048: Steve Hanke on Currency Boards, Moral Hazard and the Benefits of Privatization
Steve Hanke is a Professor of Applied Economics, specializing in currency boards. He is Co-Director of the Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Steve is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Troubled Currencies Project at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. and a member of the Charter Council of the Society of Economic Measurement and the Financial Advisory Council of the United Arab Emirates.
Previously, Professor Hanke was a Senior Economist on President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers and was also an Advisor to the Presidents of Bulgaria, Venezuela, and Indonesia.
He played an important role in establishing new currency regimes in Argentina, Estonia, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ecuador, Lithuania, and Montenegro. Professor Hanke has also advised the governments of many other countries, including Albania, Kazakhstan and Yugoslavia.
In 1998, Steve was named one of the twenty-five most influential people in the world by World Trade Magazine.
Professor Hanke is a well-known currency and commodity trader and serves as Chairman of Hanke-Guttridge Capital Management, LLC.
Steve Hanke’s most recent books are Zimbabwe: Hyperinflation to Growth (2008) and A Blueprint for a Safe, Sound Georgian Lari (2010).
Friedrich Hayek, Kenneth Boulding of the University of Colorado and Bob Mundell
In this interview, Steve mentions and discusses: currency boards, monetary policy, inflation, hyper-inflation, interest rates, currency reserves, optimum currency area, common currency, fiscal policy, moral hazard, eurozone, ECB, the World Bank, property rights, investment, central bank, dollarisation, interventionist policy, privatisation, hedging, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, futures contract and bitcoin.
In this interview, Steve mentions and discusses: Kirk Schuller, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Adam Smith, Robert Mundell and Kenneth Boulding.
There have only been 56 hyper-inflations in world history and I think I’ve stopped more of them than any living economist – Professor Steve Hanke
In this episode, you will learn:
- what is a currency board and the reason why a country should resort to one.
- about Bulgaria’s currency crisis in 1997, how hyper-inflation hit 142 percent per month and what Steve Hanke did to solve the problem.
- the successful use of currency boards in Bulgaria in 1997 to significantly reduce inflation and interest rates.
- why Bulgaria has one of the lowest fiscal deficits of any country.
- about Yugoslavia’s hyper-inflation of 313 million percent in 1994.
- why Montenegro dumped the Yugolsav Dinar for the Deutschmark during Slobodan Milosevic’s presidency of Yugoslavia.
- how Montenegro will join the euro currency without having to do a currency changeover.
- if it makes sense to leave a currency board to join a monetary union and giving up fiscal autonomy.
- why it’s best for Bulgaria to stay outside the eurozone due to the issue of moral hazard.
- why Greece ran up a fiscal deficit of 12.7% of GDP when the Maastricht Treaty stated a strict adherence to a maximum level of 3%.
- about the Greek bailout of $472 billion and how it amounts to almost $43,000 for every man, woman and child in Greece.
- how a currency board removes the moral hazard of a unified currency area by financing spending with current taxes or the private bond market.
- if Greece should abandon the euro and set up a currency board and pegging their currency with the euro.
- how a Greek currency board would operate if Greece left the eurozone.
- about the success of the Hong Kong currency board and how it operates without a central bank.
- if we are heading toward a one world currency.
- why most small countries should abandon their currency and anchor it to the euro, dollar, yen or yuan.
- whether Greece should sell off its ports, lands and other property to private investors just as Hayek proposed and Ronald Reagan did in the US in the 1980s.
- about Ronald Reagan’s privatisation programme in the US in the early 1980s.
- about the Bureaucratic Rule of Two and why privatisation is an optimal outcome for government, enterprise and society.
- what Hayek was like as a person and what he thought of Ronald Reagan, The Intellectual.
- about candling in the old days when grading eggs for futures contracts.
On Currency Boards:
A currency board system is a system in which you issue a domestic currency, which is anchored to a sound currency at a fixed exchange rate that’s fully convertible. The local currency is backed up with a 100% anchor currency’s reserves. So the local currency really becomes a clone of whatever the anchor currency happens to be.
