The E-money Helicopter Drop Proposal (Brief)

Two basic central bank reforms to increase monetary policy effectiveness, equality and increase stability:

1. Extend the provision of electronic deposit accounts or e-money by the central bank (CB) to all people and other entities instead of only depository or financial institutions. The CB is tasked with providing the supply of money and should therefore also provide an efficient electronic means of making payments and depositing the money it creates. Physical notes, coins and commercial bank deposits or other forms of broader money will continue to exist in their current form.

2. Incorporate new policy tools so the monetary authority can attain its targets more effectively and equitably. The principle new tool is the e-money helicopter drop (hel-e drop). When the monetary authority is pursuing expansionary monetary policy in order to attain its goals related to unemployment, GDP growth or inflation it can periodically expand the supply of central bank e-money directly and evenly into all citizen’s accounts through helicopter drops. Other policy tools such as the ones currently employed may also utilized when optimal. The rate of monetary growth to the public should be periodically adjusted by the central bank in order to attain its targets. Expansionary policy would entail increasing the rate of helicopter drops and a contractionary policy would involve slowing the rate of money growth. Under extreme circumstances the central bank may stop hel-e’s or even issue securities to contract the money supply. New legislation would need to be crafted to allow central banks to perform e-hel-e’s including strict limitations on how they are performed.

Principle benefits of proposal

Effectiveness

Hel-e’s don’t require lowering rates or asset purchases so therefore won’t stimulate financial activities such as credit, asset trading and speculation to the same extent as rate targeting and QE. Excessive credit and asset trading grow the financial sector drawing resources away from rest of economy adversely affecting real GDP growth in long term. Less speculation will result in more stable business cycles generating greater capital investment.

Hel-e’s can generate the same rate of AD growth or unemployment as conventional tools while generating less credit stimulus due to the higher interest rate.

Credit intermediation between savers and investors wont be adversely affected due to a higher rate if central bank is meeting its targets. Higher long term real growth due to a smaller financial sector will improve the intermediation process because of greater real incomes. Higher real GDP is also an incentive to invest more and speculate less because investment is more profitable on a comparative basis.

Hel-e’s don’t depend on bank intermediation so problems within banking system will not affect operation of policy.

No zero lower bound.

Hel-e’s don’t depend on fiscal arm of government to operate. Therefore difficulties of negotiating with political system are avoided. The central bank has no budget constraint unlike fiscal arm therefore people wont hold onto money in anticipation of higher future taxes. Potential undermining of central bank independence is avoided if helicopter drops are performed independently by the central bank.

The central bank has economies of scale in providing deposits/payments and efficiencies will also be found in clearing by central bank provision. The monetary authority is not profit oriented so should provide superior service to depositors. Payments and depository system is highly systemic therefore the central bank should provide these.

If people participate directly with central bank greater confidence in this institution will prevail and people will also become more educated in economic matters.

CB issued e-money also has other benefits over privately issued money due to CB economies of scale and because the CB will operate in interest of public while private banks tend to operate to maximize shareholder profits.

Evidence

Studies of tax rebates which occurred in 2001 and 2008 in the US and Australia show that helicopter drops are effective in generating stimulus. 20 to 40 % of the money received in the tax rebate of 2001 was spent in the quarter when the money was received and approximately another third in the following quarter Johnson et al. (2006). Only non-durable spending was included in this study.

12-30% of the 2008 tax rebate was spent on nondurable goods within three months of payment receipt, and a significant amount more on durable goods resulting in 50-90% of the payments spent (Parker et al. (2013). In an Australian study of it’s 2009 tax rebate around 40% was spent in the quarter of receipt according to Leigh (2012).

Ehel-e’s should be more effective than helicopter drops involving monetary and fiscal cooperation due to the fact that the central bank has no budget constraint and therefore people wont hold onto money in anticipation of greater future taxes.

Equality

Less financialisation means more equality because the wealthiest benefit disproportionately from financialization. Stimulating through higher monetary wealth of all people evenly has a more equal distribution than asset purchases because asset ownership is concentrated.

Lower risk

The payment and depository system provided by the central bank will be risk free due to e-money provision by central bank.
If people hold most or a significant proportion of their demand deposits at the central bank the current liabilities of commercial banks will be lower and hence banks will be less susceptible to bank runs.

Private banks can create money in the form of deposits but unless they pay interest (may require a law change) people will shift money away into risk free central bank accounts which will drain banks of assets. Therefore private bank created money will generally need to pay interest and this added cost to issuers will regulate the amount of issuance.

Banks with excessive risk portfolios will be forced to pay higher deposit interest by the markets and this will curtail excessive borrowing. Short term/speculative activity will self regulate to a greater extent because as banks issue loans and hence deposits they face immediate increases in their costs.

If the banking system collectively becomes too speculative people can place their funds in central bank emoney deposit accounts and therefore pull money out of the banking system altogether which will limit excessive speculation. Without emoney this is not possible.
As a result of a smaller financial sector and less speculation business cycles are more stable reducing systemic risk.

