October 24, 2014

Failures and mistakes is something that needs to be nurtured in order to have a better future.

Sir, Gillian Tett is absolutely correct when she writes: “What is still missing, in many quarters, is a mindset – most notably a recognition by bureaucrats and bankers that failure is an inevitable part of the market system, and that it sometimes pays to wipe the slate clean rather than endlessly sweep problems under the carpet”, “Jingles that sound the beginning of recovery” October 24.

That is exactly what I referred to in a letter you published in August 2006 in which I wrote about “the long-term benefits of a hard landing” and the dangers of dabbling in topics such as debt sustainability ignoring the value of pruning or even, when urgently needed, of a timely amputation.”

But, I also think it is very important that the wiping-the-slate-clean, also applies to banks. As an Executive Director of the World Bank, in 2003, I told many regulators during a Basel II preparation conference: “A regulation that regulates less, but is more active and trigger-happy, and treats a bank failure as something normal, as it should be, could be a much more effective regulation. The avoidance of a crisis, by any means, might strangely lead us to the one and only bank, therefore setting us up for the mother of all moral hazards—just to proceed later to the mother of all bank crises.”

But no, the Basel Committee preferred to proceed down the road of nurturing the too-big-to-fail banks.

PS. By the way, Ms. Tett might be interested that in the US, the jingle she refers to, is not allowed when it comes to educational debt.