The subprime crisis: a crisis of monetary origin

All crises, excluding exogenous shock, have a monetary origin: the current crisis does not derogate from this rule. The cause of the causes is a mismanagement of monetary policy.

Evolution rates Fed and BCE guidelines

Indeed, to avoid a recession in 2001 at the time of the bursting of the Internet bubble, Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, has excessively lowered the key rates up to 1%, which allowed the banks to refinance cheaply and lend more: this monetary creation, which in the 1990s was pouring into the purchase of shares of start-up companies, this time fueled the real estate sector, in the form of subprime loan accession to the property. However, the interest rate is a price, and like any price, it conveys information on the relative rarity of a good. So we can not manipulate it without creating shortages, overproductions, or interest rate cycles. By arbitrarily lowering the interest rate, Greenspan actually made the officers believe that the current rate of preference for the economy had changed as if suddenly the savings had become more abundant. These agents began to borrow to finance just about anything, including investments that were inherently inefficient, such as loans to households that were known to be insolvent from the outset.

This monetary disturbance generated a cycle in the Hayek, with its share of “malinvestments”: capital invested in sectors that the investors thought profitable (real estate) whereas this profitability was obtained artificially by the low rates of the central bank. These malinvestments, that is, the waste of resources, have resulted in abandoned houses, households that have become insolvent and have been driven out. The crisis is therefore above all that of monetary policy: it is, therefore, less the failure of the market than the public mismanagement of the currency. To put it another way, there would have been no significant and lasting bubble or real estate speculation without the fuel of excessive money creation and the arbitrary manipulation of the price of time that is the interest rate. Without monetary creation, it is indeed absolutely impossible to see the creation of large and lasting speculative bubbles.

Public mismanagement of the currency by the central bank is, therefore, the cause of the causes of the current disaster. Other state interventions, however, have in turn fueled this crisis:

• The CRA law passed under Clinton required banks, in the name of combating discrimination, to lend to minorities, generally poor. The role of banks is to discriminate between good and bad borrowers: the law prevented them from fulfilling their mission

Evolution of property prices in the US

• the real estate bubble was not homogeneous than the entire US territory: it was much stronger where land was regulated (East Coast, California) than where it was free (Texas).

• The mortgage guarantors, Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae, were semi-public. The banks were all the more likely that they knew that in case of bankruptcy they would be saved by the public power (moral area related to “too big to fail”). The state guarantee, explicit or implicit, has therefore encouraged banks to take excessive risks and to reduce their own funds to a minimum, in order to benefit from the leverage effect.

• the pro-cyclical IFRS accounting standards (recording unrealized capital gains in the name of a fair value ) were imposed in Europe by the public authorities. The higher the real estate prices, the more the profits from these unrealized gains inflated the banks’ equity, which allowed them to lend a little more, fueling the upward cycle.

The housing bubble that has formed is much more a failure of state regulation (whether the currency, land, banking or accounting standards) than the market.

Under a gold standard regime, it must be understood that such a crisis, so general and so profound, would have been unimaginable. It is indeed impossible for a long-lasting, large-scale bubble to form without monetary creation if we think about it in a logical way. In the same way, without the moral hazard of the state guarantee, the banks would have constituted more own funds than they have today: thus the “free banks” of the XVIII or XIX, without a monopolistic central bank playing the role lender of last resort, were obliged to be their own insurers, which led them to accumulate equity capital greater than 60% of their balance sheet total, thus limiting the occurrence of crises and their systemic effect.

All this makes a litter of the Keynesian fable about the origins of the current crisis. We are told that household indebtedness is the consequence of an unfavorable sharing of value added that squeezes wages so that households from the 1980s were forced to use bank credit to maintain their standard of living.

Evolution of the share of wages in the VA

Let’s move on to the fact that over the long term, including in the US, the sharing of value added has remained almost stable. Even if wages had stagnated over the period, such household indebtedness would have been impossible if the money supply had remained constant: it is not the stagnation of wages that are at the origin of this excessive indebtedness, but a monetary laxity that allowed us to go into debt at ridiculous rates.

Evolution Real Mortgage Rates

The credit market does not work differently than other markets: when the price falls, demand rises. And the demand for credit has increased as the cost of debt decreases as money is created.

Similarly, we are easily stigmatized by the delusions of finance, the sophisticated arrangements that no one understands or the excessive weight that finance takes in the economy (40% of profits in the US were due to the only banking industry in the US). ) without seeing that this excess of finance is directly related to the relaxation of any monetary discipline allowed by the demonetization of gold in 1971. It is, therefore, less the actors of the finance of which it would be necessary to criticize the lack of virtue or the obscenity as the architecture of the international monetary system, which has become totally permissive and unregulated for 40 years.

Evolution of public debt% Pib

It remains to understand how the current crisis, which is of monetary origin, has turned into a violent crisis of public debts. Here again, the tragedy that is being played out today would have been less tragic if the states before the crisis had been well managed: alas, many were in a situation of the structural deficit and were already experiencing high levels of indebtedness … The responsibility of the States is So great: they have a nice game to blame finance, which certainly allows them to clear customs in the eyes of public opinion. If they had been the scrupulous guardians of monetary and fiscal orthodoxy, we would not be here today, with Greece on the verge of a health catastrophe …