Why a 4% inflation target instead of 2% should be no better at avoiding the ZLB under an interest rate targeting regime.

To achieve a higher inflation target of 4% the central bank has to stimulate harder than to achieve a 2% target. This entails a higher growth rate of the MB and higher demand for bonds by the central bank. Therefore credit is stimulated to a greater degree than under a lower inflation target while achieving the same level of real GDP growth.

Greater credit stimulus grows the financial sector and speculation more which generates more volatility and therefore you hit the ZLB more often. So on the one hand a higher inflation target means the central bank has more room to move should rates need to decline but on the other hand it is contributing to what creates volatile business cycles to a greater extent.

The benefits of providing central bank e-money

A monetary arrangement where the central bank provides electronic money or ecash while physical notes, coins and commercial bank deposits or other forms of broader money continue to exist in their current form will be highly beneficial for the operation of the monetary system.

The central bank does not provide e-money to people broadly (only banks) therefore the system depends on commercial banks to create the electronic money used for most transactions. Deposits generally come into existence as a result of bank lending. As a result we need a larger financial sector to underpin extra lending and provision of depository and payments system.

Central bank provision of e-money will reduce financial sector largesse by reducing the demand for credit to generate electronic money and also because the need for intermediation in monetary policy will be eliminated or reduced. The central bank has economies of scale and scope in providing payments and depository services and can provide a superior form of e-money because it is risk free.

If people can hold central bank (CB) created e-money private bank issuance of demand deposits self regulates. Assuming CB e-money is equally as functional for payments people will mainly hold demand deposits (zero interest money) at the central bank because it is risk free whereas commercial bank deposits are not. CB issued e-money also has other benefits over privately issued money due to CB economies of scale and because the CB will operate in interest of public while private banks tend to operate to maximize shareholder profits. People may primarily use CB e-money if money is originated in e-money accounts during monetary expansions of helicopter drops by the monetary authority.

If people hold most or a significant proportion of their demand deposits at the central bank the current liabilities of commercial banks will be lower and hence banks will be less susceptible to bank runs.

Private banks can create money but unless it pays interest people will shift money away into risk free central bank accounts which will drain banks of assets. Therefore private bank created money will need to pay interest and this added cost to issuers will regulate the amount of issuance.

Banks with lower equity or higher risk portfolios with be forced to pay higher interest by the markets and this will curtail excessive borrowing. Short term/speculative activity will self regulate because as banks issue loans and hence deposits they face immediate increases in their costs.

Banks that make highest risk adjusted returns from investments will attract depositors because they can offer higher returns on deposits or other savings vehicles/investments they offer to customers.

The most transparent and least risky banks will attract depositors which will create a self regulatory environment and help keep banks within legal regulatory requirements with respect to transparency and risk.

CB tools for temporarily or permanently contracting the monetary base without asset sales

In order to manage short term fluctuations in money demand which will affect it’s targets the central bank will need to temporarily grow the monetary base below trend or contract the monetary base (MB). When temporary contractions are required the CB can use existing facilities such as reverse repurchase agreement or issue it’s own securities similar to treasuries.

Permanent contractions of the MB are unprecedented and seem unnecessary. If a rare or extreme circumstance comes about the central bank can very effectively permanently contract the the MB. This can be done through directly imposing transaction costs/taxes on the economy using the taxation office as its collection agent just as the fiscal arm of government does at present. There would be strict conditions on when and how the central bank could impose this form of tax in such a rare circumstance.

Direct taxation by the central bank would be a highly effective method of contracting the monetary base. As an example a 2% income tax on all income earners over a one year period in Australia would contract the monetary base by approximately 35%.

In this instance taxation would be a monetary policy tool because it would be used by the central bank to affect the money supply and destroy money, not for funding of spending.

Effect of Heli’s on Credit Markets

Lowering interest rates to stimulate AD and inflation undermines the effectiveness of the credit markets. Credit can be stimulated in two ways. Higher AD stimulates credit primarily through higher profits and income. Lower interest rates stimulate credit primarily through lower interest costs. It is better if credit responds to higher income and profits because it has greater guidance as to where to go to most profitable areas. Therefore lending can be more effectively channeled. Lowering rates is a broad lending stimulus, which encourages greater levels of lending to all areas including more speculative ones. Consequently interest rate stimulus makes lending of a more speculative nature because lenders have to anticipate to a greater degree where the most profitable areas will be. Increasing lending to areas that have realized increases in profits/income makes lending less speculative in nature. An inefficient lending system will result in lower real GDP growth and an increasing debt to GDP ratio due to higher levels of malinvestment and speculation.

Heli’s are the optimal monetary policy instrument to improve the function of the credit system because they generate aggregate demand by increasing monetary wealth of people without needing stimulus from lowering of rates.

Heli’s could send interest rates higher or lower depending on the relative changes in income, inflation and loanable funds caused by heli’s.

