Go Willem Buiter! The London School of Economics prof and former Bank of England and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development official has been saying for some time that the Fed suffers from “cognitive regulatory capture” and has been far too responsive to the needs of Wall Street. It’s been puzzling to watch his detailed, well argued criticisms go unnoticed, particularly when they have been offered at forums where one would think they’d be impossible to ignore (for instance, a conference co-hosted by the New York Fed where Buiter presented a pretty harsh paper on what he called the North Atlantic Financial Crisis).
Well, he finally seems to have gotten through, perhaps because he is forward enough to criticize Fed officials to their face at an event they are hosting. Or maybe it’s because the pattern of conduct he decries is so patently obvious that the key actors can no longer fool themselves. From Bloomberg:
Former Bank of England policy maker Willem Buiter sparked the biggest debate at the Federal Reserve’s annual mountainside symposium, saying the central bank pays too much heed to the concerns of financial institutions.
“The Fed listens to Wall Street and believes what it hears,” Buiter said yesterday in a paper presented to the Fed’s conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “This distortion into a partial and often highly distorted perception of reality is unhealthy and dangerous.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Economics blog provides a similar account and a link to the paper.
Mr. Buiter slams the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and Bank of England for what he says was a mishandling of the financial crisis and monetary policy over the past year. He gives the worst marks to the Fed, saying it’s too close to Wall Street and financial markets — responding to their needs to the detriment of the wider economy. Mr. Buiter, a former member of the BOE’s Monetary Policy Committee, said the Fed overreacted to the economic slowdown — misjudging the importance of financial stability to the overall economy — and created a deeper inflation problem as a result.
The paper is quite long, but it is very well written and moves very quickly for this sort of exercise (it does get geeky from time to time). I will confess to having read only the first 30 pages, but his argument seems spot on:
My thesis is that both monetary theory and the practice of central banking have failed to keep up with key developments in the financial systems of advanced market economies, and that as a result of this, many central banks were to varying degrees ill-prepared for the financial crisis that erupted on August 9, 2007.
The Fed gets disproportionate attention, in part due to the venue of the presentation, in part because Buiter contends that the Fed did the worst job of the major central banks. Note that Buiter is more of inflation hawk than we are, but as a result, Buiter thinks that letting housing prices decline is not the end of the world and implicitly, adjustments need to run their course (per his point 4). Even though we think this deleveraging will be nastier than Buiter anticipates, we think that trying to hold asset prices at inflated levels will inevitably fail and the effort will only create more damage. To Buiter again:
[T]hree factors contribute to Fed’s underachievement as regards macroeconomic stability. The first is institutional: the Fed is the least independent of the three central banks and, unlike the ECB and the BoE, has a regulatory and supervisory role; fear of political encroachment on what limited independence it has and cognitive regulatory capture by the financial sector make the Fed prone to over-react to signs of weakness in the real economy and to financial sector concerns.
The second is a sextet of technical and analytical errors: (1) misapplication of the ‘Precautionary Principle’; (2) overestimation of the effect of house prices on economic activity; (3) mistaken focus on ‘core’ inflation; (4) failure to appreciate the magnitude of the macroeconomic and financial correction/adjustment required to achieve a sustainable external equilibrium and adequate national saving rate in the US following past excesses; (5) overestimation of the likely impact on the real economy of deleveraging in the financial sector; and (6) too little attention paid (especially during the asset market and credit boom
that preceded the current crisis) to the behaviour of broad monetary and credit aggregates.
All three central banks have been too eager to blame repeated and persistent upwards inflation surprises on ‘external factors beyond their control’, specifically food, fuel and other commodity prices. The third cause of the Fed’s macroeconomic underachievement has been its tendency to use the main macroeconomic stability instrument, the Federal Funds target rate, to address financial stability problems. This was an error both because the official policy rate is a rather ineffective tool for addressing liquidity and insolvency issues and because more effective tools were available, or ought to have been. The ECB, and to some extent the BoE, have assigned the official policy rate to their price stability objective and have addressed the financial crisis with the liquidity management tools available to the lender of last resort and market maker of last resort.
Of his three charges, Buiter is on solid ground on the first and third. The second set (his points 1-6) are debatable, but you can make a case for them, and he does.
Some of his comments are blunt:
In the case of the Fed, the nature of the arrangements for pricing illiquid collateral offered by primary dealers invites abuse….
