Sunday, May 27, 2012

The World's Central Banker, Yet Again

. Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tyler Cowen summons his inner Kindleberger and gets pessimistic:

We are realizing just how much international economic order depends on the role of a dominant country — sometimes known as a hegemon — that sets clear rules and accepts some responsibility for the consequences. For historical reasons, Germany isn’t up to playing the role formerly held by Britain and, to some extent, still held today by the United States. (But when it comes to the euro zone, the United States is on the sidelines.)
It depends on what he means by "on the sidelines". The US Congress is certainly not doing anything about Europe. Short of a Marshall Plan for the GIPSIs I'm not sure what they could do, and there's no way that's happening. But that doesn't mean that the US government as a whole is showing no hegemonic leadership. I've written a number of posts arguing that Bernanke has been acting as the world's central banker during the crisis -- opening swap lines with every major central bank in the world, extending liquidity financing to foreign firms, not provoking currency wars that lead to competitive devaluations, etc. -- and that this has stabilized the core of the global financial system.

I'm not going to re-write all those posts here, but please click through and read them. The Fed has been engaged in hegemonic leadership, and has done pretty well so far. Its job is not to put out every fire everywhere; its job is to keep the center of the system intact. So far, at least, its actions have been sufficient.

Note that in the op-ed Cowen more than once sounds a lot like an IPE scholar who has read no IPE literature. That is, he's asking the right questions but fumbles for answers to them. I have other things to write about the piece, but I'm going to break them up into pieces over the next day or two. Consider this a teaser.

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The World's Central Banker, Yet Again
 

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