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The Obsolescence of Capital Controls?: Economic Management in an Age of Global Markets

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2011

John B. Goodman
Associate Professor at Harvard Business School
Louis W. Pauly
Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto


Between the late 1970s and the early 1990s, after decades of trying to limit short-term international capital movements, advanced industrial states moved decisively in the direction of decontrol. What has driven this remarkable policy convergence? The answer lies not in ideological change or shifts in relative political power, but in the prior development of international financial markets and in the increasing globalization of business. In a policy environment fundamentally reshaped by these factors, financial institutions and multinational firms were able to threaten or implement strategies of evasion and exit. Thus, the usefulness of controls declined as their effective costs rose sharply. In this light, the cases of Japan, Germany, Italy, and France are examined. The analysis points to the tightening link between short-term capital movements and foreign direct investment, issues that have long been treated as conceptually distinct. It also underlines the intricate connection between national policies governing capital movements and those aimed at managing international financial markets.

Research Article
Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 1993

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1 See, e.g., Frieden, Jeffry, “Invested Interests: The Politics of National Economic Policies in a World of Global Finance,” International Organization 45 (Autumn 1991)Google Scholar; Webb, Michael C., “International Economic Structures, Government Interests, and the International Coordination of Macroeconomic Adjustment Policies,” International Organization 45 (Summer 1991)Google Scholar; and Mathieson, Donald J. and Rojas-Suarez, Liliana, “Liberalization of the Capital Account: Experiences and Issues,” IMF Occasional Papers Series 103 (March 1993).Google Scholar

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8 A separate article could, of course, easily be devoted to an examination of the most prom inent explanations for the explosive development of the international capital markets in the 1960s. For purposes of analyzing subsequent decisions to remove capital controls, the growth of the Euro-markets is treated as exogenous. For background, see O'Brien, Richard, Global Financial Integration (London: Pinter, 1992)Google Scholar; Bryant, Ralph, International Financial Intermediation (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1987)Google Scholar; Strange, Susan, Casino Capitalism (London: Basil Blackwell, 1986)Google Scholar; Odeli, John S., U.S. International Monetary Policy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Cohen, Benjamin J., Organizing the World's Money (New York: Basic Books, 1977).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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10 The Mundell-Fleming conclusion that a government has no control over monetary policy under such conditions depends on the assumption that sterilization does not or cannot occur. Evaluating the effectiveness of sterilization is a complicated matter. See Goldstein, Michael, Have Flexible Exchange Rates Handicapped Monetary Policy? Special Papers on International Economics, no. 14 (Princeton: Princeton University, International Finance Section, 1980), 3638.Google Scholar

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19 In conceptual terms, the burden of capital controls falls most heavily upon fixed factors of production. Thus, labor, presumably one of the intended beneficiaries of expansionary policies that necessitate capital controls, might ultimately pay the heaviest cost.

20 The link between controls on short-and long-term flows depends upon the mobility of savings and investment. For any country, aggregate savings and investment must ultimately be equal. Imposing capital controls has the effect of reducing savings and therefore investment. The extent to which investment declines depends upon the mobility of production. If production is mobile, a drop in savings will lead to a parallel decline in investment. If production is immobile, then companies will pay higher interest rates to attract available savings. Investment will decline, but by a lesser amount. On the mobility of savings and investment, see Feldstein, Martin and Horioka, Charles, “Domestic Savings and International Capital Flows,” Economic Journal 90 (June 1980)Google Scholar; Feldstein, Martin, “Domestic Savings and International Capital Movements in the Long Run and the Short Run,” European Economic Review 21 (1983)Google Scholar; Bayoumi, Tamim, “Savings-Investment Correlations: Immobile Capital, Government Policy, or Endogenous Behavior,” IMF Staff Papers 37 (July 1990)Google Scholar; and IMF staff, “Determinants and Systemic Consequences of International Capital Flows,” IMF Occasional Paper Series 77 (March 1991).Google Scholar

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29 Emminger (fn. 24).

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31 We are indebted to Louis Wells for clarification on this point.

32 See Pauly, Louis W., “Regulatory Politics in Japan: The Case of Foreign Banking,” East Asia Papers, no. 45 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell East Asia Program, 1987), 4761.Google Scholar

33 Economist, February 2, 1985, p. 69.

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41 See Schmiegelow, Michele, “The Reform of Japan's Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law: A Case of Qualitative Economic Policy,” in Schmiegelow, , ed., Japan's Response to Crisis and Change in the World Economy (Armonie, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1986).Google Scholar

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44 Pauly, Louis W., Opening Financial Markets: Banking Politics on the Pacific Rim (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1988)Google Scholar, chap. 4.

