September 16, 2018

The world will come to deeply regret central bankers avoided a cleansing hard landing in 2008... and opted instead for kicking the crisis forward (and upwards)


Sir, Merryn Somerset Webb asks: “The consequences of those solutions found in 2008, one of which was to make rich people richer in the hope they would spend more, look like they could end up neutering capitalism — the greatest poverty destroying system ever. Was avoiding a few more years of recessionary misery after 2008 worth that?”, “A post-crisis cure that has stored up economic pain” September 15.

Somerset Webb then proceeds to contrast the fortunes of a middle-aged man with a large mortgage in central London in 2008 and an equity portfolio [who] has had a brilliant decade, with the hardships of cash savers and pensioners suffering the impacts of low interest rates, and the many tenants who know they can never save enough for a house deposit. She is, sadly, so absolutely right.

In 2006, when troubles started brewing, I wrote a letter that was published by FT and in which I briefly but clearly (I think) exposed the benefits of a hard landing

When the FED, and later ECB, decided that the best thing to do was to kick the crisis can forward, and proceeded with a huge stimuli package that included foremost quantitative easing and ultra low interest rates, I accepted it. What was I to do? 

But what I never thought would happen was that all that stimuli would be injected into the economy, without eliminating the distortions that had created the crisis in the first place. And I refer here of course, for the umpteenth time, to the risk weighted capital requirements for banks; those that favor banks lending to what is perceived or decreed safe, like AAA rated securities, residential mortgages and sovereigns; and to stay away from the risky, like entrepreneurs.

Because of that, the stimuli had no chance of yielding sustainable economic result and we are now fretting and waiting for that huge growing by the minute can to roll back, with vengeance, on us, on our children or on our grandchildren.

Somerset Webb opines that “the political conversation these days focuses not, as it surely should, on wealth creation but on long-term wealth redistribution: new property taxes; rises in capital gains taxes; more corporate taxes; workers on boards; the nationalisation of industries in the UK; higher minimum wages; maximum wage ratios; the limiting of the rights of people who are non-resident for tax purposes, and the like.”

I agree. After besserwisser statist regulators have messed it up so completely, the last thing we need is for redistribution profiteers to expand the value of their franchise.

As I see it some of our priorities are:

First, to work our banks out of that corner into which regulators have painted them in, something which, as it includes a statist 0% risk weight for sovereigns, is easier said than done.

Second, initiate, even with very low amounts an unconditional universal basic income scheme. That will allow us to begin creating those decent and worthy unemployments we will need, before society begins to break down.

Third, stop the populist from promising heavens, by asking them to explain clearly how wealth, mostly invested in assets, could be redistributed without unexpected negative effects.

Sir, you know I am from Venezuela. I have seen my homeland taken to pieces in less than two decades, and the many Chavez and Maduro there are in the world frightens me. I guarantee you they will stop at nothing once they begin.

PS. Thank God Lehman Brothers collapsed when it did. Can you imagine if the AAA rated subprime mortgages securities craze, that regulators allowed banks to leverage a mind-blowing 62.5 times with, would had gone on for one or two years more?