BANK WORSHIP IS ALL WHAT MIGHTY ECONOMISTS KNOW:
I have fiercely condemned, for a decade, the policy of reducing the economy to interest rates. As I have said, and will say again below, this is identical to making (private) bankers into gods. “Liberal” (meaning “left” in the USA) economists love to say that low interest rates is all the socialism we need. Nobel laureate Paul Krugman is trying to make fun of the serious arguments found in scholarly critique of his “interest rate idolatry”. Says Paul:
No doubt, dear Paul, no doubt. Being stupid is more profitable, quite often, than being smart and moral.
Via FT Alphaville, James Montier has an interesting piece castigating economists for their “interest rate idolatry”, their belief that central bank-set interest rates matter a lot for the economy…” Montier writes down notions I used to brandish at the beginning of the Obama presidency. I stopped after I realized everybody (Very Serious People, Academia, High Finance, Politicians, Media) was on the con. That meant, in practice that, if one talked about it too much one was viewed as mentally imbalanced (just as pointing out that the Qur’an prescribes terrorism may one looks as a racist, according to the Politically Correct insects). Here is part of Montier’s well-thought essay:
“A wider idolatry: the greatest con ever perpetuated
Lest you think I am being unduly harsh on the world’s poor central bankers, let me turn to the wider idolatry of interest rates that seems to characterise the world in which we live. There seems to be a perception that central bankers are gods (or at the very least minor deities in some twisted economic pantheon). Coupled with this deification of central bankers is a faith that interest rates are a panacea.
Whatever the problem, interest rates can solve it. Inflation too high, simply raise interest rates. Economy too weak, then lower interest rates. A bubble bursts, then slash interest rates, etc., etc. John Kenneth Galbraith poetically described this belief as “…our most prestigious form of fraud, our most elegant escape from reality… The difficulty is that this highly plausible, wholly agreeable process exists only in well-established economic belief and not in real life.”
This obsession with interest rates as a cure-all rests on some dubious views about the way the world works.”
Montier points out that the fundamental official argument for lowering interest rates down to zero is flawed: …”firms generally rely on internal financing to fund investment, rather than borrowing – witness Exhibit 6. Over 100% of gross investment is financed by internal funds.”
The obsession with interest rates has meant, in practice, that so-called liberal, self-described “progressive”, friends of “We The People” economists, have prescribed, implicitly, to lower taxes on the hyper-rich as much as possible. So they masquerade as left-wing, but, in truth, they are plutophiles. This is an old method, and why Polar Bears are white, instead of brown or black as their ancestors were. Montier:
“Just in case you were wondering about the much-lauded ability of the central bank to create inflation via helicopter drops of cash (or its modern-day equivalent), this is actually a form of fiscal policy, not monetary policy. As I noted above, monetary policy alters the distribution of net worth while fiscal policy alters the levels of net worth. Because helicopter drops effectively give everyone a boost of cash, this is clearly a change in net worth and thus is likely to be helpful in stimulating demand.
As you may have gathered from the preceding paragraph, the good news is that there is an alternative to monetary policy, and that is fiscal policy. These days fiscal policy is deeply out of vogue amongst policymakers and politicians. However, it has a much more direct link to growth than any of the channels suggested for monetary policy – it is part of the construction of GDP, and has a clear impact upon incomes.”
Krugman made a very feeble defense, which mostly consisted, weirdly, but tellingly enough, to laud Lawrence Summers, one of the architect of the dismantlement of the financial regulations under Clinton, to create a class of hyper-rich financiers. To his credit, Krugman published my comment:
In the USA, houses are started massively all the times. It’s a mark of unsustainability (presumably flimsy housing is replaced). Reducing the entire economy to this, is imbalanced. Why not consider infrastructure starts? Research? Health?
The fundamental question is: what is an economic activity which is profitable for the society?
The conventional answer is that banks know best. As the banks’ lending goes up as interest rates go down, bringing the latter down, improves the economy, say banks’ friends.
Let’s call that BANK WORSHIP.
Bank worship has enabled big banks’ heads and associated high financiers they collaborate with, to be so powerful and dishonest, that they changed the hearts & minds of all the power that be in society.
The latest case is the French Societe Generale: the police chief in charge of an inquiry on an eight billion dollar fraud therein, now admits, years later, that she was manipulated by the bank (a lower level employee, Jerome Kerviel, was sued, chased down, and condemned severely, although he claims he acted under orders). The fraud was reimbursed by taxpayers. This means that Societe Generale bosses, just in this particular case, of this particular fraud, stole around 50 dollars to each French citizens. Don’t worry for them: the thieves live big. An even bigger picture is that, in the leading countries, big bankers are banksters, and they corrupted institutions of the Republic (including politics, government, justice and police) thoroughly.
The problem is the same in Anglo-America: time after time, giant frauds of the biggest banks are exposed, and they are condemned to fines. In the end, a bank-too-big-to-fail condemned to a fine means nothing: in the worst possible cases, it’s tax payers who pay. It is the case where the criminals’ punishment is to make the victims suffer.
The latest such case is the LIBOR “punishment”, proclaimed today. In it, big banks in London manipulated the world’s leading interest rate (they call that the “market”). You would think that, after stealing billions the heads of banks such as JP Morgan would go to jail. No. Taxpayers go to jail.
Zero Interest Rates, To Serve High Finance Plutocracy:
Another problem is that zero interest rates have proven devastating for small savers, while providing the banks and their accomplices with quasi-unlimited funds for playing with each other the derivatives’ market, something that is not a real economic activity, except by making the richest ever richer.
One lends to the rich. By making lending ever easier, government policy has made the rich ever richer.
Correct economic activity would consist in the government encouraging activities which are profitable to the people at large, very long term.
The “market” is driven with what bankers think is profitable, short term.
Conventional wisdom by the economists in power is that we can trust the bankers to encourage the economic activity most suitable to the “market”, hence society.
Governments were told by the economists in power to make the job of bankers easier, to make for a better economy, hence better society. Trust bankers, give them all the lending capability, hence all the power they want, and We The People will become richer.
Thus the general strategy of bank worship assumes a trait that is true: a banker is a government official. A banker is a non-elected, uncontrolled government official, with unlimited funds, and inexistent oversight by the People’s representatives.
Bankers control the market, which controls the economy, which control society. Is that the society we want? Do we want to be controlled, financed, by an oligarchy of non-elected little Big Brothers who decide what activities the society will engage in?
Bankers are little Big Brothers who are free to finance the high financial class they belong to, as much as they want. That’s why derivative trading is more than ten times larger than real trade, worldwide. This is also why half of the world’s money is in Dark Pools. And so on.
The cause of this nightmarish world is bank worship. Bank worship is very smart for the Big Bankers. Krugman is NOT with stupid, as he disingenuously claim. He is with the winning crowd. To go interact with people such as Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz, the fact is, one needs to be seriously independently wealthy (then one can become a “student”, meaning a future co-conspirator, or mingle at parties).
It is very stupid for the rest of us to have become adulators of bank worship. Bank worship made society subject to a dictatorial oligarchy operating in the shadows.
What happened to the Enlightenment? It seems to have sunk in “Dark Pools”.