Thursday, October 30, 2008

Shrinkage

Unsurprising but unpleasant news as the economy is officially contracting. More bad news is likely on the way. Here is Martin Wolf in the Financial Times, discussing Nouriel Roubini's warnings and the danger of not taking sufficient action:

Yet the idea that a quick recession would purge the world of past excesses is ludicrous. The danger is, instead, of a slump, as a mountain of private debt – in the US, equal to three times GDP – topples over into mass bankruptcy. The downward spiral would begin with further decay of financial systems and proceed via pervasive mistrust, the vanishing of credit, closure of vast numbers of businesses, soaring unemployment, tumbling commodity prices, cascading declines in asset prices and soaring repossessions. Globalisation would spread the catastrophe everywhere.

Many of the victims would be innocent of past excesses, while many of the most guilty would retain their ill-gotten gains. This would be a recipe not for a revival of 19th-century laisser faire, but for xenophobia, nationalism and revolution. As it is, such outcomes are conceivable. Choosing to risk such an outcome would be like deciding to let a city burn in order to punish someone who smoked in bed. Risking huge damage now in the hope of lowering moral hazard later is mad.

Everything possible must be done to prevent the inescapable recession from turning into something worse.
Here is a discussion from Bloomberg with Roubini, Arthur Levitt and Al Hunt.

(image credit: illustration by Ingram Pinn, Financial Times)