The currency board is not allowed to emit credit to the government. If the government needs money for fiscal expansion, the only way to get this finance (in the form of your local currency) is to take hard currency in (like the euro) and exchange it for the local currency. Bulgaria has been doing this since 1997. The government cannot sell bonds to raise finance. They convert the euro (previously the Deutschmark) into their local currency, the lev, and can then carry out fiscal stimulus. Consequently, Bulgaria has one of the lowest fiscal deficits in Europe.
On Bulgaria and Why It Should Not Join the Eurozone:
“With the currency board, they (Bulgaria) ‘clone’ the euro, so they’re in a unified currency area with the eurozone but they’re not formally part of the eurozone itself. I’ve counselled the Bulgarians, and the best thing to do is to stay with that arrangement. And the reason why is that the eurozone, the common currency area, has a huge moral hazard associated with it. That is, something that creates bad behaviour encourages bad behaviour and Greece is a perfect example.” – Professor Steve Hanke
On the Greek Deceit and Its Fiscal Deficit:
“Greece entered the eurozone in 2001 on false pretences. They cooked the books and got in. They were allowed in the club even though the club knew the Greeks were lying in terms of their economics statistics.”
“The Greeks calculated that they could spend like drunken sailors, which they did and ran a completely irresponsible fiscal operation.”
“The moral hazard is you join a club and if you think the club won’t enforce its rules and won’t force you to tow the line, you will just go on your merry way spending and deficit spending and knowing, or at least thinking that, in this case the eurozone, would bail you out.”
Greece ranks 151 out of 189 countries for the ability of doing business. If you make a contract in Greece, the probability of having that contract enforced is very low by international standards. It’s like being in Zimbabwe. Greece is supposed to be part of the European Union and a modern country but it isn’t.
Greece should leave the eurozone, set up a currency board and re-introduce the Drachma. This would create fiscal discipline just like the situation in Bulgaria.
Quotes by Steve Hanke in Episode 048 of the Economic Rockstar Podcast:
Hong Kong was aways a unilateralist free trader. That encourages competition, entrepreneurship and productivity. The countries with open trade tend to be more free market in general and they grow more rapidly. – Steve Hanke
“About 90 Central Banks should just be done away with completely and either a currency board be put in or a stronger foreign currency like the dollar, the euro or the yen.” – Steve Hanke
“If you want lower fiscal deficits, lower inflation and higher rates of growth you adopt with a currency board system or dollarize” – Steve Hanke
“He was delightful and charming and very interesting, particularly for Mrs Hanke and myself. One of Mrs Hanke’s Great Aunts was one of Hayek’s earlier loves of his life.”
- Zimbabwe: Hyperinflation to Growth by Steve Hanke (Free download)
- The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
- Reagan, In His Own Hand by Ronald Reagan, edited by Marty Andersson et al.
- The Advanced Introduction To The Austrian School of Economics by Randall Holcombe
- The Essential Hayek by Donald Boudreaux (Free Kindle download)
- Case Studies written by Steve Hanke
- Troubled Currencies Project
- The Hanke-Krus Hyperinflation Index
- On the Measurement of Zimbabwe’s Hyperinflation by S. Hanke and A. Kwok
- Friedman: Float or Fix? by Steve H. Hanke
- Reflections on Currency Reform and the Euro by Steve H. Hanke
- The Privatization Debate: An Insider’s View by Steve H. Hanke
- Could Greece Adopt the Dollar? by Steve H. Hanke
- Reflections on Reagan the Intellectual by Steve H. Hanke
- On the Fall of the Rupiah and Suharto by Steve H. Hanke
- Doing Business 2015 Report by The World Bank
Where to Find Steve Hanke:
- Cato Institute: http://www.cato.org/people/steve-hanke
- Johns Hopkins Institute: http://krieger.jhu.edu/iae/co-directors
- Twitter: @steve_hanke