45 The causal importance of foreign governmental pressure is not easy to gauge. The U.S. government has not been shy about claiming credit for liberalization moves by Japan. For its own reasons, not the least of which is undoubtedly to shift the blame for moves that have not been universally popular at the domestic level, the Japanese government has often been willing to go along with this assessment. Astute observers have argued that liberalization is, in truth, unlikely in the absence of a sufficiently well developed domestic consensus but that foreign pressure can sometimes help nudge that consensus along. See Calder, Kent E., “Japanese Foreign Economic Policy Formation: Explaining the Reactive State,” World Politics 40 (July 1988).Google Scholar On the changing balance between the government and the private sector, see Pempel, T. J., “The Unbundling of Japan, Inc.: Changing Dynamics of Japanese Policy Formation,” Journal of Japanese Studies 13 (Summer 1987)Google Scholar; and Samuels, Richard, The Business of the Japanese State (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987).Google Scholar

46 An indication of the underlying trend is provided in a bilateral Japan/U.S. comparison. In 1985 Japanese intermediaries in the United States accounted for assets totaling U.S. $178 billion; by the end of 1989 that figure had increased to $421 billion. In contrast, U.S. intermedianes in Japan accounted for assets of $18.6 billion in 1985 and $18.8 billion in 1989. U.S. Department of the Treasury, National Treatment Study (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Treasury, 1990), 208.Google Scholar

47 Note that the overseas bond activity of Japanese companies rose from ¥806.7 billion in 1980 to ¥5.3 trillion in 1988. Tokyo Stock Exchange statistics cited in Jackson, James K., “Foreign Access to Japan's Capital Markets,” in U.S. Congress, Joint Economic Committee, Japan's Economic Challenge (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1990), 152.Google Scholar

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55 The effects of the Socialist program on capital flows are found in Bauchard, Philippe, La guerre des deux roses (Paris: Grasset, 1986)Google Scholar; Beaud, Michel, Le mirage de la croissance, vol. 1 (Paris: Syros, 1983)Google Scholar; and Hall, Peter, Governing the Economy: The Politics of State Intervention in Britain and France (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986)Google Scholar, chap. 8.

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62 Interviews with French government officials, Paris, June 1988. See also holtz, Wayne Sand and Zysman, John, “1992: Recasting the European Bargain,” World Politics 42 (October 1989).Google Scholar The government's subsequent assessment of the position of French financial firms is reported by Pierre Achard, “Le marché unique de 1992: perspectives pour les banques, les assurances, et le système financier français” (Report of the Ministries of Economy, Finance, and Privatization, December 1987).

63 Cited in Euromoney, September 1987, 143.

64 See Bauchard (fn. 55), chaps. 3, 4.

65 Mélitz (fn. 59). See also Oliver, Peter and Bache, Jean-Pierre, “Free Movements of Capital between the Member States: Recent Developments,” Common Market haw Review 26 (1989).Google Scholar

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73 Financial Times, October 25, 1985, and April 24, 1986.

74 Macleod, Alison, “Train of the Lawless,” Euromoney, September 1986, p. 374.Google Scholar

75 In 1985 the archbishop of Brescia was arrested at Milan airport for trying to take $20,000 in Italian currency on a Christmas mission to Africa. Ibid., 376.


76 Ibid., 375.


78 On the decline of the power of organized labor in Italy, see Flanagan, Soskice, and Ulman (fn. 67), chap. 9.

79 Solomon (fn. 72); and Kirkland, Richard I. Jr, “A New Dose of Capitalism Turns Italy Around,” Fortune, April 14, 1986, p. 98.Google Scholar

80 Macleod (fn. 74).

81 For a prescient argument in this vein, see Cohen, Benjamin J., “Capital Controls and the U.S. Balance of Payments: Comment,” American Economic Review 55 (March 1965).Google Scholar

82 On the relationship between the capacities and resources of government institutions and their influence on policy-making, see, e.g., Steinmo, Sven, Thelen, Kathleen, and Longstreth, Frank, eds., Structuring Politics: Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Analysis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; March, John G. and Olsen, Johan P., Rediscovering Institutions: The Organizational Basis of Politics (New York: Free Press, 1989)Google Scholar; John Ikenberry, G., Reasons of State: Oil Politics and the Capacities of American Government (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1988)Google Scholar; Hall (fn. 55); Katzenstein, Peter J., Small States in World Markets (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985)Google Scholar; and Zysman, John, Governments, Markets and Growth: Financial Systems and the Politics of Industrial Change (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983).Google Scholar

83 A number of scholars have argued, for example, that Italian institutions—characterized by a weak executive, an inefficient bureaucracy, and the existence of multiple political parties—have made it impossible for any government to take the actions necessary to strengthen the national economy. See, e.g., Di Palma, Giuseppe, “The Available State: Problems of Reform,” in Lange, Peter and Tarrow, Sidney, eds., Italy in Transition (London: Frank Cass, 1980)Google Scholar; and Alan R. Posner, “Italy: Dependence and Political Fragmentation,” in Katzenstein (fn. 3).

84 Undertaken by a larger body, the study was released as Group of Ten, International Foreign Exchange Markets: A Report to the Ministers and Governors by the Group of Deputies (n.p., April 1993).

85 See Kratochwil, Friedrich V., Rules, Norms, and Decisions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, chap. 7; Ruggie, John Gerard, ed., Multilateralism Matters: The Theory and Praxis of an Institutional Form (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992)Google Scholar; and Pauly, Louis W., “The Political Foundations of Multilateral Economic Surveillance,” International Journal 47 (Spring 1992).Google Scholar

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