August 26, 2014

Let us hope the golf handicap system does not fall into the hands of something like the banks' Basel Committee.

Sir I refer to Anjum Hoda’s “The Bank of England´s fixation with price stability has cost us all” August 26.

Hoda puts squarely the blame for current problems, like weak wage growth and banking crisis, on “central bank’s decisions to price money incorrectly- a mistake that led to disjointed, mutually unsupportive outcomes in the capital and in the labour markets”.

I do not know sufficiently to hold an opinion on what role that played, but I do firmly believe that much more culpable were the risk-weighted capital requirements for banks, based on perceived risks already cleared for, which profoundly distorted the allocation of bank credit.

Since after soon a thousand letters to you trying to explain it I have not been able to do so, and though I do not know whether Anjum Hoda or you play golf, let me use its handicap system to illustrate what is going on.

The golf handicap system allows good and bad players to compete. Of course, now and again, the handicaps do not reflect the real golfing abilities of the players, just like credit ratings sometime misses the credit risk.

But what would happen if a Basel Committee for Golfing, because those with higher handicaps could be cheating themselves into some unjust winnings, decided to copycat their colleagues in the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision and instruct the following:

All those with handicap between 13 and 18 will have their handicap automatically reduced with 9 strokes, those between 7 and 12 with 6, and those between 1 and 6 with 3 strokes. 

Would that solve it? No, the unfortunate “unexpected consequence” of it would be that only scratch players were to be able to play golf competitively. Just like risky small businesses and entrepreneurs cannot currently compete in a fair way for access to bank credit, since that credit is now given primarily to the credit risk scratch players, namely the “infallible sovereigns”, the members of the AAAristocracy and house purchase financing.

PS. August 14 FT published a special report on Golf. In it Roger Blitz in “Sport stuck in a rut has to get a grip on its future” wrote “A single [governing] body would appear a logical outcome for an increasingly global game”. Let us golf lovers pray it does not fall in hands similar to the Basel Committee… since our breed would die out so much faster.