February 14, 2014

Getting rid of stupid risk-weighted bank capital requirements, that is a dog hair to write home about.

Sir, I refer to Martin Wolf´s “Hair of a dog risks a bigger hangover for Britain” February 14.

There Wolf writes: “It is widely believed that it is safer to rely on private borrowing as a source of demand. An expansion of private borrowing to buy evermore expensive houses is deemed good, but an expansion of government borrowing to build roads or railways, is not. Privately created credit-backed money is thought sound, while government-created money is not. None of this makes much sense.”

What is he talking about? Those whose beliefs are the most relevant in these matters, the bank regulators, they very strongly believe, as they express in the risk-weights which determine the capital requirements for banks, that lending to the government, the infallible sovereign, is enormously safer when compared to lending to anything private, including houses.

Of course, that said, bank regulators also strongly believe, in that much egged on by politicians, that lending to buy houses, is enormously safer when compared to lending to any “risky” medium and small business, entrepreneurs and start-up… those who could help to create the jobs that could pay for the costs of living in the houses.

Do I mind governments building roads and railways? Of course not, but I sure do mind government and housing (and the AAAristocracy) getting much more and cheaper financing than what would ordinarily be the case, only because shortsighted and monumentally naïve regulators think that lending to be safer than lending to the “risky” real economy.

Want to really get rid of the hangover Mr. Wolf? Well then get rid of the current bank regulators, and of their dumb and distorting risk-weighted capital requirements. That is indeed a dog hair to write home about.

PS. Sir, I leave it in your hand to copy or not copy Martin Wolf with this letter, since I do not wish to receive a letter from him telling me again I write too much, or that he already knows what there is to be known, on issues such as the risk-weighted capital requirements for banks.