November 10, 2016

Who should we most blame for distorting risk weighted bank capital requirements; central banks or politicians?

Sir, John Authers writes “Blaming central bankers, as many of the people behind the UK and US populist revolts tend to do, misses the point. The loose monetary policies of the past eight years helped deepen inequality by raising the wealth of those already with assets, without breathing sufficient life into those economies. But central bankers were for the most part following these policies to buy time for politicians to take the needed longer-term measures.”, “A bonfire of the certainties” November 10.

And Authers’ pities the “Central banks [that] have looked increasingly uncomfortable with their new role, while each fresh dose of monetary easing has had less impact than the one before.”

But what Authers’ does not do is to mention the bank regulations promoted and sheltered by central banks and which distorted the allocation of bank credit to the real economy. The statism, the silly risk aversion, the discrimination against the risky and the all that for no good safety reason, and that is imbedded in that piece of regulations, will go down in history as a shameful mistake, and disgrace all those who by commission or omission are responsible for it.

I ask, are central banks really auhorized to independently distort bank credit allocation

At the very end of the recent 2016 Annual Research Conference, none other than Olivier Blanchard, the former Chief Economist of the IMF, admitted that indeed more research was needed to better understand the underlying factors for the trend to lower public debt interests that can be observed the last 30 years; and that this trend might very well be explained to an important extent by current bank regulations.

When that research ends up showing we have for decades been navigating with a subsidized public borrowing rate as a proxy for the risk free rate, a financial compass distorted by the Basel Committee’s magnetic field, there will be many questions. Among these, why did FT silence more than 2.000 letters I wrote to it on this issue.

PS. The origin for this regulatory risk weighting can be found in Steven Solomon’s The Confidence Game” 1995. “On September 2, 1986, at the Bank of England governor’s official residence… when the Fed chairman Paul Volcker sat down with Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton and three senior BoE officials, the topic he raised was bank capital”