All three central banks have gone well beyond the provision of emergency liquidity to solvent but temporarily illiquid banks. All three have allowed themselves to be used as quasifiscal agents of the state, providing subsidies to banks and other highly leveraged institutions, and assisting in their recapitalisation, while keeping the resulting contingent exposure off the budget and balance sheet of the fiscal authorities. Such subservience to the fiscal authorities undermines the independence of the central banks even in the area of monetary policy.
There is a lot of good stuff. For instance, Buiter discusses the “asymmetric” response of regulators to asset bubbles (they let the bubble run but jump in to try to arrest the collapse) and discusses remedies.
Unfortunately, a lot of participants seemed more interested in defending the Fed than in sifting through Buiter’s analysis to see what might be valid and useful:
Fed Governor Frederic Mishkin said Buiter’s paper fired “a lot of unguided missiles,” and former Vice Chairman Alan Blinder “respectfully disagreed” with his analysis of the central bank’s crisis management…..
Mishkin lashed out against Buiter’s assertion that the Fed’s rate reductions may cause higher consumer prices.
“I wish he had actually read some of the literature on optimal monetary policy, because it might have been very helpful in this context,” said Mishkin, who collaborated with Bernanke on inflation research in the 1990s.
Mishkin, a leading advocate of the Fed’s effort to sustain economic growth through rapid rate reductions, said research shows that “what you need to do is act more aggressively.”
In reply, Buiter said the value of such a strategy “is not at all obvious to me.”
[Bank of Isreal’s Stanley] Fischer, drawing laughter from the audience, held up a red fire extinguisher saying, “I asked the organizers for some technical assistance in dealing with this discussion.”
While defending the Fed, Blinder said Buiter’s papers “often feature an alluring mix of brilliant insight and outrageous statements.” The central bank’s performance, though not flawless, has been “pretty good” given the magnitude of the crisis, he said.
European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet also came to the Fed’s defense, saying “what has been done until now has been pretty well done under very difficult circumstances.”
Although the Wall Street Journal coverage of the response is less detailed, it says that Blinder, who was tasked with critiquing the paper, told a long-form version of the Dutch boy putting his finger in the dam, and said that Buiter would rather have the dam leak out of obedience to his belief in moral hazard, and let the dam burst.
I may be reading too much into this, but it strikes me that Blinder went out of his way to be insulting (anyone who regularly participates in critiques of academic papers please read the WSJ post and comment).
Part of the problem is stylistic. Even though Buiter is Dutch by descent and dislikes the idea of national identity, his writing style often echos the cut and thrust of Parliamentary debates, a posture that is also well received in English academe and drawing rooms but not well received in the US. So his bluntness is over-the-top by US standards.
From this vantage point, it’s obvious that the Fed has become far too dependent on current Wall Street incumbents and thus can be manipulated by them (and in fairness, the people who are doing the persuading may be completely sincere in their views). There were ways to compensate: cultivate contacts with former executives who no longer have close ties, find independent analysts who have useful data and perspectives. No doubt Fed officials have extensive contacts, but it appears they have not been used in a deliberate, orchestrated fashion to test and validate information provided by those currently employed by major financial firms.
The second issue is that even if the Fed is too close to the financial services industry, it still may have made the right policy decisions. The jury is still out. Many people (probably including the Fed officials) hope the crisis has passed, while readers of this blog know there is good reason to think the worst has not arrived in earnest.
Buiter has taken a bold position, The Fed needs to be able to explain why what is good for Wall Street is also good for the economy as a whole. The sort of questions that Buiter is raising are notably absent from the media and US-based first rank economists. The Bloomberg story may not give a full enough account to be certain, but the responses to Buiter’s charges do not seem persuasive. They amount to disputes over analytical methods and assertions that everything is working fine (after providing a $400 billion fix with no withdrawal plan and getting support from foreign investors equivalent to $1000 a person. So what’s your next act?).
It will take some time to see if events prove Buiter right. And as Cassandras like Nouriel Roubini know, it can sometimes take longer than you anticipate for bad policies to finally yield the expected dismal harvest.
I first was exposed to “regulatory capture” in 1968 when I read “The Politics of Industry” by C. Walton Hamilton, 1957. That’s the way it is. The Fed is owned by Wall Street. I’ve posted on regulatory capture at my blog. As for the Fed, KILL THE BEAST! REPEAL THE FEDERAL RESERVE ACT! Buiter was too kind to the Fed. Much too kind.
