mobilizing around just one demand today, we could do worse than a global carbon tax, with revenues redistributed directly back to people through a global universal basic income. The policy is both politically infeasible and economically inferior to more complex and radical policy packages. But it is so blunt, and so revealing of the twin issues of inequality and climate change, that it is still a “useful utopia.”
One of the many things I admire about Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is that it examines capital and inequality through an international lens. His proposed solution is thus global in scope — the institutions and political alliances needed to make any progress must to operate at the same level as (or higher than) other global regulatory, diplomatic, and public goods arrangements. Wealth inequality across the global population is a problem just as inequality between current and future generations is a problem, one that must be addressed at a transnational level.
I want to make the connection between some of Piketty’s arguments about climate policy and environmental economics concrete, just as people like Naomi Klein and Christian Parenti have linked climate issues to redistribution and inequality.
We can, in good economics fashion, play with a prima facie solution to a huge global problem. A global economy organized through decentralized markets means that you only have to change one price to change all the prices faced by everyone. Carbon taxes do exactly that, leveraging market interactions to reduce carbon use throughout the economy. With the quasi-failure of cap-and-trade in Europe and its political defeat in the United States, we’re now closer to a carbon tax, where we charge a tax on each ton of carbon extracted. The tax is completely efficient, set equal to the (marginal) social cost of carbon, which we would have to argue about as a society.
Liberals love this kind of technical, social-democratic, fix. A non-intrusive tax would raise the price of carbon, and the economy would adjust, and we can keep going. But I think the magnitudes of the taxes required, together with the sheer size of the carbon economy, mean that even this liberal measure would lead to political conflicts between the haves and the have-nots that would be closer to redistributive politics than gentle timelines of mitigation and adaption.
Economists, of course, constantly debate who wins and who loses from carbon taxes, even if they all agree that increasing the price of carbon by fiat is much better than any other hodgepodge of fixes. The immediate effect of carbon taxes is an increase in carbon prices, and this is largely regressive, falling on households and countries with low incomes.
But three things work against this: over your lifetime, your consumption of carbon will change. As alternative technologies evolve, the ability of companies to pass along the price increase will fall.
Second, the lump-sum rebate everyone would get in the dream scenario would go a long way towards undoing the price increase. It’s been calculated that a global carbon tax, with equal per-capita revenue payments, would on net lower the world Gini by 3 percent and raise the bottom decile’s share of income by 81 percent. And finally, a lot of the capital tied up in carbon processing, like refineries and oil rigs, would also fall in value due to the increased price of inputs. These are hardly the people’s machines — the shift would decrease inequality.
Besides the forward transmission of the tax to consumers, there is also a backwards transmission of carbon taxes to the owners of carbon stocks. The important effect of the tax is what it does to the value of property rights to stores of carbon that haven’t been extracted yet, essentially fossil fuel reserves that are already discovered. This is paper wealth, the promise of revenue from burning fuel that will be extracted and demanded in the future.
What is frightening is that asset markets are currently pricing these things as though they are actually going to get used. What does a carbon tax do to the value of these assets? It depresses it by killing the anticipated future revenues. One Norwegian study estimates that a $10 per ton global carbon tax would lower petroleum wealth for the average oil producer by 33 to 42 percent.
What is the size and distribution of this carbon wealth? Given how much of it sits on the balance sheets of a) first-world multinationals with concentrated ownership and substantial monopoly power and b) democracy-challenged sovereign wealth funds and small countries with lots of fossil fuels, I’m willing to bet it is pretty unequally distributed. So this means a small share of the population is benefiting from flows of income derived from inheriting a stock of dead dinosaurs.
Of course, if the carbon wealth were distributed equally, we would have a very different social trade-off. But that’s not this world. And let us not forget that the primary source of profit here is pure rent: income derived from exclusive control of a scarce resource, not productive investment or labor.
We can calculate the importance of carbon to global wealth thanks toCarbon Tracker, which put together these estimates: There are roughly 2,700 gigatons of carbon in proven reserves, which have a 90 percent chance of being extracted. Climate scientists guess that we have maybe 886 gigatons in the carbon budget from 2000 to 2050 to avoid 2 degree Celsius increases. And oops, we’ve already used 286 gigatons of that since 2000.
