NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Positive Side of Negative Interest Rates

July 6, 2016

John Maynard Keynes said, "When my information changes I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?" For Keynesians and non-Keynesians alike, it is excellent advice -- essential, in fact -- and it applies in spades to the mounting confusion about negative interest rates.  One major point on which Keynes eventually would have had to change his mind was his 1936 comment, long uncontroversial, that "the rate of interest is never negative."  By February 2016, one-year government bond yields in 12 out of 15 developed countries were negative.  Even five-year bond yields were negative in the majority of these countries.

The idea that $1,000 to be received a year from now could be worth more than $1,000 in the bag today is counter to common intuition.  A present dollar has a different value than a future dollar. When inflation is sufficiently high, a future dollar is almost worthless.  But by the same logic, when prices are consistently falling, a future dollar could be more valuable than a present dollar.

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