Friday, April 13, 2012

Once You Start Down The QE Path, Forever Will It Dominate Your Destiny

Spain and Italy are starting to feel the pinch of excess borrowing. They've got mountains of debt, sclerotic economies, aging populations and societies addicted to entitlements. Their bonds aren't long-term investments because Italy and Spain aren't good long-term bets. As fewer people bet on Italy and Spain, their interest rates rise. That's what we've been seeing over the last few weeks. Like we saw in Greece, rising interest rates can quickly destabilize national finances.

So what's going to happen? Are the Europeans going to go full Milton Friedman and let them default? Well, the same people are running the ECB and the Bundesbank now as were running them when Greece went down the tubes. There's not an Austrian economist in the lot. They're all card-carrying statists. If they printed piles of Euros to buy government debt before to preserve the status quo, there's no reason why they won't do it again.

In order for the ECB (and the Fed, for that matter) to stop printing money, the people in charge are going to have to change their world views in a big way or be replaced. My money is on more easy credit from the central banks to prop up the socialist government model, not on a sudden spasm of responsibility.

Second take heading in the same direction: Like taking drugs, once you've done a couple of rounds of money printing, doing just one more is easy. If you've gone this far - printing trillions of Euros and Dollars (trillions!) - the psychological barrier to doing so has been broken down and it's just a matter of rationalizing one more hit.

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