As for Blinder, I have had e-mail contact with him. Blinder can take his ad hominem attacks and shove them. I can’t stand the guy.
I have a number of posts about “The Bloodless Coup”, concerning Goldman Sachs takeover of Treasury. Americans have been reduced to the level of serfs in their own country.
Mishkin, Fischer, Blinder and Trichet all too obviously circle the wagons around their Fed peers and colleagues. It reminds me of the reception Colbert received when he dared speak truth to power at the press/Bush dinner. Unfortunately — even tragically really — these people are so stewed in their own convictions that we’ll all just have to wait for economic apocalypse for any possible hearing of the Buiter viewpoint. And, if we avoid economic apocalypse — which we all hope we will — then Buiter will be written off as a crank and the entire episode will repeat itself in the future.
So much for reason, skepticism, learning and open mindedness. Today’s central bankers and their Wall St partners ‘know what’s best’ — just as they knew what was best during the many years of ‘financial innovation’ that proved there was no such thing as risk, all things fit within Great Moderation, and the only truly free markets are those in which government sets no rules other than the firm readiness to bail out Wall Street as insurance for freedom for all.
Don’t you just love the smell of napalm in the morning?
“Give me control over a nation’s currency and I care not who makes its laws.”
Baron M.A. Rothschild
The FED knows exactly what they are doing. They want more power over the economy to transfer wealth to themselves and they won’t get that by saying no.
Clearly the Fed should be courting bloggers instead.
Buiter makes some good points, and as a credible source he elevates the discussion from the blogosphere.
Unfortunately this is going to be an academic food fight rather than a reasoned discussion for the time being. Anyone who is familiar with university and departmental politics will understand exactly what I mean.
The net of this is that the Fed is a private concern, heavily weighted with bankers, academic economists, and a banking perspective. Their customers, at the end of the day especially for the NY Fed, are the banks.
Thanks to Yves for an excellent thumbnail sketch of the Buiter paper and its reception.
What do you expect Buiter to say? He is part of academia now and already under pressure to engage. There is a prevailing thought out there that the elite (including and mostly academia) has been asleep on the switch. You ain’t seen nothing yet. Wait until revisionism starts.
You have hit on the crux of the problem, that is, whether what is good for Wall Street is good for the rest of the economy.
It appears that whenever a huge financial institution is about to fail, everyone scream Systemic Failure Warning! and runs for the fire hose full of money to save whatever company is going bust.
Of course, there could be thousands of other businesses in the real economy dying and no one ever says a word. That is just the “market” working for goodness sake.
Its as if the Financial sector was like the Officer Corps in the First World War sitting safely behind the lines while ordering hordes of regular people to their death.
I do not entirely buy into the “conspiracy” idea either that these entities are just acting to ensure that they will gain all the “wealth.” If they were coordinated enough to pull that off, they would be coordinated enough to realize that they would all do better if they could ferment true growth in the economy.
No. It is probably far worse that that. There is no conspiracy. There are just a sorry bunch of “elites” who have all gone to roughly the same schools and have been taught or learned to believe that the “market” was king and that was all they ever need to worry about. They lack any real capacity to look at anything other than purely abstract numbers or their own small world of wealth and comfort. It’s as if they were told to figure out how to drive crosstown but instead of being given a map of the city, they have been given a map of the world.
Anyone that expects the Fed to reverse course now is delusional; to do so would be an admission of error and would undermine confidence in the financial system to a greater degree.
Below is an excerpt from HG Wells writing in 1933 ‘The Shape of Things To Come’…after the US stock market had lost 85% of its value.
‘“Currencies rose and towered above others and broke like Atlantic waves, and people found the good money in their banks changed to useless paper in a period of a few months. It became more and more difficult to carry on foreign trade because of the increasing uncertainty of payment. Trade and industry sickened and lost heart more and more in this disastrous uncertainty; it was like being in an earthquake, when it seems equally unsafe to stand still or run away; and the multitudes of unemployed increased continually. The economically combatant nations entrenched themselves behind tariffs, played each other tricks with loans, repudiations, sudden inflations and deflations, and no power in the world seemed able to bring them into any concerted action to arrest and stop their common dégringolade [quick deterioration or breakdown].” [pg 115]
‘“The year 1933 closed in a phase of dismayed apprehension. It was like that chilly stillness, that wordless interval of suspense, that comes at times before the breaking of a storm. The wheels of economic life were turning only reluctantly and uncertainly; the millions of unemployed accumulated and became more and more plainly a challenge and a menace…There had been a considerable if inadequate building boom after the Peace of Versailles, but after 1930 new construction fell off more and more.” [pg 116]
Bernanke has chosen a course of economic response to attempt to prevent what happened in the great depression from happening again. For anyone to expect Bernanke to change course in spite of any amount of criticisim from any quarter is a foolish notion. I am not saying that Bernanke is right, simply that he is on a mission to avoid catastrophe and he will not be deflected except by catastrophe or success. He is going to be a hero or a goat, and all our fortunes and futures are riding on the outcome, like it or not.
