Mark Carney dismisses helicopter money as a "compounding ponzi scheme"

Jake Cordell
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Mark Carney is not about to start dropping cash over the countryside, unfortunately
Mark Carney is not about to start dropping cash over the countryside, unfortunately (Source: Getty)

The governor of the Bank of England has written off the idea of the experimental monetary policy idea known as helicopter drops as a "compounding ponzi scheme".

Mark Carney told the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee this afternoon that he was "not a believer" in the concept of helicopter drops saying the policy would erode faith in the Bank of England and store up problems for the future.

Helicopter drops involve a government or central bank directly giving money to citizens of a country as a extreme form of monetary stimulus. It could take the form of a one-off negative income tax rate or tax rebate - topping up incomes of those in work - or a direct payment or transfer from the central bank. The key is that it would be a large enough - and surprising enough - windfall that people spend it.

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The name comes from Milton Friedman, who in 1969 posed that idea that a helicopter literally fly over the country dropping packets of bank notes in its trail.

"I'm not a believer in the concept. I could give you a series of reasons, but I'll stick to a pure economic one," Carney said.

"A central bank cancels the debt that is purchased, in order to make this true 'helicopter money' it cancels the debt of the government debt. In doing so, it puts a hole in its balance sheet ... in order for the stimulus to be there it has to hold negative equity forever."

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The only way the Bank of England can then start to wind in its other policies - such as the £375 billion of assets the Bank amassed under its quantitative easing programme - is to create more money, since it has none with which to buy them back.

"You end up in a compounding ponzi scheme," Carney said, "there's not a way of structuring around that."

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