January 02, 2015

Selling the notion of being able to make banks safe, at no cost, is pure unabridged populism.

Sir, I refer to Tony Barber’s “Renzi is the last hope for the Italian elite” January 2.

In it Barber attacks populism and writes about how important it is for Italy that “Mr Renzi’s reforms of the tax system, labour market, judiciary, public administration, electoral system and much more succeed”.

Again there is no reference to the unabridged populism contained in the notion that you can make banks safe, at no cost.

That populism is imbedded in the current risk-weighted capital requirements for banks; which allow banks to earn much higher risk adjusted returns on their equity on exposures perceived as safe than on exposures perceived as risky; with not one iota of regulatory concern about how useful for the economy such “risky” exposures could be.

These regulations, carried out in the name of saving the taxpayer from having to pay more taxes, is one of the most important obstacles that is hindering the taxpayers from receiving more taxable income.

That regulatory populism is doing as much damage to Italy, the Eurozone, Europe and the Western World as anything else. Without those regulations we might have had a bank crisis, but none as big as the current that resulted from allowing banks to leverage immensely with what was perceive as safe, like “infallible sovereigns” as Greece, members of the AAAristocracy, and the real estate sector in Spain.

If Renzi is not capable of demolish these populist bank regulations, Italy might still make it, but that would only be as a result of the strengthening of la banca sommersa.

FT, supporting the idea that Basel III is making our banks and our economies safer, is to support populists.