Olivier Blanchard, Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund says , ‘We don’t have a clue of what financial stability is’.
The war on terror is permanent, the government is hopelessly divided, and the financial ‘crisis’ shows no sign of coming to a close. And where national government should be investing in the future, they are cutting core public services: infrastructure, education, environment, meat inspectors. Welcome to the postnormal.
Eduardo Porter, Solutions Remain Elusive After Financial Crisis
One lesson from the crisis — first learned in the 1930s and corroborated in several contemporary analyses — is that when interest rates lose their power to stimulate the economy, additional government spending can help generate real growth. Still, the fear of “excessive” debt has led many governments to cut spending even in the face of economic stagnation.
Countries like Ireland and Spain have pretty much lost their ability to raise money in financial markets. They are now struggling to reduce debt with little success: cutting public spending in the midst of severe downturns only makes economic performance worse, adding to the debt burden.
Yet even in Britain or the United States, which can still borrow at near-record-low interest rates, governments have taken to cutting public spending at the expense of growth and jobs.
Perhaps this is natural. After all, the crisis upended a consensus. Economists and policy makers bred to think that all that was needed to run a prosperous economy was to keep inflation low, strive for fiscal balance and deregulate have found themselves in a more complex world. In this world, financial bubbles matter, capital flows are of dubious merit, low interest rates fail to stimulate growth and government spending becomes the only tool with real traction to spur economic activity.
And there is reason to be cautious. With total government debt in the rich world stuck at around 100 percent of its combined economic output, there is a legitimate fear that a rise in interest rates could tip off a financial death spiral. Moreover, if countries with debt levels well under 50 percent of G.D.P. were so devastated by the crisis, it is hard to imagine what might happen to them if another were to hit them.
Still, the argument against debt is often overstated. Disagreement and uncertainty among economists have given the political systems in Europe and the United States ample license to engage in austerity policies that frankly are proving counterproductive — making recovery more difficult and painful.
In his assessment at the end of the conference, Mr. [George] Akerlof [a Nobel-winning economist from Berkeley] argued that the response in the United States had been reasonable. From the bank bailout to the fiscal stimulus to zero short-term interest rates, “the economic policies postrecovery have been close to what a good, sensible economist doctor would have ordered” for the stranded cat.
But other economists were not quite as sanguine. Indeed, one take-away from the economic conclave is that it may be a fantasy to think that the world’s economies can be steeled to withstand a shock like those the financial system can provide. If so, the urgent task is what kind of limits should be imposed on banking and the rest of finance to temper its propensity to careen toward disaster.
Financial regulation is being tightened around the world. Banks are being required to raise more capital than before. Bigger banks face tougher rules. Still, there is no consensus on which new institutions might be needed to monitor and temper finance, or how tough the rules should be.
What good does the modern financial system do, for the rest of us? What determines financial fluctuations and shocks? How do they affect the broader economy? What can governments do to make them less disruptive? Economists have few answers.
“We don’t have a clue of what financial stability actually means,” Mr. Blanchard confessed.
The leading economist have no clue what sort of ‘stability’ they are attempting to achieve, or how to achieve it.
This will not end well.