Behavioral economics suggests that a little QE can change human behavior at the margins, but no amount of QE is enough to change human nature at its core. The High Priests of the IMF, the Fed, and the ECB are blind to this because all of modern economic theory – ALL of it – is based on a single bedrock assumption: humans are economic maximizers. Yes, we are maximizers of reward. But we are also minimizers of regret. We seem destined to learn the hard way... once again... that you can’t change human nature by government fiat. But individual investors and allocators can listen and learn from these old good ideas, and that’s how you survive the Golden Age of the Central Banker.
The following chart from Deutsche Bank illustrates the difference between life under the Classical Gold Standard and today’s “modern” forms of money. For the first four hundred years depicted here, money was gold and silver - the quantity of which rose at roughly the same rate as the human population. Prices during that time fluctuated, but only modestly by today’s standards, and they always returned to more-or-less the same level. In other words, money held its value for not just years but centuries. It was a fixed aspect of the financial environment and was therefore not a tool of economic policy. Governments and individuals had to adapt to unchanging money rather than forcing money to adapt to political circumstances. A phase change occurs in the 20th century when the US created the Federal Reserve and World Wars I and II placed survival above monetary stability for most of Europe and Asia.
It’s important that we all, European or not, grasp how lacking in morality the entire system prevalent in the west, including the EU, has become. This shows in East Ukraine, where sheer propaganda has shaped opinions for at least a full year now. It’s not about what is real, it’s about what ‘leaders’ would like you to think and believe. And this same immorality has conquered Greece too; there may be no guns, but there are plenty victims. The EU is a disgrace, a predatory beast unleashed upon all corners of Europe that resist central control and, well, debt slavery really, if you live on the wrong side of the tracks. SYRIZA may be the last chance Europe has to right its wrongs, before fighting in the streets becomes an everyday reality.
Just 2 short months ago we warned of the rising voice among the cognoscenti tilting their windmills towards the concept of "helicopter money," as Deutsche bank noted, "perhaps there's an increasing weariness that more QE globally whilst inevitable, is a blunt growth tool and that stopping it will be extremely difficult (let alone reversing it) without a positive growth shock." Committing what Commerzbank calls "the ultimate sin" is now reaching the mainstream as Germany's Der Spiegel notes it is becoming increasingly clear that Draghi and his fellow central bank leaders have exhausted all traditional means for combatting deflation; and many economists are demanding that the European Central Bank hand out money to consumers to stimulate the economy.
If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand
The worldwide economic and industrial boom since the early 1990s was not indicative of sublime human progress or the break-out of a newly energetic market capitalism on a global basis. Instead, the approximate $50 trillion gain in the reported global GDP over the past two decades was an unhealthy and unsustainable economic deformation financed by a vast outpouring of fiat credit and false prices in the capital markets. In short, when the classical Austrians talked about “malinvestment” the pending disasters in the global steel and iron ore industries (and also mining equipment and other supplier industries) are what they had in mind.
Despite the authorities' best efforts to keep everything orderly, we know how this global Game of Geopolitical Tetris ends: "Players lose a typical game of Tetris when they can no longer keep up with the increasing speed, and the Tetriminos stack up to the top of the playing field. This is commonly referred to as topping out."
"I’m tired of being outraged!"
Just another "unintended consequence" of modern non-stakeholder capitalism and central-planning.
The “unintended consequences” of the negative interest rate policy will vastly outweigh the perceived advantages of any short term boost to economic activity they may provoke. Given that the failure of these interventions is already absolutely certain, we must be prepared for even more interventions to “fix” the failures produced by the previous ones. Many modern-day intellectuals appear quite keen on abolishing the market economy and replacing it with some form of command economy (just as long as their personal plans are implemented of course). They should be careful what they wish for.
This Austrian School interpretation of events fits the facts rather better than the monetarist account. The lesson for policymakers today is uncomfortable. For, on this view, if there is a parallel with the 1930s, the damage has already been done. It was done when the Fed allowed funds available for investment in capital markets to balloon, not this time through unsterilized gold inflows but through its QE experiment.
Hearing of IMF interventions generally conjures up images of developing nations (and the occasional Eurozone peripheral economy of late) facing some kind of financial difficulty. But it was actually Great Britain, the cradle of the industrialized world, which in 1976 became one of the first countries ever to be "bailed out" by the IMF in the modern sense of the term.
We have been discussing the widespread belief in "the narrative of central bank omnipotence" for a number of months (here and here most recently) as we noted "there are no more skeptics. To update Milton Friedman’s famous quote, we are all Bernankians now." So when Saxobank's CIO and Chief Economist Steen Jakobsen warns that "the mood has changed," and feedback from conference calls and speaking engagements tells him, there is a growing belief that the 'narrative of the central banks' is failing, we sit up and listen.
There is nothing like the release of secret tape recordings to clarify an inconclusive debate. Actually, what the tapes really show is that the Fed’s latest policy contraption - macro-prudential regulation through a financial stability committee - is just a useless exercise in CYA. Macro-pru is an impossible delusion that should not be taken seriously be sensible adults. It is not, as Janet Yellen insists, a supplementary tool to contain and remediate the unintended consequence - that is, excessive financial speculation - of the Fed’s primary drive to achieve full employment and fill the GDP bathtub to the very brim of its potential. Instead, rampant speculation, excessive leverage, phony liquidity and massive financial instability are the only real result of current Fed policy.
Back in 1930, Keynes looked out into the future and saw that with the proper management of the economy, monetary policy and the like, the world could attain a type of utopian stasis: Keynes expected growth to come to an end within two to three generations, and the economy to plateau. He referred to this imaginary state of equilibrium as "bliss," noting “thus for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem - how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well." However, Keynes did say this would happen if mankind avoided any calamitous wars and if there was no appreciable increase in population. Two more flawed base assumptions there could not have been.
Getting out of a Liquidity Trap with monetary policy playing the lead role necessarily involves a Dornbuschian sequence of rational overshooting: The Fed must drive up Wall Street prices, which move quickly, so as to get to Main Street prices that move up slowly, most importantly, wages. This sequencing implies that Wall Street prices must become very rich relative to Main Street prices in order to achieve so-called escape velocity from the Liquidity Trap. At the transition point, Wall Street prices will be rationally “overvalued” relative to their long-term “fair value.” The dominant risk for Wall Street is not bursting bubbles, but rather a long slow grind down in profit’s share of GDP/national income. And you can stick that into a Gordon Model, too! Bonds and stocks may at present be rationally valued, but borrowing from the lyrics of Procol Harum’s Keith Reid: Expected long-term returns are turning a more ghostly whiter shade of pale.