December 27, 2017

Bank regulators, imposing irresponsible insane rules, are prime destroyers of the rational liberal rules-based world order

Sir, Martin Sandbu writes of “opponents of the liberal, rules-based world order built up over 70 years” and that “The anti-liberal front’s undisputed leader, is the US under President Trump”, “The battles of ideology for our age”, December 27.

Sir, forget it, whatever President Trump might have done until now with respect to breaking down a rules-based world order, is nothing when compared to the damage bank regulators have done when trying to impose their own petit committee concocted regulatory rules on the world.

What they did, namely to allow banks to leverage more with assets perceived as safe than with assets perceived as risky; something which allows banks to earn higher risk adjusted returns on equity on assets perceived as safe, is something absolutely irresponsibly insane.

First, because that distorts the allocation of bank credit with serious consequences for the real economy, like favoring “safe” financing of houses over “risky” financing of “risky” entrepreneurs; which results in many basements for the young to live with their parents but few jobs for them to afford their own upstairs.

Second, by decreeing the risk-weight of the sovereign to be 0%, while that of the citizens on which that sovereign depends were weighted 100%, they effectively, 1988, one year before the fall of the Berlin wall, introduced through the backdoor, a mechanism to provide the financing to sustain (for some time) runaway statism.

Third, because since major bank crisis never ever result from excessive exposures to what was ex ante perceived as risky, it all serves absolutely no stability purpose at all.

Sir, if the “liberal internationalist camp working to defend a multilateral system of collaborative rules-based governance for economic openness to mutual advantage” is to go anywhere, that must begin by forcing bank regulators to satisfactorily respond the very straightforward question of: Why do you require banks to hold more capital against what has been made innocous by being perceived as risky than against what’s made dangerous by being perceived as safe?

Sandbu correctly argues: “In a global battle of ideas, liberals must show urgently that the existing order can be made to work for everyone”. But, injecting quantitative easing liquidity and low interest assistance, while such distorting regulations are in place, guarantees these will not be made to work for everyone, but only for those already in possession of safe assets, like the parents’ houses.