Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The collective debt monetization solution?

John Mauldin's latest newsletter draws attention to the common problem of ballooning debt across developed and developing world and has this to say,
If I had come on to this stage four years ago and told you, my friends, that we were going to have 40% of the world’s governmental debt at negative interest rates, $10 trillion on central bank balance sheets, and $10 trillion worth of dollar-denominated emerging-market debt, and that global GDP growth would average only 2%, unemployment would be below 5%, and interest rates would be negative in much of the world and less than 50 basis points in the US, you would have laughed me out of the room. You would have all hit the unsubscribe button. Today’s world was unthinkable a mere four to five years ago.
He describes the Fed's quantitative easing policy as akin to St George fighting to slay the Dragon of Deflation, 
They have manipulated the system and set the wrong price of money. They have created a world where savers are penalized, companies are paid to buy their competition rather than compete, and only the participants on Wall Street are rewarded with appreciation of their assets. My Austrian and monetarist economics school friends, who predicted inflation from all the QE that we saw, have actually seen inflation – it has just been in asset prices that benefited Wall Street and not Main Street.
His denouement, a controlled simultaneous collective monetization and devaluation,
Could we, the major developed countries of the world, all monetize our debts together... We need to do it in a coordinated fashion so that no one major country gets an advantage in terms of currency valuation. It’s a controlled currency war... Central banks and their governments have painted themselves into the mother of all corners, and they are going to paint themselves into more corners because their belief system and their presuppositions are fundamentally wrong. I think they will continue to make the system worse until they have to do something drastic. At that point the only thing they will be able to do collectively is rationalize the debt. One country cannot do that without every country doing it, too. One country doing it alone creates a massive dislocation and a preference for its own currency, which devalues its currency. Without a collective devaluation, we will have currency wars that make the ’30s look like a spring picnic.
It may have sounded unthinkable even a few months back, but central banks now own an increasing share of national debt. This means that a simultaneous collective debt monetization, one which leaves everyone relatively at the same position with respect to the others, is logically possible, notwithstanding the massive moral hazard it would engender. However, the collective action problem is likely to come in the way of its execution, unless the crisis is simultaneously so severe among all major economies that force them into biting the bullet on this course of action. But some of the large economies like Germany do not have a large debt problem and would have no reason to agree to such solutions.

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