Yes, right now the governments are pouring a lot of money into the system. Is it working? Can it work? Ain’t we trying to extinguish this fire the same way it started?
A well known effect in macroeconomics is the multiplicator accelerator model: there is a multiplicative effect when new investments are introduced in the economy and the economy grows in a higher rate. The other way can happen too, as the resources leave the economy and the slump is also accelerated. We are suffering this effect now, catalysed with instruments such as banks that are monetary multiplicators per se.
If we wanted to stop and reverse this effect, introducing new resources into the system, how can we do that?
The first temptation is, of course, to substitute this private money lenders for some other lenders that have no choice: the forced lenders. Yes, you guessed well. We are the tax payers. We are the forced lenders. Where private investors need trust to decide to participate, we simply have no choice.
Yes, you get the idea, our money, government’s money, gets poured down regardless the amount of trust present in the system. And the investors trust governments because they are backed by us: forced lenders.
But what happens when we pour all this money into the system? There’s another less known effect in macroeconomics, the crowding out effect. Government’s spending will substitute private initiative and occupy an even higher proportion of the economy. If the flow of money goes the way of the state, it won’t go the way of the private investors.
But then, being the state the lender and the backer of many securities, amidst this global scare, why should anyone not forced to invest in riskier assets? Investors will end up financing the treasury instead, and leaving the financial markets.
Where will the money come from to finance public companies? What will happen to suffering capital markets further short-circuited from the money flow? They might as well keeping go down the slope for a long time.
Yes, I am aware that to explain this crowding up effect, the IS/LM introduced by Sir John Hicks and Alvin Hansen needs higher interest rates that affect the unwillingness to invest to the private sector through an increased cost of capital. In the present situation, with lower costs of capital, the crowding out effect lacks the mechanism to happen.
But what if the present scare of capital turns into a similar mechanism to the increased cost of capital? What of the negative animal spirits? Can they make us disinvest from profitable companies and make them inviable? Couldn’t that make a crowding out effect too?
Meanwhile, but let me express my reservations about this stocking-more-wood process. More wood in the hands of the government, lower interest rates: more wood everywhere. Seems dangerous to my little me. Maybe our firemen should think of other options.