Thoughts on 2014 – Moral Hazard PLUS – Part 1

Reflections on 2014

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.

© theMarketSoul 2014

The Big Design: Moral Hazard, and the EU

Irrespective of how the twists and turns of the Greek political system plays out over the next few days and weeks, we believe that the Big EU (Eurozone more specifically) players and their leaders only have themselves to blame for Greece‘s seemingly petulant behaviour.

If at the fundamental level we cannot understand that ANY form of bail-out will always support and lead to Moral Hazard, then we have learnt nothing from the past and the more recent debt and financial crisis of the 2008.

Previously we mentioned the ‘Credit Quake’ with lots of after tremors (attributed to Dennis Cox of Risk Reward), will last for a number of years and this is exactly what we have playing out as daily deadlines in front of our eyes at the moment.

However, to return to the point at hand:  The age of economic dilemma of Moral Hazard has reared its monstrous head again and is in danger of ‘nabbing us in the butt’ (yet again), because the leaders of the EU (more specifically the Eurozone 17) do not want to understand that all their actions in supporting Greece is only leading to a more dangerous form of Moral Hazard and flies in the face of the Austrian School‘s ideas of ‘Creative Destruction‘.

Without effective mechanisms in place to deal with European regions at different cycles of development (not even to mention the basic lack of sound  fiscal management), is to ask for problems (on a continuous basis).

Until a sound framework of either full fiscal and monetary union with appropriate checks and balances are rolled out in Europe, with a single capital market instrument (Gilt / Bond or EuroBond) and mechanisms for dealing with localised ‘failures’ of the market to clear itself effectively (never mind efficiently); we will continue to wretch and lurch about with market confidence eroded and leaders running around like headless chickens trying and implementing inappropriate tools for the job a sound framework is supposed to deal with.

It is not more regulation we want.  It is simply BETTER regulation.  It is that simple.

theMarketSoul ©2011

Does Law inform or enforce culture?

If ‘the Law’ is the codification of cultural norms and practices, does the Law then not inform culture?

Policy, social malice and engineering of social outcomes bend these laws into legislative blunt instruments designed to enforce cultural behavioural changes on a grand scale, trouncing the common law of good judgment, neighbourly relations and common sense and thus freedom in their wake?

 

Within the above question and assertion lies the ‘malice of the free market’; where misguided and misinformed regulation channels behaviour and economic interactions in directions and with outcomes not anticipated or foreseen.  Thus unleashing the ‘law of unintended consequences’.

 

Take as an example the economic condition referred to as Moral Hazard.

 

A definition is:

Moral Hazard occurs when a party insulated from risk may behave differently than it would behave if it were fully exposed to the risk.

 

Moral Hazard therefore flies in the face of the principles of personal responsibility and thus accountability for our actions to a wider stakeholder community.

 

Is Moral Hazard perhaps promoted and therefore amplified by the fact that business leaders are not more formally educated in their fiduciary responsibilities?

 

Is this a function of weak or inefficient corporate governance structures and frameworks, or merely an oversight that is readily addressed by ‘occupational licensure’ or the professionalization of directors by only allowing formally qualified persons to serve on certain corporate boards?

 

Would this formalisation process of understanding fiduciary responsibility hinder the spirit of free enterprise and risk-taking or enhance the governance and risk aptitudes in a controlled and more channelled and focussed practice?  Would it have as a positive consequence an amplifier effect for raising the corporate governance and Enterprise-wide Risk Management practices?

theMarketSoul © 2010