i love buiter's response.
the single notion overarching the paper attacks the intellectual piers on which most modern fed policy stands.
it's sort of a nassim taleb-esque rebuke of all the fed stands for; most of which was ensconced fairly recently in the greenspan era.
there's too much experimentation/tinkering going on with the fed. one of the reasons the ECB & BoE performed better was because they were more disciplined in their approach, rather than experimenting & doing everything by the seat of the pants. the latter approach was rather unprofessional and amateurish.
i did disagree with his claim that the effect of falling are exaggerated. he is right that "Housing wealth isn’t wealth," it's really just credit. but that is liquidity for consumers, and therefore can have the same effect as an increase in wealth in the short term. a wealthy yet illiquid person may not be bankrupt, but they may easily become insolvent.
On the matter of style, I see two cultural tropes working against any published or policy response to Buiter.
First, academics for the most part publish – they don’t debate – and were therefore ill-prepared and indisposed to return fire. They don’t know how. And they’re accustomed, from positions of power, to waving away uncongenial questions. Probably they will in this instance as well.
Second, Jackson Hole is essentially a boys’ club. A locker room. Cronies. Call it what you wish. I think Willem Buiter turned out to be an unanticipated wild card there and will be discounted on that basis, i.e., “not our kind.”
But I’m pleased he did it, regardless.
Blinder’s counter-argument is deeply flawed.
First, the Dutch Boy story is a metaphor for self-sacrifice. In the case of the Fed, their actions accumulate contingent liabilities to the U.S. taxpayer. Their own self-sacrifice is difficult to ascertain. If anything, the Bernanke Fed had good reason to expect their reputation to improve as a result of coddling Wall Street. The fact that Buiter is one of the few “scolders” in the Fed’s peer group only erodes Blinder’s argument.
Second, in the Dutch Boy story, the adults quickly stepped in to remedy the situation. In this case, the Fed has had its finger in the dike since “saving us from deflation” in 2002 and avoiding a crisis in 1998. No such adult-like behavior exists here. If anything, the moral is, “don’t maintain the dikes as the Dutch Boy will always be there to save us.” And of course, this was one of Buiter’s key points.
Third and finally, it is not clear that the Fed has prevented the dike from breaking (credit spreads are back to former levels), and it is possible that it has only made matters worse. The inability to consider this possibility is rooted in the Fed’s academic, “we know better”, arrogance.
Buiter for Fed chair!
I agree with you 100%.
I trading e-mails with Blinder, I told his something to the effect: I’m not in your classroom professor. Give me that “F”. See if I care?
Burnside: Yes, they will say Buiter has “gone native”.
Perhaps Buiter’s paper cited here will settle once and for all the silly debate as to whether HYPERLEVERAGING played a key role in the development of this catastrophe.
Exhibit A in support of this proposition is page 13 of Buiter’s Jackson Hole paper generously provided by Yves. That chapter is entitled “LEVERAGE IS THE KEY”. I urge everyone to read it.
Exhibit B in support of the proposition that HYPERLEVERAGING is absolutely instrumental to the develpment of this crisis is the seminal paper “Monetary Policy and Asset Price Volatility” by Bernanke (1999) Economic Review of Kansas City, 84:4, wherein he states on page 31:
“…the impact of the bubble on real activity also depends on initial financing conditions, such as THE DEGREE OF LEVERAGE AMONG BORROWERS.”
Now if Bernanke and Buiter BOTH AGREE on this essential point, I remain profoundly mystified why the central role of hyperleveraging in the formation of asset bubbles is so controversial in the blogosphere.
If Buitin and Bernake agree, does that make the idea somehow ridiculous?
Of course not.
It leads strong credence to the notion. Buitin and Bernanke have dramatically different views on how to go forward. Yet they BOTH agree on a fundamental cause:
“So his bluntness is over-the-top by US standards.” Isn’t that the root of many US prolems? Free speech may be Constitutional, but it isn’t practised much.
