The importance of being boring — Simon Johnson

MIT Sloan Prof. Simon Johnson

From Business Day

The International Monetary Fund is an immensely useful organization, able to deliver substantial amounts of financial and technical assistance at short notice to almost any place in the world. It also has the great advantage of almost always being perceived as incredibly boring.

Unfortunately for the IMF, it now needs a slightly higher public profile to convince the US Congress to agree to some important reforms. The Ukrainian crisis may prove helpful, though that appears less likely now – which may be a good thing to the extent that one unintended consequence could be a loan to Ukraine that is larger than it really needs.

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Reflections on Bitcoin — Irving Wladawsky-Berger

MIT Sloan Visiting Lecturer Irving Wladawsky-Berger

MIT Sloan Visiting Lecturer Irving Wladawsky-Berger

From Irving Wladawsky-Berger’s Blog

Ever since I joined Citigroup as a strategic advisor in March of 2008, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the ongoing transition toward a global digital money ecosystem.  For over 2,500 years, money has played a central role in the rise of civilizations and in human affairs of all kinds.  As a result, the historical transition to digital money is among the most exciting and important societal challenges in the coming decades.  Its impact might well be up there with that of other major technology-based societal transformations, including electricity, radio and TV, and the Internet and World Wide Web.

The evolution to a digital money ecosystem involves a lot more than the transformation of money - cash, checks, credit and debit cards, etc, – from physical to digital objects that we will carry in our smart mobile devices.  It encompasses the whole money ecosystem, including the global payment infrastructures, the management of personal identities and financial data, the global financial flows among institutions and between institutions and individuals, the government regulatory regimes, security and privacy issues, and so on.

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Don’t rush to blame the Fed — Kristin J. Forbes

MIT Sloan Professor Kristin Forbes

MIT Sloan Professor Kristin Forbes

From the New York Times

Last week, Turkey’s central bank surprised investors by raising a key interest rate to 10 percent from 4.5 percent. It was a bold move to rein in inflation and calm the markets. But Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been vocal in blaming the “interest-rate lobby” — a supposed conspiracy of foreign bankers, and some economists and journalists — for volatility in stock prices and a steep decline in the lira.

Turkey is far from the only country to blame foreigners for recent market turmoil. Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, recently complained of a “psychological war from abroad.” The governor of the Central Bank of Brazil, Alexandre Antônio Tombini, describes rising interest rates in rich countries as a “vacuum cleaner” that indiscriminately sucks capital out of emerging markets.

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Why democracy still wins: A critique of Eric X. Li’s “A tale of two political systems” — Yasheng Huang

MIT Sloan Professor Yasheng Huang

MIT Sloan Professor Yasheng Huang

From TED Blog

Imagine confusing the following two statements from a cancer doctor: 1) “You may die from cancer” and 2) “I want you to die from cancer.” It is not hard to see a rudimentary difference between these two statements. The first statement is a prediction — it is saying that something may happen given certain conditions (in this case death conditional upon having cancer). The second statement is a preference, a desire, or a wish for a world to one’s particular liking.

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Argentina’s inflation deception — Alberto Cavallo

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. Alberto Cavallo

For years Argentina has lied to the world about its inflation rate. INDEC, the official statistics institute, claims the country’s inflation rate stands at around 10%. But estimates by economists—myself included—show that figure is two to three times less than the real rate. According to MIT’s Billion Prices Project, which runs an index that aggregates online price information from the largest supermarkets all over the world and provides real-time inflation estimates, Argentina’s inflation rate is currently about 25%.

This vast discrepancy between reality and what the government claims has been observed since 2007. At that time the government began putting pressure on INDEC, traditionally an independent body, to change its statistical methodologies. It eventually fired workers responsible for creating the price index, and replaced them with employees who had close ties to the government. Since then the official inflation rate has been surprisingly stable—hovering around10%. Read More »