May 13, 2018

Central bankers have surely favored government borrowings… and the costs will be horrendous.

Sir, Desmond King reviews and discusses Paul Tucker’s “Unelected Power”, which asks:“To whom are central bankers responsible? How is oversight of their discretionary authority monitored in a democracy? Can central banks remain legitimate as they choose financial winners and losers?

The starting point for Tucker’s questions seems to be when, in September 2008, “Citizens and bankers sat transfixed as Lehman Brothers collapsed, rattling equity and credit markets”.

Wrong! Not that I had any idea of it back then but the genesis of the problems herein referred to seem to me be in 1988 when bank regulators came up with the incredibly hubristic concept of risk weighted capital requirements for banks, as if anyone could measure ex ante the risks that would explode ex post.

From a cv. on the web I see that Paul Tucker worked in 1987 in “the Banking Supervision Division; as part of the 4 person team negotiating the Basle International Capital Convergence Agreement; and assistant to chair of Basle Supervisors Committee”

So when King writes that “Tucker argues that the “most compelling reason” for [central bank independence] is to “enable governments to save paying an inflation risk premium on their debt”, I must ask: “Really Mr. Tucker, does that require risk weighing the sovereigns with 0% while assigning the citizens 100%?” 

That regulatory subsidy causes, sooner or later, governments to take will be getting up too much debt, that which can only be repaid by the printing machine… meaning inflation… meaning tragedies. 

I have not seen anyone holding Sir Paul Tucker accountable.

PS. I dare Paul Tucker, the current chair of the Systemic Risk Council, to give a coherent explanation for why banks should hold more capital against what’s made innocous by being perceived risky, than against what’s perceived safe and therefore carries more dangerous tail risks? The distortion that produces in the allocation of bank credit constitutes, as I see it, a huge systemic risk.