August 10, 2013
Sir, in “Three threats to Europe’s recovery” August 10, you write “Europe’s main problem remains in its banking system. Impaired balance sheets are preventing lenders from extending credit to businesses, choking off growth”.
What’s wrong with you? How many times do I have to explain it to you? The real and complete story goes as follows: Impaired balance sheets of banks, facing capital requirements which are much lower for what is perceived as “safe”, than for what is perceived as “risky”, are preventing lenders from extending credit to businesses and choking off growth.
And why are those bank balance sheets impaired? Because they built up too large exposures to what was perceived as risky? No! Because they built up too large exposures to what was ex ante perceived as “absolutely safe” but that ex-post turned out to be risky and so caught them standing there naked, with their pants down, and no capital to speak off.
And I tell you FT, there will never ever be a sustainable sturdy growth in Europe again, as long as bank regulators discriminate in favor of “The Infallible” and against “The Risky”. Europe was not built on dumb risk-aversion but on smart and daring risk-taking, call it reasoned audacity if you want.