Financial information is a both a public resource and a commodity that market participants produce and distribute in connection with other financial products and services. Legislators, regulators, and other policy makers must therefore balance the goal of making information transparent, accessible, and useful for the collective benefit of society against the need to maintain appropriate incentives for information originators and intermediaries.
The global financial crisis has prompted economists to rethink fundamental questions on how governments should intervene in the financial sector. Many countries have already begun to reform the taxation and regulation of the financial sector—in the United States, for example, the Dodd–Frank Act became law in 2010; in Europe, different countries have introduced additional taxes on the sector and made substantial progress toward a banking union for the eurozone. Only recently, however, has a new field in economics emerged to study the interplay between public finance and banking.
The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed by Congress in 2010 largely in response to the financial crisis, created the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; among other provisions, it limits proprietary trading by banks, changes the way swaps are traded, and curtails the use of credit ratings. The effects of Dodd–Frank remain a matter for speculation; more than half of the regulatory rulemaking called for in the bill has yet to be completed.
The recent financial crisis was an accident, a “perfect storm” fueled by an unforeseeable confluence of events that unfortunately combined to bring down the global financial systems. Or at least this is the story told and retold by a chorus of luminaries that includes Timothy Geithner, Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin, Ben Bernanke, and Alan Greenspan.
In 2011, the International Monetary Fund invited prominent economists and economic policymakers to consider the brave new world of the post-crisis global economy. The result is a book that captures the state of macroeconomic thinking at a transformational moment.
For ten boom-powered years at the turn of the twenty-first century, some of America’s most prominent law and accounting firms created and marketed products that enabled the very rich—including newly minted dot-com millionaires—to avoid paying their fair share of taxes by claiming benefits not recognized by law. These abusive domestic tax shelters bore such exotic names as BOSS, BLIPS, and COBRA and were developed by such prestigious firms as KPMG and Ernst & Young. They brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in fees from clients and bilked the U.S.
The development and deployment of cleaner energy technologies have become globalized phenomena. Yet despite the fact that energy-related goods account for more than ten percent of international trade, policy makers, academics, and the business community perceive barriers to the global diffusion of these emerging technologies. Experts point to problems including intellectual property concerns, trade barriers, and developing countries’ limited access to technology and funding.
Explicit collusion is an agreement among competitors to suppress rivalry that relies on interfirm communication and/or transfers. Rivalry between competitors erodes profits; the suppression of rivalry through collusion is one avenue by which firms can enhance profits. Many cartels and bidding rings function for years in a stable and peaceful manner despite the illegality of their agreements and incentives for deviation by their members.
Despite its theoretical elegance, the standard optimal tax model has significant limitations. In this book, Joel Slemrod and Christian Gillitzer argue that tax analysis must move beyond the emphasis on optimal tax rates and bases to consider such aspects of taxation as administration, compliance, and remittance.
The global economic crisis of 2008–2009 seemed a crisis not just of economic performance but also of the system’s underlying political ideology and economic theory. But a second Great Depression was averted, and the radical shift to New Deal-like economic policies predicted by some never took place. Perhaps the correct response to the crisis is simply careful management of the macroeconomic challenges as we recover, combined with reform of financial regulation to prevent a recurrence.