As a behaviourally focused economics publication we have been very quiet and inactive during 2014. A year of reflection and introspection, however, we are ready to resume service, with vigour. And what better way to start than with a reflective piece and thoughts on the biggest risk we believe are developing under the surface without warning. Our concluding theme of 2014 is that of moral hazard.
As Margaret Thatcher once said: “There is no society”; we state today that there is ‘No Moral Hazard’; in fact there is only Moral Hazard PLUS.
We believe that there is a strong correlation between QE (Quantitative Easing) and economic moral hazard developing a new strain, mutating like an unseen virus.
QE might have saved the financial system of the developed world, but it it only provided a shot in the arm and acted as a stimulus for sustaining moral hazard.
Economics follow a flow and cyclical pattern, as discussed in our article entitled ‘Information Age Irony‘. These patterns and flows weave themselves into the fabric of our lives and affect individual economies in different ways.
It is important to understand where and how economic cycles develop and flow and how much influence they have on our general economic activities on a day to day basis, but we should not become overly obsessed by them, as they can be short-circuited from time to time by policy and policy-maker’s actions, wherever individually or collectively.
In part 2 of this article we will focus on the revelations of QE and the underlying threat of moral hazard returning on a grander and more catastrophic scale, if it goes unchecked and misunderstood.
We have been following the G20 ‘get those naughty multinationals in the tax tent’ debates raging for a few months now, with amusement we have to add; here at theMarketSoul and have the following short thought piece to contribute to the debate.
We know the ‘outrage’ really is all about the what the OECD calls the ‘general erosion of the tax base’, which in our opinion is just a distraction for proper structural reforms in the western democracies contributing to the G20 and OECD coffers.
The real issue is the power of civil society structures, such as multinational corporations, versus nation states. We constantly get an earful on how undemocratic corporations are from a liberal social leftist media and how dangerous unfettered corporate power is.
Yet, multinationals are far more democratic, in both structure and performance, than any sovereign government will ever be. If the corporate governance structure is correctly set up, then every corporate entity has an annual AGM at which point the corporate leaders have to resign, on a rotational basis, depending on individual Articles of Association or Memorandum ofIincorporation provisions (depending in which jurisdiction the corporate entity ‘resides’). How often does a sovereign leader stand down, in comparison and leave it to the popular vote to be re-elected? Certainly not on an annual basis, as is the case for most corporate leaders.
This leads us to the real thought piece of this article, namely the fact that corporate ownership and access to corporate ownership should really be extended to as wide a base as possible, rather than a few ‘monied’ or opportunist participants in the market.
Legislation around employee share ownership schemes are still very cumbersome and rules, rather than principles driven.
The real revolution we require is not around a new tax base or recapitalizing democratic bankrupt nation states; however we require a revolution of democratic corporate ownership to sweep the length and breadth of the land, in order to spread the risk, add additional wealth creation opportunities (and hence a widened wealth tax base) for smaller, leaner and meaner governments to address. This a cry from civil society to the inner ‘goodness’ of political society to sit up, take serious stock and work on longer-term solutions to the erosion of their tax bases, rather than the usual headline grabbing short-termist market distorting interventions the G20 governments are so infamous.
There ride will inevitably not be smooth, they never are, with significant volatility in between. However, the Kuznets swing has as an average a run time structure of 15 – 25 years. [Out of interest, the last Kuznets swing lasted 21 years, depending on whether your started counting from “Big Bang“]
Are we prepared for it?
Yes and No might be the correct answer.
No, because we just don’t have the data for it currently.
Yes, possibly, because the effects of a digitised economy is the new unknown. This points us back to our own ‘philosophy‘ page on this site.
More in depth analysis and discussion on the new cycle will follow soon.
On reflection, the ‘mechanism’ established to rescue or save the Euro is indicative of the fact that we still understand very little and can control and short-circuit systems to some extent, yet we think we value everything.
Inflation, and dare we state it openly, serious inflation of double-digit proportions must now surely be back on the cards?
We realise that we are not the only and first publication to come up with this analysis.
Bloomberg reported on 30 September 2011 that European Inflation had unexpectedly jumped to 3%, up from 2.5% in August. Yet, this is still a long way off a double digit scenario, however, the factors mentioned in the Bloomberg report included, the Greek Default (possibility) and the ECB actions still possible in terms of containing European wide inflation.
Although most economists predict that inflation will start to wane next year, we believe that actions like the Greek Debt haircut and the increase in the EFSF’s bailout fund to €1tr sends signals to the market that the value of money is now seriously ‘delinked’ from operational reality.
We will not comment here in depth on monetary policy, as it is currently applied, however, we are beginning to get the impression that inflation as ‘the silent and stealth’ taxation it really is, is now firmly (yet behind closed committee room doors) on the agenda to help “manage” the size of the European Debt mountain.
It is worth keeping an eye on the real drivers of inflation and then there is some value in keeping an open mind.
Let us explain the problem or rather challenge of choosing between Quantitative Easing (QE) and an Interest Rate reduction to stimulate economic activity, with reference to the Bell Curve diagramme above:
There are two major factors at play here:
With a bout of QE, the effect feeds into the margins of theBellcurve and it takes time for the distribution network (money supply chain) to filter the new enhanced supply into the economy at large. So there is both a distribution and time lag effect with QE.
On the other hand, with an immediate Interest Rate reduction, the effect is to cover the larger middle ground of the Bellc urve more instantly. Yes, it does depend on your wealth and debt holder structure too, but both borrowers and savers feel the effect more immediately.
But, with Interest Rates currently so low, this option is not really that feasible. With inflation running at between 2 – 5% depending on which side of the pond you are, effectively savers are paying an additional ‘tax contribution’ to the Treasury by this stealth means.