Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Socialism Glut

Brad Sester has a great post about the famed savings glut hypothesis I have commented on before. He complicated the argument with data and facts though, which obviously makes reaching the same conclusion so much less satisfying.

In a global economy, a rise in savings relative to investment in one part of the world necessarily implies a fall in savings relative to investment in the rest of the world; sorting out why key macroeconomic variables change is always difficult.

Maybe this equilibrium was a function of excessive demand stimulus by the advanced economies in the aftermath of the last recession – and lax financial regulation that allowed households to over-borrow. High US and European demand allowed the emerging world to save more. Maybe it was a function of policies in the emerging economies, policies sometimes put in place to support undervalued exchange rates. That would explain why the growing US savings deficit didn't put upward pressure on global interest rates and why the rise in the US external deficit didn't lead to a rise in US real interest rates — something would have short-circuited the housing boom. Probably it was a mix of both. Emerging market savers (really their governments, as private savers weren't exactly seeking out depreciating dollars) helped to provide Wall Street and the City the rope they (almost) used to hang themselves.

No matter. We don't need to assign responsibility for the imbalances that marked the pre-crisis global economy to know that the chain of risk-taking that allowed emerging market savers to finance heavy borrowing by US households didn't result in a stable system.

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