So that means we have about 2,100 gigatons of carbon in proven reserves, sitting on balance sheets (already priced into the global capital stock) that we need to not burn in order keep temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius before 2100. Overwhelmingly, this is coal, which is just too abundant for our own good.
To get a sense of the magnitudes, Gabriel Zucman estimated almost $6 trillion were sitting in tax havens in 2008. If we taxed all that carbon as a stock, at $3 a ton, it would be the same liability, and almost completely expropriate the fossil fuels sector (which is worth around $5 trillion). These carbon reserves would become “stranded assets” that are worth nothing or even a costly tax liability.
What carbon tax should we implement? The literature calculates an optimal carbon tax between $27 and $4,293 per ton of coal (the wide range reflects uncertainty on damages and different choices of discount rates). This contains the estimates by Nordhaus ($27) and Stern ($250), who argue about the appropriate interest rate to use.
There are over a trillion tons of coal in the ground. At current prices, that is something like 50 trillion dollars. Essentially, controlling climate change involves driving the value of this down, making it unprofitable to extract. World capital is somewhere around $382 trillion. Given that the world’s top one percent owns about $110 trillion of this, even a moderate carbon taxes could drastically alter the global distribution of wealth, without even accounting for the income that is redistributed.
Carbon taxes do two great things at once, knocking down the share of wealth in the economy while helping us avoid the climate disaster that will drive inundated (and possibly armed) Florida archipelago refugees to besiege dike-encrusted fortress Manhattan in thirty years. But levying the carbon taxes required to avert large environmental changes will destroy a chunk of economic obligations enshrined in stock portfolios around the world.
The political economy of climate change looks a whole lot like the political economy of redistribution. And they’ll be plenty who want to resist it.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
With Transfinancial Economics it would be possible to get a far more accurate understanding of Macroeconomics in Real-Time. This is revolutionary, and goes way beyond the limited claims of this Wikipedia article. http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Transfinancial_Economics RS
Macroeconomists study aggregated indicators such as GDP, unemployment rates, and price indexes to understand how the whole economy functions. Macroeconomists develop models that explain the relationship between such factors as national income, output, consumption, unemployment, inflation, savings, investment, international trade and international finance. In contrast, microeconomics is primarily focused on the actions of individual agents, such as firms and consumers, and how their behavior determines prices and quantities in specific markets.
While macroeconomics is a broad field of study, there are two areas of research that are emblematic of the discipline: the attempt to understand the causes and consequences of short-run fluctuations in national income (the business cycle), and the attempt to understand the determinants of long-run economic growth (increases in national income). Macroeconomic models and their forecasts are used by governments to assist in the development and evaluation of economic policy.
- 1 Basic macroeconomic concepts
- 2 Macroeconomic models
- 3 Macroeconomic policy
- 4 Development
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
Basic macroeconomic conceptsMacroeconomics encompasses a variety of concepts and variables, but there are three central topics for macroeconomic research. Macroeconomic theories usually relate the phenomena of output, unemployment, and inflation. Outside of macroeconomic theory, these topics are also important to all economic agents including workers, consumers, and producers.
Output and incomeNational output is the total value of everything a country produces in a given time period. Everything that is produced and sold generates income. Therefore, output and income are usually considered equivalent and the two terms are often used interchangeably. Output can be measured as total income, or, it can be viewed from the production side and measured as the total value of final goods and services or the sum of all value added in the economy.
Macroeconomic output is usually measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or one of the other national accounts. Economists interested in long-run increases in output study economic growth. Advances in technology, accumulation of machinery and other capital, and better education and human capital all lead to increased economic output over time. However, output does not always increase consistently. Business cycles can cause short-term drops in output called recessions. Economists look for macroeconomic policies that prevent economies from slipping into recessions and that lead to faster long-term growth.
Main article: Unemploymentlabor force. The labor force only includes workers actively looking for jobs. People who are retired, pursuing education, or discouraged from seeking work by a lack of job prospects are excluded from the labor force.
Unemployment can be generally broken down into several types that are related to different causes.
- Classical unemployment occurs when wages are too high for employers to be willing to hire more workers.
- Consistent with classical unemployment, frictional unemployment occurs when appropriate job vacancies exist for a worker, but the length of time needed to search for and find the job leads to a period of unemployment.
