Friday, June 24, 2011

Macroeconomic insights from Sweden

Today an article in the Washington Post presents five economic lessons from Sweden, which has weathered the worldwide recession better than most. In no apparent order, they are:

1. Run a budget surplus beforehand in case deficit spending is required during a crisis
2. Rely more on "automatic stabilizers," fiscal policies that increase spending and reduce taxes automatically during a recession, without extra action by legislators
3. Use monetary policy aggressively
4. Keep a flexible exchange rate
5. Have chastened bankers who avoid reckless lending

The first two deal with fiscal policy and are clearly related, and 3 and 4 concern monetary policy; with a fixed exchange rate, there isn't much room (if any) for an independent monetary policy, as Greece now knows too well.

Bankers who avoid self-immolation are nice to have, but it's hard to draw distinct policy advice from the Swedish experience. Maybe the Riksbank engaged in more aggressive oversight (seems likely) or the structure of the banking industry was somehow different (less so), but otherwise the lesson seems to be that having smaller banking crises more frequently might help you avoid having a larger one. Not a very comforting thought, if that's the best we can do!