The intense (heated?) debate around the Cantillon Effects after an injection of money has produced a new post by Scott Sumner. Scott Sumner argues that it doesn’t matter where money in injected first because all possible injection points produce the same initial result; buying T-Bonds. I don’t think that Sumner is wrong on this, I do think, however, that this is just a first step of analysis and that Cantillon Effects depend on what happens after the money gets into the market through the exchange of T Bonds.
First things first. Sumner is not saying that there are no effects at all. When discussing the first myth, he acknowledges that the bond seller earns a commission when selling T Bonds. He thinks, however, that the amount of this benefit is trivial at a macroeconomic level. As I said on my previous post, it is different to say that there are no Cantillon Effects than to to say that the empirical relevance is considered to be trivial. Are all these trivial effects summed together still trivial? Could there be a mechanism such that this benefit is not trivial anymore? Is it the decision to bail-out or to not bail-out Lehman Brothers trivial? Even if the Lehman Brothers example falls outside Sumner’s scenario, it does exemplify a non-trivial effect on the first steps of a policy that buys assets from a financial institution.