Bubbles no, resilence sure, market failure yes

By Matt Nolan 16/05/2013

Hmmm, it looks like no-one wants to dissuade people from viewing the new RBNZ tools as ways to “stop bubbles”.  I think this is a dangerous mistake.

The focus on financial stability, and system risk in the banking system, is due to concerns that a sudden shift in asset prices could lead to a breakdown in the financial system – due to concentration, bank-runs, or some concern about fragility.

This is all well and good.  I think we need to be careful with these arguments.  I think we also need to identify why and what the failures are.  But, overall this is a way forward.

And it does nothing to truly “prevent bubbles”.  If someone wants to “overpay” for something, they can, and will – and as a society we shouldn’t give two hoots about someone pissing their own money against the wall.  True story.

If we tell people the RBNZ is “stopping bubbles” they will just assume that whatever is happening isn’t a bubble.  Does this actually seem like it will help anyone?  The RBNZ can’t really control asset prices, and it definitely can’t control them in the face of “irrational exuberance” (protip, the RBNZ doesn’t control people’s expectations of future house price appreciation).  The goal is to prevent the popping of a bubble having enormous spillover effects onto the broader economy.  If the RBNZ is doing its job right we will STILL HAVE BUBBLES – and people who took on the risk will still HURT THEMSELVES.

As a result, I hate the current description.  I hate the focus on asset prices themselves, rather than the direct stability of the banking system.  And I hate that we aren’t more focused on trying to identify where the risks and failures and and how to quantify them.