October 10, 2014

The more you stabilize, the more you risk making the system brittle, so the more you really destabilize.

Sir, I refer to Paul Tucker’s “The world needs different ways of taming capital flows” October 10.

I have always, in the case of small bath-tubes placed next to the global oceans, been in favor of capital controls. And I have most specially liked what Chile used to do, namely forcing funds to park themselves for a time doing nothing, in order to show their serious intentions, before these were allowed to court beautiful Chilean daughters.

But, I have also been aware that every time you stop funds from going somewhere, those funds could remain somewhere even more dangerous.

Here Paul Tucker, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England, holds that “the objective [of capital controls] should be limited: guarding against threats to stability”

But, when regulators, with their credit risk weighted capital requirements for banks decided to create great incentives for banks not sailing risky waters, and instead stay in safe havens… they completely ignored that safe-havens can become dangerously overpopulated… in a very short time.

In other words, the more you stabilize, the more you make the system brittle, so the more you really destabilize.

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.” John Augustus Shedd, 1850-1926