- Structural unemployment covers a variety of possible causes of unemployment including a mismatch between workers' skills and the skills required for open jobs. Large amounts of structural unemployment can occur when an economy is transitioning industries and workers find their previous set of skills are no longer in demand. Structural unemployment is similar to frictional unemployment since both reflect the problem of matching workers with job vacancies, but structural unemployment covers the time needed to acquire new skills not just the short term search process.
- While some types of unemployment may occur regardless of the condition of the economy, cyclical unemployment occurs when growth stagnates. Okun's law represents the empirical relationship between unemployment and economic growth. The original version of Okun's law states that a 3% increase in output would lead to a 1% decrease in unemployment.
Inflation and deflationinflation. When prices decrease, there is deflation. Economists measure these changes in prices with price indexes. Inflation can occur when an economy becomes overheated and grows too quickly. Similarly, a declining economy can lead to deflation.
Central bankers, who control a country's money supply, try to avoid changes in price level by using monetary policy. Raising interest rates or reducing the supply of money in an economy will reduce inflation. Inflation can lead to increased uncertainty and other negative consequences. Deflation can lower economic output. Central bankers try to stabilize prices to protect economies from the negative consequences of price changes.
Changes in price level may be result of several factors. The quantity theory of money holds that changes in price level are directly related to changes in the money supply. Most economists believe that this relationship explains long-run changes in the price level. Short-run fluctuations may also be related to monetary factors, but changes in aggregate demand and aggregate supply can also influence price level. For example, a decrease in demand because of a recession can lead to lower price levels and deflation. A negative supply shock, like an oil crisis, lowers aggregate supply and can cause inflation.
Aggregate demand–aggregate supplyThe AD-AS model has become the standard textbook model for explaining the macroeconomy. This model shows the price level and level of real output given the equilibrium in aggregate demand and aggregate supply. The aggregate demand curve's downward slope means that more output is demanded at lower price levels. The downward slope is the result of three effects: the Pigou or real balance effect, which states that as real prices fall, real wealth increases, so consumers demand more goods; the Keynes or interest rate effect, which states that as prices fall the demand for money declines causing interest rates to decline and borrowing for investment and consumption to increase; and the net export effect, which states that as prices rise, domestic goods become comparatively more expensive to foreign consumers and thus exports decline.
In the conventional Keynesian use of the AS-AD model, the aggregate supply curve is horizontal at low levels of output and becomes inelastic near the point of potential output, which corresponds with full employment. Since the economy cannot produce beyond more than potential output, any AD expansion will lead to higher price levels instead of higher output.
demand-pull inflation occurs and the AD curve shifts upward to a higher price level. When the economy faces higher costs, cost-push inflation occurs and the AS curve shifts upward to higher price levels. The AS–AD diagram is also widely used as pedagogical tool to model the effects of various macroeconomic policies.
IS–LMThe IS–LM model represents the equilibrium in interest rates and output given by the equilibrium in the goods and money markets. The goods market is represented by the equilibrium in investment and saving (IS), and the money market is represented by the equilibrium between the money supply and liquidity preference. The IS curve consists of the points where investment, given the interest rate, is equal to savings, given output.
The IS curve is downward sloping because output and the interest rate have an inverse relationship in the goods market: As output increases more money is saved, which means interest rates must be lower to spur enough investment to match savings. The LM curve is upward sloping because interest rates and output have a positive relationship in the money market. As output increases, the demand for money increases, and interest rates increase.
 Textbooks frequently use the IS/LM model, but it does not feature the complexities of most modern macroeconomic models. Nevertheless, these models still feature similar relationships to those in IS/LM.
Growth modelsThe neoclassical growth model of Robert Solow has become a common textbook model for explaining economic growth in the long-run. The model begins with a production function where national output is the product of two inputs: capital and labor. The Solow model assumes that labor and capital are used at constant rates without the fluctuations in unemployment and capital utilization commonly seen in business cycles.
An increase in output, economic growth, can only occur because of an increase in the capital stock, a larger population, or technological advancements that lead to higher productivity (Total factor productivity). An increase in the savings rate leads to a temporary increase as the economy creates more capital, which adds to output. However, eventually the depreciation rate will limit the expansion of capital: Savings will be used up replacing depreciated capital, and no savings will remain to pay for an additional expansion in capital. Solow's model suggests that economic growth in terms of output per capita depends solely on technological advances that enhance productivity.