The E-money Helicopter Drop Proposal (Brief)

Two basic central bank reforms to increase monetary policy effectiveness, equality and reduce systemic risk:

1. Extend the provision of electronic deposit accounts or e-money by the central bank (CB) to all people and other entities instead of only depository or financial institutions. The CB is tasked with providing the supply of money and should therefore also provide an efficient electronic means of making payments and depositing the money it creates. Physical notes, coins and commercial bank deposits or other forms of broader money will continue to exist in their current form.

2. Incorporate new policy tools so the monetary authority can attain its targets more effectively and equitably.  The key tool is the e-money helicopter drop. When the monetary authority is pursuing expansionary monetary policy in order to attain its goals related to unemployment, GDP growth or inflation it can periodically expand the supply of central bank e-money directly and evenly into all citizen’s accounts through helicopter drops. Other policy tools such as the ones currently employed may also utilized when optimal. The rate of monetary growth through helicopter drops to the public should be periodically adjusted by the central bank in order to attain its targets while it may also conduct temporary open market operations or issue securities in order to fine tune the short term interest rate or contract the monetary base. E-money heli-drops  would represent a more effective version of helicopter drops because central bank independence is not compromised. New legislation would need to be crafted to allow central banks to perform e-heli’s including strict limitations on how e-heli’s are performed.

Principle benefits of proposal

E-helis stimulate spending through higher monetary wealth of e-heli recipients. As a result of higher monetary asset wealth from heli’s lending will also be stimulated due to improved creditworthiness as well as an increase in loanable funds. Heli’s are superior to current interest rate targeting tools because they generate spending stimulus independently of the credit channel while simultaneously stimulating credit. Therefore dysfunctional credit markets or banking systems should not affect the operation of monetary policy.

Helicopter drops of central bank issued e-money allow the central bank to conduct helicopter drops in order to stimulate the economy without requiring the cooperation of the fiscal arm of the government. This would simplify the process of performing heli-drops and remove any conflicts of interest that may arise from undermining central bank independence.

Heli’s stimulate investment by increasing spending and hence income. Higher AD will stimulate investment as entities compete for income. Heli’s avoid increasing speculation through excessively stimulating credit into an environment of low growth in which investment is not appealing due to low demand.

If e-money is accounted for as a type of equity and not a liability on the balance sheet at creation issues of central bank solvency are less of a concern and wont require additional government borrowing or taxation in future due to budget constraint. Issuance of money by a government entity to its constituent is most accurately accounted for as equity. This is somewhat similar to a corporation issuing stock to existing shareholders. If e-money is recognized as equity the central bank can issue the quantity of money required to achieve targets without needing to purchase assets. Under current system the central bank buys assets such as bonds which are claims on the money it creates issued by another government branch so money currently has no real backing. Ultimately the true backing of fiat money is effective and accountable management of the monetary system leading to a strong economy.

There is no zero bound problem to address under heli’s.

In a climate where the short term interest rate is at the zero lower bound (ZLB) the current central bank counter-parties have very little or no opportunity cost when holding reserves due to low investment returns and therefore expansions of central bank money should have a reduced impact on growth and inflation. The overall public on average have a higher opportunity cost when holding money compared to central bank counter-parties due to foregone utility from consumption or other spending. This is especially true of the unemployed and people with low incomes and little to no wealth. Therefore expansions of funds to public would more effectively create growth at the ZLB.

The wealth effect as a result of portfolio re-balancing will continue to manifest as it does at present but an additional wider reaching increase in wealth will also prevail under e-helis through increased money balances of central bank counter-parties. Asset holdings are concentrated with the wealthier people owning a large proportion of assets and many people owning few or no assets. Therefore under the present system increases in wealth from increased asset prices don’t reach large parts of the population which diminishes the effectiveness of monetary policy. Wealthier people’s propensity to spend out of income is lower than the average person therefore monetary policy induced increases in wealth of all people through money issuance should result in greater spending increases when compared to wealth increases skewed towards wealthier people.

Greater systemic safety and efficiency through economies of scale of the deposits and payments system will be realized if people can also directly deposit and transact in central bank e-money which is risk free electronically alongside commercial bank deposits. The central bank can offer depository services for the public interest. Commercial banks are profit oriented which can compromise the level of service provided to depositors.

A system whereby the general public directly interact with the central bank will instill greater levels of confidence in the central bank. People should also become more educated in monetary issues if they directly interact with the central bank.

What backs money?

The most important element in creating money demand is the competence of issuer and accountability. Competence is largely composed of setting targets and effectiveness of tools used. Accountability assures people hat the monetary system is run in the interests of the public.

That’s the backing, not a metal that if the system collapses you cant usually redeem anyway.

What fundamentally backs money in the long run is transactions money demand. Taxes create some demand. Without taxes people would still demand money because of its usefulness in making payments. Taxes can undermine the monetary system if excessive or if fiscal policy is poor.