The unsustainable has run its course

by John Quiggin on July 1, 2008

Unlike national central banks, the Bank for International Settlements doesn’t have to worry too much about the effect of its statements on business and consumer confidence or on the possibility of political flak. Hence, it has usually tended to give a less rosy view of the economic outlook than other official and quasi-official institutions. The latest assessment is particularly gloomy .

The full annual report has the cheery title “The unsustainable has run its course and policymakers face the difficult task of damage control” (Overview here).

The money quote:

Perhaps the principal conclusion to be drawn from today’s policy challenges is that it would have been better to avoid the build-up of credit excesses in the first place. In future, this could be done through the establishment of a new macrofinancial stability framework, which would call for both monetary and macroprudential policies to “lean against the wind” of the credit cycle

It’s hard to disagree with this, but equally hard to imagine such a framework (reminiscent of the “new global financial architecture” proposed in the late 90s) being introduced without the stimulus of a truly dire financial crisis.

{ 6 comments }

1

bryan 07.01.08 at 8:14 am

“It’s hard to disagree with this, but equally hard to imagine such a framework (reminiscent of the “new global financial architecture” proposed in the late 90s) being introduced without the stimulus of a truly dire financial crisis.”

so you’re predicting end of this year / middle of next?

2

Stuart 07.01.08 at 10:03 am

Surely by the next time things go bad any such framework would have long been considered unnecessarily restrictive legislation, and the main countries will have undermined it to allow extra credit fueled growth to make their economic policies look better than they are.

3

gandhi 07.02.08 at 12:55 am

The problem is that the people who created the problem remain in charge of delivering a solution. Three has still been no visible accountability in any major area of public life. Neither for war, nor economics, nor climate change failures.

Alan Greenspan, for example, is now pimping his books and “expert” criticism as if he had nothing to do with the credit bubble!

Those who supposedly represent the interests of ordinary working people remain in the pocket of their Big Business backers.

For example, people think the Bush 43 administration has been the most incompetent in history. But it has only really been incompetent about things that simply do not concern it, such as the welfare of Hurricane Katrina’s victims, or the economic plight of the world’s poor, or the USA’s lost global reputation as a beacon of freedom and democracy. On matters that truly concern them, such as driving up oil company profits and ensuring the post-Cold War viability of the military industry, the Bush team has been quite ruthlessly efficient.

Remember that scene in Fahrenheit 911, where GW Bush was addressing a roomful of millionaires and billionaires:

“Interesting audience: the Haves… and the Have-mores (laughter)… Some people call you the “Elite”… I call you my base.”

He wasn’t joking.

4

gandhi 07.02.08 at 1:01 am

Bush been true to his Big Business “base”, and they remain loyal to him. The Chimp may never be able to walk the streets of New York City without a massive police escort, but he won’t have trouble getting a seat at the bar of any exclusive gentlemen’s club. His grandchildren’s grandchildren will still be rolling in money.

Isn’t it funny how Dubya and John Howard and Tony Blair all share a similar personality trait? Behind the sneering bravado, the pompous little puffed up chests, and the darting, scared or squinting eyes, they have all elicited a cringing need to win the respect of those they deemed important. Unfortunately, we, the citizens they ruled, were not the ones who were important to them.

No, they craved the approval of the Big Business elite, the boys with the big yachts and private jets. They wanted to join that club, and they have made it.

Mission accomplished.

I cannot help concluding that we would not be in this present financial mess, nor facing such extremes of global warming, nor desperately searching for alternative energy sources, nor mired in an endless “war” against phantom radicals, nor up to our knees in blood in Iraq, if our elected leaders and those they appoint were only a bit more – well, a whole lot more! – accountable for their crimes.

5

gandhi 07.02.08 at 1:03 am

AND ANOTHER THING!

Prof Q, the Web host for your personal blog sucks. I cannot help wondering if they are over-exposed to credit issues? :-)

6

HH 07.02.08 at 2:30 am

Once Trust Engineering appears in university course catalogs, we will get some relief from recurring financial crises. It is the steady undermining of fiduciary and other forms of institutional trust in the maketplace that is causing much of the instability and losses in financial markets. This is confirmed by recent confessions of mischief in the securities rating agencies, a fundamental breach of their institutional charters.

We await the F.W. Taylor of the scientific management of trust. The academic world does not seem eager to produce such a figure.

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