Lições de política monetária

Se o problema da economia americana é falta de consumo, por que é que a Fed não se limita a imprimir dólares? Simon Wrens-Lewis explica, em What do we mean by helicopter money, por que é que é praticamente isto que Ben Bernanke está de facto a fazer.

To focus on this, let us assume helicopter money is temporary: the central bank sends out cheques, but the government says it will get the money back in a few years time by raising a poll tax. (This is like the proposal from Miles Kimball.) If consumers are Ricardian, they will save all the amount of the cheque, because only by doing so can they pay the future poll tax without cutting their consumption. How will they save the money? Let us suppose they buy government debt. Then this is exactly the same as QE, except that consumers hold government debt temporarily instead of the central bank. This seems to be what David Miles had in mind in the speech that Stephanie Flanders refers to here, when he says: “If helicopter drops of money are reversed when their impact shows up very largely in prices and not in activity, the economic difference with conventional QE largely evaporates.”

Yet we can now see why in reality the two may not be equivalent, because consumers may not be Ricardian. In particular, some may have been asking their local bank for a loan to buy a car, and the bank had refused because it has become very risk averse since the crisis. For these credit constrained folk, the central bank’s cheque is just like the loan they couldn’t get. So they use the cheque to buy the car, and reduce their future consumption to pay the poll tax later. Instead of buying government debt, they have bought something real, which will increase aggregate demand for sure.

If this is the reason people call for helicopter money, then I have a lot of sympathy but only one problem:  what difference is this from an expansionary fiscal policy combined with further QE? Instead of the central bank sending people cheques, the government can send the cheques using money borrowed by selling debt, and the central bank can buy the debt by printing money (i.e. QE). In this sense, helicopter money is just another name for a fiscal stimulus combined with QE. We have the QE, so why not call for fiscal stimulus rather than helicopter money?

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