There is much less to this summary description of Buiter’s criticism of the Fed as “too close to Wall Street” than meets the eye. A careful reading forces one to conclude it is much more than that, according to Buiter.
By analogy, let’s look at the medical profession.
Does anyone claim that bodies that govern and discipline medical malpractice should be absolutely clueless about the practice of medicine?
Of course not.
Those who oversee and discipline doctors should be familiar enough with standard medical practice so as to be able to comment intelligently upon the alleged malpractice conduct of the doctor.
Similarly, the Federal Reserve should not simply be composed entirely of ditch diggers, the homeless and the mentally retarded.
It only stands to reason that banking regulatory officials of the Fed should have a strong, working familiarity with Treasury markets, income velocity, capital ratios and derivatives.
So it only stands to reason that bankers and Wall Street should be properly regulated by those with a substantial working knowledge of the subject matter.
How do you obtain this familiarity? By going to the same business schools and moving in the same professional circles as bankers and Wall Street.
I’m now halfway through Buiter’s paper and it deserves to be read in its entirety because it is indeed a serious paper; that’s why it was allowed to be presented in this prestigious forum of Jackson Hole.
But to characterize Buiter’s main thesis as “The Fed is too close to Wall Street” shortchanges Buiter’s work dramatically and seems completely inconsistent with a complete reading of it in its entirety.
I urge serious members of this forum (rather than those simply interested in politically correct Fed-bashing) to read all of Buiter’s paper so that they may grasp its finer points.
The only good thing about Bernanke is that he’s telegraphed his foolish plans, so investors can guard against the higher taxes and, by turns, inflation and disinflation, they will bring.
You are missing my, and I think Buiter’s point. He has said repeatedly on his blog, in his May paper (where he discussed cognitive regulatory capture at much greater length) that the Fed is too attentive to Wall Street’s needs and demands. I pointed in the post to possible remedies. I did not advocate that the Fed start hiring people with no financial experience. I said the Fed needed to go to greater lengths to cross check what current incumbents are telling them against the views of others who have market knowledge but no axe to grind.
And even though Buiter may have spent less time on that issue in the body of this paper, he does consider to be a major failing, He put it first on his list of charges. Given his attention to style and rhetoric, I would imagine that to be a deliberate move.
What strikes me about Buiter’s comments is how generally accepted they are. I guess I must be reading too many bloggers.
um, i’m not sure there’s anything _really_ new here — the NYC-WDC/wall street-k street praxis has been in operation for generations — it’s like a sudden revelation about an iron triangle in japan or a military industrial complex; not that it isn’t welcome antiseptic sunlight, just that speaking truth to power is hardly, er, revelatory… or, i guess i should say, not *as* revelatory as some people may think ;)
uh, i think ‘naive’ was the word i was searching for! besides, isn’t everyone’s interests aligned when it comes to a healthy and thriving economy and housing and credit markets? :P
Fair Game: What Will Mac ‘n’ Mae Cost You and Me? Up and down Fannie’s and Freddie’s capital structure, debt and equity holders want to know how a bailout would affect them.
Freddie, Fannie Ills Leave Experts at Loss: The U.S. Treasury will likely be forced to inject funds into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, some top economists think, but they’re not sure whether it will be enough to bolster the sagging economy.
I think that Buiter has some good but not new analysis of the causes of the credit crisis.
However, his suggestions for current Fed policy are both dangerous and poorly thought out.
I read both his May, 2008 article and his August, 2008 article (which was a follow up to the May article). The worst of his analysis is when in a single sentence he dismisses the difficulty of correcting a recession brought on by monetary stock destruction (i.e., the Great Depression) and says “Output contraction can be reversed easily through expansionary policy”. The sentence rejects without analysis or thought the whole point of the Fed policy he doesn’t like, i.e., SOMETIMES output contraction CANNOT be reversed easily through expansionary policy.
I have a blog where I wrote about Buiter after reading this blog. Please feel free to check it out at http://www.firstcapital.com/blogs/mark_sunshine/?p=90.
In case anyone is interested (and before anyone accuses me of being a “corporate tool”) I also have written two articles where I suggest that enforcement of current rules and regulations has been at best “lax” and that criminal enforcement has been non-existent. I think that the moral hazard issue should be addressed by regulators enforcing the laws and regulations on the books and not ignoring them. Those blog references are http://www.firstcapital.com/blogs/mark_sunshine/?p=87 and http://www.firstcapital.com/blogs/mark_sunshine/?p=74.
