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Saturday, January 14, 2006

danger time for america


That's the title of this article from The Economist, discussing the state of the economy, the role Greenspan has played in getting us here, and the likely moves Bernanke will make as the new money czar...and what a hilarious and insightful graphic! The article quotes Ludwig Von Mises on "burning the furniture":
Ben Bernanke, Mr Greenspan's successor, likes to explain America's current-account deficit as the inevitable consequence of a saving glut in the rest of the world. Yet a large part of the blame lies with the Fed's own policies, which have allowed growth in domestic demand to outstrip supply for no less than ten years on the trot. Part of America's current prosperity is based not on genuine gains in income, nor on high productivity growth, but on borrowing from the future. The words of Ludwig von Mises, an Austrian economist of the early 20th century, nicely sum up the illusion: “It may sometimes be expedient for a man to heat the stove with his furniture. But he should not delude himself by believing that he has discovered a wonderful new method of heating his premises.”...

...How should Mr Bernanke respond to falling house prices and a sharp economic slowdown when they come? While he is even more opposed than Mr Greenspan to the idea of restraining asset-price bubbles, he seems just as keen to slash interest rates when bubbles burst to prevent a downturn. He is likely to continue the current asymmetric policy of never raising interest rates to curb rising asset prices, but always cutting rates after prices fall. This is dangerous as it encourages excessive risk taking and allows the imbalances to grow ever larger, making the eventual correction even worse. If the imbalances are to unwind, America needs to accept a period in which domestic demand grows more slowly than output.
The whole article is worth a read.

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