Forcing savers to help borrowers?

Over at the Standard they discuss one of Lord Keynes’s “real ideas” – namely an international organisation that tries to push savers to spend, by buying the things borrowers save.  When I put it this way the idea sounds ridiculous – which it is.

This unusual view comes from a belief that a trade deficit or surplus is a “imbalance” that needs to be “solved” by a benevolent organisation.  This is of course rubbish, nations, like individuals, should be able to run trade balances or surpluses based on the preferences of the individuals involved.

Now I haven’t heard this idea before, and if Keynes did come up with it I think it has more to do with the elitist world view of the Cambridge school combined with some foggy mercantilist sentiment than with the practical relevance of such a policy.

“Imbalances” that are caused by market failures are the ones we should solve – not arbitrary imbalances that we have assumed exist because we want to regulate.

Ultimately, there has been a disjoint between risk and return in some areas of society, a problem that has been able to occur because of large information asymmetries across the financial market.  Transparency of information and wider education surround risk are the best ways to improve outcomes in the financial market – not arbitrary regulation based on a view that “all countries should run a trade balance”.

  • Now I’m definitely trolling since I ahven’t read the whole article at the standard (time constraints – stupid job), but this bit caught my eye

    “International debt wrecks people’s development, trashes the environment and threatens the global system with periodic crises.”

    I didn’t know debt is bad for the environment??

  • As I said in response to parts of the article at the Standard

    “One of the reasons for financial crises is the imbalance of trade between nations.”

    It is?? How so? All the reasons have I seen argued about have nothing to do with trade, so how exactly does trade being about financial crises?

    “Countries accumulate debt partly as a result of sustaining a trade deficit.”

    No. They could run up debt because of a trade deficit (as an aside, what do they mean by trade deficit?) but there is no reason why you have to. As Donald J Boudreaux puts it

    “Careful readers will note that a trade deficit bears no necessary relationship to debt”.

    There is no more a relationship between debt and a trade deficit for a country than there is between me running up debt and the trade deficit I have with my supermarket. I may run up debt, say by paying with my credit card, but then again I may not, I could pay with cash.

  • I also noticed noticed everyone on the standard ignored your comment…. sigh… we can only try

    a trade deficit just means that net exports is negative from memory?

  • Kimble

    The Standard is an echo chamber. They don’t want to hear anything different to what they already “know”.

  • “I didn’t know debt is bad for the environment??”

    I believe if you look deeper they weren’t necessarily making that claim – they were ranting 🙂

    “There is no more a relationship between debt and a trade deficit for a country than there is between me running up debt and the trade deficit I have with my supermarket. I may run up debt, say by paying with my credit card, but then again I may not, I could pay with cash.”

    Indeed.

    “a trade deficit just means that net exports is negative from memory?”

    Yes. So they want us to force export markets to be “in balance” – I believe this is absolute trash. While we are at it, why don’t we prevent people being able to borrow or saver!

    “The Standard is an echo chamber. They don’t want to hear anything different to what they already “know”.”

    It seems so. They have gotten alot worse since Labour lost – writing policy prescriptions that are nonsensical. I only go there for material to write on nowadays.

  • This one was a doozey:

    “We only need to look to New Zealand for an example – we have been subject to several attacks on our currency which have hurt our trade and we are constantly threatened with capital flight if we want to implement policies that are good for New Zealand but bad for rich foreigners’ profit margins.”

    Aye carumba. My head hurts just trying to figure out where to start in disassembling this…

  • Attacks on our currency? Since when have we been fixing the exchange rate?

    Why are we threatened with capital flight if we are introducing policies that are good for New Zealand growth – wouldn’t that give people overseas the incentive to try and get in on the action.

    How can we “reduce foreign companies profit” from investing here and be “introducing policies that are good for New Zealand’s growth” at the same time.

    If a policy causes “capital flight” I seriously doubt it is a good policy for people in New Zealand 😛

  • Matt, I think they may be referring to Rio Tinto and other business threatening to cease operations in New Zealand should we implement some kind of ETS or Carbon Tax.

    Almost a perfect example of a policy that’s good for the people of New Zealand but not for the short-sighted businessman. Although, I assume you were thinking along the lines of economy and growth… Not everything is about money 🙂

  • “Not everything is about money”

    True – but money provides a means for people to represent their preferences – and surely it is all about preferences 😉