Yves, I think your blog is great and look foward to reading the multiple articles each day.
Thanks for helping us stay informed.
I agree with Buiter’s criticism of the Fed as being too much under Wall Street sway. But as for inflation, wait-n-see. The stats show that European wages are keeping up with inflation, American wages – not so much. The back of labor is broken, and in our coming recession we will all witness the tormented flopping of “consumers” as they cope with that by retrenching.
Tar and feather every last Fed member, then shut down the lobby groups that push synthetic derivative solutions to this corruption!
You have to keep in mind that this circus is put on by The Fed, so obviously they are there to slap each other on the back and thus to not engage in meaningful debate.
The truth is in the fact that a shadow banking system is out of control and the bailout of bear Stearns is an antitrust matter, which relies on taxpayer support and thirdparty hocus pocus, in the form of Blackrock liquidating Bear assets in a process that is not public, or disclosed. This entire bailout is filled with government fraud, which is backed by the central bank members. Buiter should be praised for his work!!!!
On June 26, 2008, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) extended credit to Maiden Lane LLC under the authority of section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act. This limited liability company was formed to acquire certain assets of Bear Stearns and to manage those assets through time to maximize repayment of the credit extended and to minimize disruption to financial markets. Payments by Maiden Lane LLC from the proceeds of the net portfolio holdings will be made in the following order: operating expenses of the LLC, principal due to the FRBNY, interest due to the FRBNY, principal due to JPMorgan Chase & Co., and interest due to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Any remaining funds will be paid to the FRBNY.
Clearly both the consumers and the banks have been playing footloose and fancyfree with OPM(other peoples money) and leverage.
Meanwhile, the supposed referee, the Fed has been busy drinking the Harvard Business School’s Koolaid and flirting with the cheerleaders.
Lately, I am becoming a fan of the Will Rogers Common Sense School of Business and his attitude towards money and bankers.
I was raised on a Cattle Ranch and I never saw or heard of a Ranchman going broke (except) the ones who had borrowed money. You can’t break a man that don’t borrow; he may not have anything, but Boy! he can look the World in the face and say, ‘I don’t owe you Birds a nickel.’ You will say, what will all the Bankers do? I don’t care what they do. Let ’em go to work, if there is any job any of them could earn a living at. Banking and After-Dinner Speaking are two of the most Non-essential industries we have in this country. I am ready to reform if they are.” WA #14, March 18, 1923
independentCPA SAYS, and doc h suggests, a re-doing of the FED’s existence.
As do others.
My agreement leads me to question,
and replace it with what?
The Paulistas and the Austros seem to revert back past wildcat banking.
I still say, we’re $50 TRILLION in DEBT service, and ALL new money is created as debt, so there is no way out that route.
So-called liquidity is the hair of the dog that bit ya.
Consider these two statements, one is from Bernanke the other from Trichet:
Bernanke (opening remarks to JH 2008): Although we have seen improved functioning in some markets, the financial storm that reached gale force some weeks before our last meeting here in Jackson Hole has not yet subsided, and its effects on the broader economy are becoming apparent in the form of softening economic activity and rising unemployment."
Trichet (Introductory statement Aug08, Q&A): "But, if everything is taken into account, the dynamism of loans to non-financial corporations has given us an overall level of lending to the private sector that is still very dynamic and I would say again that, in that domain too, we have to be respectful and pragmatic and will have to see what the facts and the figures are."
As Buiter points out the ‘Precautionary Principle’ is misused by the Fed. Central bankers as the ultimate guardians for macro economic stability should be pragamtic and respectful in the face of facts and figures.
It must be absolutly obvious to everyone interested that the Federal Reserve acted on behalf of Wall Street in complete and utter disregard of their dual mandate.
From an academic pov I favor Buiter’s vision, but the question is not whether he’s right or wrong. After all not even the future will point out what was the right action.
The question is rather whether the CB’s can afford not to intervene in the market. Even if the odds are leaning towards Buiter’s theory, then interventions at these levels are still to be preferred considering the desastrous outcome if it went wrong.
So it is a question of probabilities and consequences.
Will the CB’s worsen the situation? We don’t know. Solve what you think you should solve today, judged on probabilities, and solve tomorrow based on what you know tomorrow.