Sovereign Money Reforms and Welfare

By Philippe Bacchetta and Elena Perazzi

http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:lau:crdeep:18.02&r=dge

A monetary reform is submitted for vote to the Swiss people in 2018. The Sovereign Money Initiative proposes that all sight deposits should be controlled by the Swiss National Bank (SNB) and that the SNB could distribute its additional resources. While a sovereign money reform would clearly affect the structure of the banking sector, it would also have macroeconomic implications, in particular because it transfers resources from banks to the central bank. The objective of this paper is to analyze these macroeconomic implications using a simple infinite-horizon open-economy model calibrated to the Swiss economy. While we consider several policy experiments, we find that there is a key trade-off between a reduction in distortionary labor taxes and an increase in the opportunity cost of holding money. However, in the proposed Swiss reform it is this latter cost that dominates and we find that the reform unambiguously lowers welfare.

Swiss get to vote on all sorts of proposals, some of them rather silly. This time it is about “full money”, i.e., banks cannot create money except through the central bank. The paper shows nicely how this is a bad idea. I hope the Swiss can follow expert advice.

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