Currency Crises, Monetary Union and the Conduct of Monetary Policy: A Debate among Leading Economists

By Paul J. Zak | Go to book overview

clarifying information for the reader. With a slate of 19 experts, including Nobel laureates in Economics Milton Friedman of the Hoover Institution, Franco Modigliani and Paul A. Samuelson of MIT, and James Tobin of Yale University, the dialogue is lively, thought-provoking and informative. Conference participants dug into the leading issues faced by politicians, central bankers and citizens and did their best to make recommendations and draw conclusions for the conduct of monetary policy in both developed and developing countries.

Several outstanding features of the dialogue are worthy of mention. There is a strong focus on the reasons for, and ways to avoid, currency crises, with separate chapters devoted to the Mexican crisis and potential hot spots among developing countries. Remarkably, conference participants forecasted currency crises in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia eight months before they happened! This shows that currency crises can be avoided if policy makers would take action. Two chapters discuss the prospects for European Monetary Union (EMU), and a poll taken at the end of the conference asked participants to assess the probability the EMU would commence on schedule. One of the chapters on the EMU is the fifth Robbins Memorial Lecture, delivered by Christopher Johnson, UK Advisor of the Association for the Monetary Union of Europe and son-in-law of Lord Robbins. This lecture honors the memory of the eminent British economist who moderated seven of the Bologna-Claremont dialogues, and was open to the public on the evening before the conference began.

Developed countries were not left out of the fray, with several discussions on why the US economy appears to be so robust, and whether this is in fact the case. Conference participants were asked to discuss whether monetary policy has contributed to the extraordinary length of the last two US business cycles. Coincidentally, the conference began one day before the US Federal Reserve Bank's Federal Open Market Committee meeting was held to decide on changes in US interest rates, and three months after Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan tried to 'talk down' the stock market with his comment about its 'irrational exuberance'. Participants engaged in a spirited debate about whether

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