Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Los reyes filosofos de la FED

Brad Delong comenta la causa de la crisis:

"The current financial crisis has its roots in Greenspan's decision to keep interest rates very low in 2002 and 2003 to head off the danger of a deflation-induced double-dip recession, and his subsequent decision that the costs of cleaning up after a housing bubble were likely to be less than the costs of the high unemployment that would be generated by a preemptive attempt to pop a housing-speculation bubble. Two years ago, I would have said that Greenspan's judgment here was correct. Six months ago, I would have said that his judgment was probably correct. Today -- in the middle of the largest nationalizations in history -- I can no longer state that Greenspan made the right calls with respect to the level of interest rates and the housing bubble in the 2000s."

El articulo tambien resume la historia de la banca central y la economía política de la FED vs congreso vs ejecutivo en Estados Unidos.Lo extraño es que no veo llamados a cuestionar los poderes de la banca central. Solo piden mas regulación para los bancos, mientras reconocen que la causa estuvo en las acciones de la FED!

Que la banca central debe tener mucho poder se ha convertido en un tabú incuestionable. Y esta crisis parece que no va a cambiar eso.

Esta es la introducción al articulo:

"Ben Bernanke is the closest thing to a central economic planner the United States has ever had. He bestrides our narrow economic world like a colossus. Unelected (he was appointed by President George W. Bush and confirmed by an overwhelming majority in the Senate) and unaccountable (unless the Congress decides that it wishes to amend the Federal Reserve Act and take the blame for whatever else goes wrong with the economy), he is responsible only to his conscience -- and his open-market committee of himself, the other six governors of the Federal Reserve Board, and the 12 presidents of the regional Federal Reserve banks. The fate of the economy in the next administration depends far less on the president than on this moral-philosopher-prince to whose judgment we have entrusted a remarkable share of control over our destiny.

How did an ivory-tower academic whose specialty is the details of the Great Depression get to this position? What does he do all day? How did so much power come to rest in a single institution, a single individual? The current system is the product of a century and a half of evolution in the role of a central bank, on both sides of the Atlantic, through a series of accidents and crises. For a generation, the idea of social democracy -- with government ownership, control, and regulation of at least the "commanding heights" of the economy -- has been in retreat. But in the middle of this market economy is an immense island of central planning: the Federal Reserve.

In normal times, the Fed -- not the market -- decides what the short-term interest rate is. The interest rate is perhaps the key price in the economy. It is the price at which we trade wealth in the present for wealth in the future. When the interest rate is low, our focus is on the future: Businesses and consumers borrow and invest. When the interest rate is high, our focus is on the present because distant-future promises of cash are not worth very much in today's dollars. You might think that if there were ever a decision we would leave to the market and the aggregated preferences of millions of individuals, it would be the terms on which we trade present comfort off for future wealth. But we don't. We leave that decision to the discretion of the philosopher-prince Bernanke and his committee. And in extraordinary moments like the September Wall Street crisis, when the flow of funds through financial markets dries up, we leave the decisions of which banks to nationalize, which to close down, which to forcibly merge, and which to rescue and on what terms to our financial overlords in the Eccles Building on the National Mall."

Vale la pena mencionar que Delong es democrata, trabajo en la administración Clinton y se considera de centro o centro-izquierda. Su articulo no corresponde a la típica visión libertaria, pero estada carga del realismo político que le falta, diría yo, a la mayoría de economistas.

Termina con este parrafo:"Cicero said that the problem with his political ally Cato was that he thought they lived in the Republic of Plato while they really lived in the Sewer of Romulus. It is either our curse or our blessing that we live in the Republic of the Central Banker."

Creo que los modelos de algunos economistas seguro tambien funcionarían bien en la republica de Platón, el sistema de los filosofos reyes que planifican la sociedad.