Sunday, July 24, 2016
J. Bradford DeLong, in “The Scary Debate Over Secular Stagnation: Hiccup ... or Endgame?” published October 19, 2015 in the Milken Institute Review, refers to that Martin Feldstein, at Harvard back in the 1980s, taught that "badly behaved investment demand and savings supply functions," could have six underlying causes:
1. Technological and demographic stagnation that lowers the return on investment and pushes desired investment spending down too far.
2. Limits on the demand for investment goods coupled with rapid declines in the prices of those goods, which together put too much downward pressure on the potential profitability of the investment-goods sector.
3. Technological inappropriateness, in which markets cannot figure out how to properly reward those who invest in new technologies even when the technologies have enormous social returns – which in turn lowers the private rate of return on investment and pushes desired investment spending down too far.
4. High income inequality, which boosts savings too much because the rich can't think of other things they'd rather do with their money.
5. Very low inflation, which means that even a zero safe nominal rate of interest is too high to balance desired investment and planned savings at full employment.
6. A broken financial sector that fails to mobilize the risk-bearing capacity of society and thus drives too large a wedge between the returns on risky investments and the returns on safe government debt.
J. Bradford DeLong points out that Kenneth Rogoff in his debt supercycle focuses on cause-six; Paul Krugman in “return of depression economics” focuses on five and six; and Lawrence Summers with “secular stagnation” has, at different moments, pointed to each of the six causes.
And then J. Bradford DeLong writes: “Rogoff has consistently viewed what Krugman sees as a long-term vulnerability to Depression economics as the temporary consequences of failures to properly regulate debt accumulation. Eventually, a large chunk of debt thought of as relatively safe is revealed to be risky, and financial markets choke on the lump. As the riskiness of the debt structure is revealed, interest rate spreads go up – which means that interest rates on assets already known to be risky go up, and interest rates on assets still believed to be safe go down."
And Rogoff is later quoted with "In a world where regulation has sharply curtailed access for many smaller and riskier borrowers, low sovereign bond yields do not necessarily capture the broader 'credit surface' the global economy faces,"
And here is when I just have to intervene: Of course, stupid credit risk weighted capital requirements for banks have impeded the mobilization of the so vital risk-taking willingness and capacity of the society, that which has traditionally been much exercised by its banking sector. That it did by driving a large wedge between the banks’ ROEs for risky investments, like loans to SMEs and entrepreneurs, and the returns on “safe” investments, like loans to governments, AAArisktocracy and the financing of houses.
And “stupid” it is: “Eventually, a large chunk of debt thought of as relatively safe is revealed to be risky, and financial markets choke on the lump”. The capital requirements, that are to guard against the unexpected, were based on the expected, the perceived credit risks.
Dare to read more here about the mind-blowing regulatory mistakes that have been ignored by the experts.
PS. Anyone who talks about low interest rates on public debt without considering the regulatory subsidy implied with: risk weight of sovereign = 0%, and risk weight of We The People = 100%, is either a full-fledged statist or has no idea of what he is talking about.
PS. #4 "the rich can't think of other things they'd rather do with their money" is one of the reasons I much favor the Universal Basic Income concept.