In the 1980s and 1990s endogenous growth theory arose to challenge neoclassical growth theory. This group of models explains economic growth through other factors, like increasing returns to scale for capital and learning-by-doing, that are endogenously determined instead of the exogenous technological improvement used to explain growth in Solow's model.
Macroeconomic policystabilize the economy, which usually means boosting the economy to the level of GDP consistent with full employment.
Further information: Monetary policyCentral banks implement monetary policy by controlling the money supply through several mechanisms. Typically, central banks take action by issuing money to buy bonds (or other assets), which boosts the supply of money and lowers interest rates, or, in the case of contractionary monetary policy, banks sell bonds and takes money out of circulation. Usually policy is not implemented by directly targeting the supply of money.
Banks continuously shift the money supply to maintain a fixed interest rate target. Some banks allow the interest rate to fluctuate and focus on targeting inflation rates instead. Central banks generally try to achieve high output without letting loose monetary policy create large amounts of inflation.
Conventional monetary policy can be ineffective in situations such as a liquidity trap. When interest rates and inflation are near zero, the central bank cannot loosen monetary policy through conventional means. Central banks can use unconventional monetary policy such as quantitative easing to help increase output. Instead of buying government bonds, central banks implement quantitative easing by buying other assets such as corporate bonds, stocks, and other securities.
This allows lowers interest rates for broader class of assets beyond government bonds. In another example of unconventional monetary policy, the United States Federal Reserve recently made an attempt at such as policy with Operation Twist. Unable to lower current interest rates, the Federal Reserve lowered long-term interest rates by buying long-term bonds and selling short-term bonds to create a flat yield curve.
Further information: Fiscal policyFiscal policy is the use of government's revenue and expenditure as instruments to influence the economy. Examples of such tools are expenditure, taxes, debt.
For example, if the economy is producing less than potential output, government spending can be used to employ idle resources and boost output. Government spending does not have to make up for the entire output gap. There is a multiplier effect that boosts the impact of government spending. For example, when the government pays for a bridge, the project not only adds the value of the bridge to output, it also allows the bridge workers to increase their consumption and investment, which also help close the output gap.
The effects of fiscal policy can be limited by crowding out. When government takes on spending projects, it limits the amount of resources available for the private sector to use. Crowding out occurs when government spending simply replaces private sector output instead of adding additional output to the economy. Crowding out also occurs when government spending raises interest rates which limits investment. Defenders of fiscal stimulus argue that crowding out is not a concern when the economy is depressed, plenty of resources are left idle, and interest rates are low.
Fiscal policy can be implemented through automatic stabilizers. Automatic stabilizers do not suffer from the policy lags of discretionary fiscal policy. Automatic stabilizers use conventional fiscal mechanisms but take effect as soon as the economy takes a downturn: spending on unemployment benefits automatically increases when unemployment rises and, in a progressive income tax system, the effective tax rate automatically falls when incomes decline.
ComparisonEconomists usually favor monetary over fiscal policy because it has two major advantages. First, monetary policy is generally implemented by independent central banks instead of the political institutions that control fiscal policy. Independent central banks are less likely to make decisions based on political motives. Second, monetary policy suffers shorter inside lags and outside lags than fiscal policy. Central banks can quickly make and implement decisions while discretionary fiscal policy may take time to pass and even longer to carry out.
Main article: History of macroeconomic thought
OriginsMacroeconomics descended from the once divided fields of business cycle theory and monetary theory. The quantity theory of money was particularly influential prior to World War II. It took many forms including the version based on the work of Irving Fisher:
Austrian SchoolLudwig Von Mises work Theory of Money and Credit published in 1912 was one of the first books from the Austrian School to deal with macroeconomic topics.
Keynes and his followersMacroeconomics, at least in its modern form, began with the publication of John Maynard Keynes's General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. When the Great Depression struck, classical economists had difficulty explaining how goods could go unsold and workers could be left unemployed. In classical theory, prices and wages would drop until the market cleared, and all goods and labor were sold. Keynes offered a new theory of economics that explained why markets might not clear, which would evolve (later in the 20th century) into a group of macroeconomic schools of thought known as Keynesian economics – also called Keynesianism or Keynesian theory.
