Deliberate. Coordinated. Global Recession.
In early August, I made the following observation. Reading the replies, I noticed that a handful of people thought I was claiming that a cabal of global elites was engaged in some backroom conspiracy to join in a collective effort to crush the proletariat. I wasn’t. What I was actually saying was that policymakers were (nearly) all leaning hard in the same direction at the same moment in time—tightening both fiscal and monetary policy—and that the predictable outcome would be a synchronized contraction.
Last week, a new paper from the World Bank made precisely the same observation, warning that the "most intentionally synchronous episodes of monetary and fiscal policy tightening of the past five decades" could push the global economy into recession.
Axios’ Neil Irwin quoted former IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld, who referred to the aggressive rate hikes being imposed by the Federal Reserve and other central banks as a “present danger” that could “collectively go too far and drive the world economy into an unnecessarily harsh contraction.”
According to M. Ayhan Kose, one of the co-authors of the World Bank study, that harsh contraction wouldn’t just inflict short term pain on the global economy. As she put it:
These types of events have permanent effects on output and it would be very damaging for the short term, as well as long-term for developing economies.
And speaking of developing economies, I happened to catch David Malpass, the President of the World Bank, on CNBC’s Squawk Box this morning. Malpass was a senior official in the Reagan and Bush administrations, and he was chosen by former president Trump to lead the World Bank. Here we are, alongside Alan Kreuger and Kevin Warsh, just ahead of the 2016 presidential election. As I recall, David and I managed to find common ground on some important policy issues.
Anyway, as head of the World Bank, Malpass is worried about the economic environment, which he called “really harmful” for developing economies. I found myself agreeing with a lot (not all) of what he had to say this morning.
He focused almost exclusively on supply, dismissing arguments that the current bout of high inflation is somehow evidence of an excess demand problem. “On a global basis,” he said, “there’s no overheating.”
Like so many others, Malpass is concerned about relying on interest rates to bring down inflation. He believes that synchronized rate hikes will “have a huge impact on output, on people’s investment decisions.” Instead of encouraging the building out of more productive capacity, he says rate hikes will stifle capital expenditure. And he argued that “the fiscal side has a lot of tools to be aimed at producing more.” So he shares the view that broadening the inflation-fighting toolkit is a good idea.