Joseph Stiglitz: Drink-driving on the US's road to recovery
Joseph Stiglitz: Drink-driving on the US's road to recovery.
Indeed, many developing countries, fearful of losing their economic sovereignty to the IMF – as occurred during the 1997 Asian financial crisis – accumulated hundreds of billions of dollars in reserves. Money put into reserves is income not spent.
Moreover, growing inequality in most countries of the world has meant that money has gone from those who would spend it to those who are so well off that, try as they might, they can't spend it all.
The world's unending appetite for oil, beyond its ability or willingness to produce, has contributed a third factor. Rising oil prices transferred money to oil-rich countries, again contributing to the flood of liquidity. Though oil prices have been dampened for now, a robust recovery could send them soaring again.
For a while, people spoke almost approvingly of the flood of liquidity. But this was just the flip side of what Keynes had worried about – insufficient global aggregate demand. The search for return contributed to the reckless leverage and risk-taking that underlay this crisis.
First, we need to reverse the worrying trends of growing inequality. More progressive income taxation will also help stabilise the economy, through what economists call "automatic stabilisers". It would also help if the advanced developed countries fulfilled their commitments to helping the world's poorest by increasing their foreign-aid budgets to 0.7% of GDP.
Second, the world needs enormous investments if it is to respond to the challenges of global warming. Transportation systems and living patterns must be changed dramatically.
Third, a global reserve system is needed. It makes little sense for the world's poorest countries to lend money to the richest at low interest rates. The system is unstable. The dollar reserve system is fraying, but is likely to be replaced with a dollar/euro or dollar/euro/yen system that is even more unstable. Annual emissions of a global reserve currency (what Keynes called Bancor, the IMF calls SDRs) could help fuel global aggregate demand and be used to promote development and address the problems of global warming.
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