In Keynes's theory, the quantity theory broke down because people and businesses tend to hold on to their cash in tough economic times, a phenomenon he described in terms of liquidity preferences. Keynes also explained how the multiplier effect would magnify a small decrease in consumption or investment and cause declines throughout the economy. Keynes also noted the role uncertainty and animal spirits can play in the economy.
The generation following Keynes combined the macroeconomics of the General Theory with neoclassical microeconomics to create the neoclassical synthesis. By the 1950s, most economists had accepted the synthesis view of the macro economy. Economists like Paul Samuelson, Franco Modigliani, James Tobin, and Robert Solow developed formal Keynesian models, and contributed formal theories of consumption, investment, and money demand that fleshed out the Keynesian framework.
MonetarismMilton Friedman updated the quantity theory of money to include a role for money demand. He argued that the role of money in the economy was sufficient to explain the Great Depression and aggregate demand oriented explanations were not necessary. Friedman argued that monetary policy was more effective than fiscal policy; however, Friedman doubted the government has ability to "fine-tune" the economy with monetary policy. He generally favored a policy of steady growth in money supply instead of frequent intervention.
Friedman also challenged the Phillips curve relationship between inflation and unemployment. Friedman and Edmund Phelps (who was not a monetarist) proposed an "augmented" version of the Phillips curve that excluded the possibility of a stable, long-run tradeoff between inflation and unemployment. When the oil shocks of the 1970s created a high unemployment and high inflation, Friedman and Phelps were vindicated. Monetarism was particularly influential in the early 1980s. Monetarism fell out of favor when central banks found it difficult to target money supply instead of interest rates as monetarists recommended. Monetarism also became politically unpopular when the central banks created recessions in order to slow inflation.
New classicalsNew classical macroeconomics further challenged the Keynesian school. A central development in new classical thought came when Robert Lucas introduced rational expectations to macroeconomics. Prior to Lucas, economists had generally used adaptive expectations where agents were assumed to look at the recent past to make expectations about the future. Under rational expectations, agents are assumed to be more sophisticated. A consumer will not simply assume a 2% inflation rate because that has been the average the past few years; she will look at current monetary policy and economic conditions to make an informed forecast. When new classical economists introduced rational expectations into their models, they showed that monetary policy could only have a limited impact.
Lucas also made an influential critique of Keynesian empirical models. He argued that forecasting models based on empirical relationships would keep producing the same predictions even as the underlying model generating the data changed. He advocated models based on fundamental economic theory that would, in principle, be structurally accurate as economies changed. Following Lucas's critique, new classical economists, led by Edward C. Prescott and Finn E. Kydland created real business cycle (RBC) models of the macroeconomy.
RBC models were created by combining fundamental equations from neo-classical microeconomics. In order to generate macroeconomic fluctuations, RBC models explained recessions and unemployment with changes in technology instead changes in the markets for goods or money. Critics of RBC models argue that money clearly plays an important role in the economy, and the idea that technological regress can explain recent recessions is also implausible. However, technological shocks are only the more prominent of a myriad of possible shocks to the system that can be modeled. Despite questions about the theory behind RBC models, they have clearly been influential in economic methodology.
New Keynesian responseNew Keynesian economists responded to the new classical school by adopting rational expectations and focusing on developing micro-founded models that are immune to the Lucas critique. Stanley Fischer and John B. Taylor produced early work in this area by showing that monetary policy could be effective even in models with rational expectations when contracts locked-in wages for workers. Other new Keynesian economists expanded on this work and demonstrated other cases where inflexible prices and wages led to monetary and fiscal policy having real effects.
Like classical models, new classical models had assumed that prices would be able to adjust perfectly and monetary policy would only lead to price changes. New Keynesian models investigated sources of sticky prices and wages due to imperfect competition, which would not adjust, allowing monetary policy to impact quantities instead of prices.
By the late 1990s economists had reached a rough consensus. The rigidities of new Keynesian theory were combined with rational expectations and the RBC methodology to produce dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models. The fusion of elements from different schools of thought has been dubbed the new neoclassical synthesis. These models are now used by many central banks and are a core part of contemporary macroeconomics.
New Keynesian economics: which developed partly in response to new classical economics, strives to provide microeconomic foundations to Keynesian economics by showing how imperfect markets can justify demand management.
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