‘Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.’ – Leonardo da Vinci
A Dangerous Market Structure is More Worrying than Expensive Asset Valuations and Record Debt Levels
Macro-prudential regulations follow financial crises, rarely do they precede one. Even when evidence is abundant of systemic risks building up, as is today, regulators and policymakers have a marked tendency to turn an institutional blind eye, hoping for imbalances to fizzle out on their own – at least beyond the duration of their mandates. It does not work differently in economics than it does for politics, where short-termism drives the agenda, oftentimes at the expenses of either the next government, the broader population or the next generation.
It does not work differently in the business world either, where corporate actions are selected based on the immediate gratification of shareholders, which means pleasing them at the next round of earnings, often at the expenses of long-term planning and at times exposing the company itself to disruption threats from up-and-comers.
Long-term vision does not pay; it barely shows up in the incentive schemes laid out for most professions. Economics is no exception. Orthodoxy and stillness preserve the status quo, and the advantages hard earned by the few who rose from the ranks of the establishment beforehand.
Yet, when it comes to Central Banking, and more in general policymaking, financial stability should top the priority list. It honorably shows up in the utility function, together with price stability and employment, but is not pursued nearly as actively as them. Central planning and interventionism is no anathema when it comes to target the decimals of unemployment or consumer prices, yet is residual when it comes to master systemic risks, relegated to the camp of ex-post macro-prudential regulation. This is all the more surprising as we know all too well how badly a deep unsettlement of financial markets can reverberate across the real economy, possibly leading into recessions, unemployment, un-anchoring of inflation expectations and durable disruption to consumer patterns. There is no shortage of reminders for that in the history books, looking at the fallout of dee dives in markets in 1929, 2000 and 2007, amongst others.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 22, 2017.