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The Fed and Its Impact on the Global Economy

Paul Krugman writes about a two-speed global economy where the emerging economies are experiencing rapid economic growth and rising inflation while the advanced economies remain in a slump.

A key point he makes is that the countries still in a slump should focus on their own economic problems, not those of other countries. This especially applies to concerns about the Fed’s monetary policy being exported across the globe:

What about complaints from other countries that they’re suffering inflation because we’re printing too much money? (Vladimir Putin has gone so far as to accuse America of “hooliganism.”) The flip answer is, Not our problem, fellas. The more serious answer is that Russia, Brazil and China don’t have to have inflation if they don’t want it, since they always have the option of letting their currencies rise against the dollar. True, that would hurt their export interests — but economics is about hard choices, and America is under no obligation to strangle its own fragile recovery to help other nations avoid making such choices.

He makes a fair point here in that the reason the Fed’s policies are being felt overseas is because those affected countries have chosen to link their currency to the dollar. By linking to the dollar these emerging economies have made a decision to allow their monetary policy to be set in Washington, D.C. That is a choice outside the Fed’s control.

Here is where I wish Krugman would go with his argument. Because these dollar block countries–all those emerging economies that either explicitly or implicitly peg to the dollar–are a significant share of the global economy, the BoJ and the ECB have to be mindful of what the Fed does too. If the BoJ and the ECB try to ignore the Fed’s easing of monetary policy in the United States and in the dollar block countries, then they risk having their currency appreciate too much against a large portion of the global economy. That is why, as I noted earlier, the ECB could not possibly maintain its plans to steadily raise its targeted policy interest rate throughout the rest of the year. For better or for worse, then, the Fed is a monetary superpower.

Now if you buy this reasoning so far, think about this question: could the Fed’s monetary superpower status have played a role in the global credit and housing boom in the early-to-mid 2000s? I say yes and explain why in this working paper.

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