Maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess if we had bankers at central banks, not academics and politicians
“We as G7 believe the biggest economic problem is demand. Demand, there is no demand and that is the biggest problem around the world.”
Taro Aso, Japanese finance minister
AP, SCMP, May 21
And I am sure there was a general nodding of heads at the meeting in Tokyo last week of big time finance ministers and central bankers.
Yes, that’s right, I can hear them telling each other. It’s a problem when people choose to keep their wallets closed. We must use our “policy levers” to force these wallets open. We must create demand.
Let’s consider the extreme hubris of this notion. You, dear reader, are not intelligent enough to know how to use your money for your own best good. A number of complete strangers who know nothing about your particular circumstances say that they understand your needs better than you do and they tell you that you must go into debt to buy things.
If you do not comply, they will make you buy with their “policy levers” of low interest rates. They now also threaten to charge rather than pay you interest on deposits and to abolish high denomination banknotes so that you cannot easily escape these charges by holding cash.
They say they are doing it for your benefit but in reality they worship the great god GDP Growth, who, in the beliefs of their cult, must be offered sacrifices of consumer spending, whatever the consumers themselves may think of this.
They also claim to represent democratic government and yet basic concepts of democracy are foreign to them. They cannot accept the idea that you should be left to lead your own life, that it should be your decision whether or not to buy and that their role is to accommodate themselves to your choice.
I think most of them have developed this way of looking at things from having spent almost their entire working careers in secure jobs in either academia or government. They have never felt the whip of a hard driving sales director on their backs. This is not a nice experience but it’s a great cure for arrogance.
Taking just three of the most senior of them in the usual group photograph at these hot-air events, Janet Yellen, chair of the US Federal Reserve, has never worked outside of university and the Federal Reserve system, while Mario Draghi, head of the European central bank, spent only a token three years outside of university and political posts.
Christine Lagarde is a French labour lawyer who drove France’s sovereign debt and fiscal deficits to record heights as France’s finance minister and holds her job as head of the International Monetary Fund only because it’s a French sinecure, don’t you know. None of these people are bankers. They have no actual working experience in the fields over which they rule.
The worst of it is that in university and government you can stick with a bad call much longer than you can in the real world. You won’t lose your job for it. Find me the professor or bureaucrat who has ever said, “Sorry, got that one wrong.”
Janet Yellen, in particular, has stuck astoundingly long with a bad call initiated by her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, also a full-time academic. The zero interest rate policy of the last eight years in the US has not stimulated demand but it has created enormous speculative turmoil in financial markets. Yet she will not reconsider.
Taro Aso in Japan is just as bad. Japanese government debt incurred in vain attempts to stimulate growth now amounts to more than 200 per cent of GDP. Mario Draghi is determined that Europe will follow suit.
It is a definite path to financial crisis. We have already had one in 2007-08 as a result of overly lax credit terms and the next one is just as certain. The monetary policies of these people have failed. They should be ashamed to hold office any longer.
Taro Aso has it dead wrong. The biggest economic problem in the world is embodied in himself and his counterparts, who still have the temerity to laugh and joke among themselves for a group photo on the steps of a Japanese resort hotel.