Monday, October 9, 2017

Should our nannie state tax all risk-taking at higher rates, as current bank regulators do?

Motorcycles, in terms of deaths per miles driven, are much riskier than cars. Should society therefore levy a special risk tax to compensate it for the unnecessary early death of its members? (Even though we know more people die in car than motorcycle accidents

Since sport injuries have a cost for the society should we tax sports based on their injury rates? For instance applying a 10 percent risk tax on cricket and one of only 1 percent on croquet (pesky squirrels).

If one assumes that the risks involved with any activity are not adequately perceived or considered, one could of course construe a case for those taxes. But, should we dare to assume risks are not already perceived and cleared for if we therefore could end up with a very risky too risk adverse society?

And I ask all this because taxing risk-taking is exactly what current regulators do with their risk weighted capital requirements for banks.

They now require banks to hold more capital against what is already perceived as riskier (motorcycles) than against what is perceived as safe (cars). This translates into banks having much higher possibility of maximizing their returns on equity with what is “safe” than with what is “risky”; which de facto is a tax on “the risky”.

Consequences? Banks build up dangerously large exposures to what is perceived, decreed, or concocted as safe, like sovereigns, AAArisktocracy and mortgages; and to small exposures, or even no exposure at all to what is perceived as risky, like SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Clearly if the risks are already perceived and considered by bankers, in the size of the exposure and the interest rates charged, to then also have the capital reflect the perceived risks, cause these risks to be excessively considered; resulting in an excessively risk-adverse banking system.

Just consider that already, partly because of the higher risk perceptions, many more people die in car than in motorcycle accidents. 

Think of a society where no one drives motorcycles or plays cricket because the risk-taxes are too high, and all keep to cars and crocket. Is that the kind of society that will be strong enough to survive? Is that what we want?

I am sorry but there is no more figurative way to express it. The Basel Committee for Banking Regulations and their affiliated regulators have effectively castrated our banking system. Will that make us safer? Of course not! 

Our banks will dangerously overpopulate safe-havens; in which they will die from lack of oxygen.

Our economies are going to dwindle into nothing, when denied the oxygen of risk-taking necessary for all development.

Friends, we must urgently get rid of these dangerously inept bank nannies.