Cato Institute Announces New Center for Monetary & Financial Alternatives

October 21, 2014

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John Allison, CEO of the Cato Institute and former CEO of BB&T Corporation, announced today that Cato has established a new Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives, which will focus on development of policy recommendations that will create a more free-market monetary system in the U.S.

“We have assembled a group of scholars and advisory board members who will challenge the Federal Reserve and the financial regulators in a way they haven’t been challenged in 100 years,” Allison said.

George Selgin, a Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Georgia and one of the foremost authorities on banking and monetary theory and history, gave up his academic tenure to join Cato as director of the new center.

“If there’s ever to be a serious attempt to come up with something better than the Fed, we must bury the myth that it’s our only hope” Selgin said. “We don’t want to turn back the clock to 1913, or to any other bygone era. But we do need to change the intellectual climate from the present one — with its hostile and ill-informed response to any suggestion that a monetary system consistent with the rule of law and genuine competition might be an improvement upon our present autocratic central bank.”

Allison, who grew BB&T from $4.5 billion to $152 billion in assets during his 20 years as CEO, was recognized by the Harvard Business Review as one of the top 100 most successful CEOs in the world over the last decade.

“What I learned over my 40-year career in the banking business is that the more government micromanages lending and management practices, the less helpful real bankers can be to the lifeblood of the economy – small businesses and individuals,” said Allison.

The Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives will explore policy options that include creation of a private deposit insurance pool for small depositors, as well as measures that would expose even the largest financial institutions to a genuine risk of failure, and thereby compel them to either acquire more capital or take fewer risks.

“The new myth is that the recent financial crisis and failed recovery were caused by banking deregulation and greed on Wall Street,” Allison said in his book, The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure. “In truth, the banking industry was never deregulated…it was misregulated.”

Dodd-Frank has also given the Federal Reserve expanded powers which continue the agency down a path of hindering more than helping the economy.

“Since its inception, the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies have been a primary cause of artificial booms that lead to recessions and depressions,” Allison said.

In response, Cato’s monetary center will examine alternatives to pure discretionary government fiat money, including various monetary rules to reduce uncertainty and prevent the Federal Reserve from engaging in credit allocation and fiscal policy.

Luminaries from the banking policy world who have signed on to the Executive Advisory Council for the new Center include Richard Kovacevich, Chairman Emeritus of Wells Fargo, and George Melloan, former Deputy Editor of the Wall Street Journal.

The Council of Academic Advisors includes two Nobel Laureates in Economics, Thomas J. Sargent, from New York University, and Vernon L. Smith of Chapman University. John B. Taylor, a professor of economics at Stanford, Richard Timberlake, professor emeritus from the University of Georgia, and Guillermo Calvo, a professor of economics at Columbia University, also serve on the council.

James A. Dorn, Vice President for Monetary Studies and the long-time director of Cato’s annual monetary conference, will play a major role in management of the Center. Mark Calabria, Director of Financial Regulation Studies at Cato, will also move to the new Center. Before joining Cato in 2009, Calabria served six years as a senior staff member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

“Our intent is that the work of the Center will result in a comprehensive, practical roadmap for implementing the fundamental policy reform needed to preserve liberty and prosperity through a free market monetary and financial system,” Selgin said.

Council of Academic Advisors
Leszek Balcerowicz, Professor of Economics, College of Europe; former Chairman of the National Bank of Poland, and former Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister
Charles W. Calomiris, Henry Kaufman Professor of Financial Institutions, Columbia University Graduate School of Business
Guillermo Calvo, Professor of Economics and Director of the Program in Economic Policy Management, Columbia University
Kenneth French, Carl E. and Catherine M. Heidt Professor of Finance, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College
Edward J. Kane, Professor of Finance, Boston College
George Kaufman, John F. Smith Jr. Professor of Finance and Economics, Loyola University Chicago
David Laidler, Professor of Economics (Emeritus), University of Western Ontario
Bennett T. McCallum, H. J. Heinz Professor of Economics, Carnegie Mellon University
Thomas J. Sargent, Nobel Laureate (Economics) and Professor of Economics, New York University
Vernon L. Smith, Nobel Laureate (Economics) and Professor of Economics, Chapman University
John B. Taylor, Mary and Robert Raymond Professor of Economics, Stanford University
Richard H. Timberlake, Professor Emeritus (Economics), University of Georgia
William R. White, Chairman, Economic Development and Review Committee, OECD (Paris); former Economic Adviser and Head of the Monetary and Economic Department, Bank for International Settlements
Randall Wright, Ray Zemon Professor of Liquid Assets and Professor of Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Leland B. Yeager, Professor Emeritus (Economics), Auburn University and University of Virginia

Executive Advisory Council
John A. Allison, President and CEO, Cato Institute, and former Chairman and CEO, BB&T Corporation
Sean Fieler, President of Equinox Partners, L.P. and the Kuroto Fund, L.P
Robert Gelfond, CEO and Founder, MQS Management
James Grant, Founder and Editor, Grant’s Interest Rate Observer
Richard Kovacevich, Chairman Emeritus, Wells Fargo and Co.
Robert L. Luddy, Founder and CEO, CaptiveAire
George Melloan, Former Deputy Editor, Wall Street Journal
Judy Shelton, Co-Director, Sound Money Project, Atlas Network
Jeffrey S. Yass, Managing Director, Susquehanna International Group

Senior Fellows
Steve H. Hanke, Professor of Applied Economics, The Johns Hopkins University
Jim Harper, Global Policy Counsel, the Bitcoin Foundation
Gerald P. O’Driscoll, Jr., former Vice President, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
William Poole, former President & CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Lawrence H. White, Professor of Economics, George Mason University

Adjunct Scholars
David Beckworth, Assistant Professor of Economics, Western Kentucky University
Kevin Dowd, Visiting Professor, Pensions Institute at Cass Business School, London
Gerald Dwyer, Visiting Professor and BB&T Scholar, Clemson University
Bert Ely, Principal, Ely & Company, Inc.
Tyler Beck Goodspeed, Junior Fellow, Faculty of Economics, University of Oxford
Jerry L. Jordan, former President & CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
Will Luther, Assistant Professor of Economics, Kenyon College
Jonathan R. Macey, Deputy Dean, Corporate Law, Corporate Finance, & Securities Law, Yale
Pedro Schwartz, Fundación Rafael del Pino Research Professor, Universidad San Pablo CEU, Madrid, Spain
Todd Zywicki, George Mason University Foundation Professor of Law, George Mason University