"When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals.
We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues"

( JM Keynes, "Economic Possibilities for our Granchildren" 1930 )

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wanted : Astrophysicist for Central Banks

Lets see an interesting new which could have some economic implications:( from Timesonline , April 25th 2010)

“Don´t talk to aliens warns Stephen Hawking”

The aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.

The suggestions come in a new documentary series in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.”

If you ever met any alien I would suggest to ignore Hawking´s advice to do “all it can to avoid any contact” and stick to the principle to “look for an opportunity in any threat”.

It´s not just for fun or curiosity. My advice applies especially nowadays, as the troubled economy combined with wild turbulences in capital markets should force us to adopt more innovative approach to deal wit the economy. Therefore, if I take seriously Stephen Hawking´s warnings, I hereby propose the European Council, US government or the IMF the idea to nominate an astrophysicist for an executive role in their organizations. The main task of that new member will be to look for aliens and introduce them into our economic sphere. Although the idea might sound a bit weird, I am confident that the next paragraphs will clarify the arguments.

First of all I would like to state that there is no intention to underestimate the role of my colleagues, the economists. On the contrary, the call for a contribution from such a distant discipline as astrophysics derives from a perspective that any mainstream economist would adopt without any hesitation.

Generally speaking, policy makers shared a common vision about economic issues which brought them to adopt ap. 30 years ago a set of policy tools which can be described according to the following scheme :

First step: Facing a deficient aggregate demand, banks are allowed, even encouraged to lend to anyone, interest rates are lowered, asset bubbles are ignored. From a external perspective foreign countries are asked to finance excessive consumption, mercantilist countries build their way to welfare through artificial manipulation of its currency, etc.

Second Step: Since debt cannot be piled forever the first step turns to be unsustainable in the mid run. As cracks appear, national governments and central banks are asked to step inside and to bailout privileged industries (“too big to fail”) industries, and especially the financial sector with public money and boost demand through spending. Since tax increase is the big taboo, the only way to generate demand is through deficit spending .The result is that previous private debt becomes public obligations. Needless to say, that system is also unsustainable since no government can run deficits forever unless the economy recovers (Anyhow, why should the economy recover?? )

Third Step: International Organizations are enlisted to support national policies and mitigate the consequences of the galloping deficits and probable rising inflation. National problem becomes an international issue. However, International Organizations lack any independent income resource, so in many cases they are just an extended arm of sovereign governments and their limited extra contribution is the economy of scale. Nevertheless, these institutions have a limited scope as they can be relevant for the weaker part of the chain. They cannot rescue the big guys.

Here astrophysics enters into the picture. The private debt system of step turned into a national debt partially turned into an international problem must be rolled over ,and if possible to outer space. This is not a peculiar whim , it is a vital need for an economic (and political) belief that inherent contradictions in the economic system can be “solved” by injecting debt that “someday” and “somehow” will be paid back.

If our benevolent scientist could dedicate his efforts and find a real "Superman" lender from the outer space able to finance the accumulated debt burden, the current system would be able to roll over and over, without having to face the crude consequences of a distorted economic system. This could be a great task for that special kind of “central banker”. If that eventually happens shouldnt we rename Ben Bernanke “Helicopter Ben[1]” as “UFO Ben”…..??? :-)

[1] In 2002, Bernanke gave a speech about deflation "The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at no cost." (He referred to a statement made by Milton Friedman about using a Helicpoter drop of money into the economy to fight deflation. Bernanke's critics have since referred to him as "Helicopter Ben" or to his "helicopter printing press."

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