Sunday, November 08, 2009

IMF: Just Say No

Bureaucracy and Crisis

It's well known that bureaucracies step-in in times of crisis in order to offer solutions, or to change or enlarge their own mandate, which don't necessarily address the underlying problems causing the crisis. And, in fact, the fake solution just hides the underlying problem and makes the situaton worse. Like putting a bandaid on an infectious wound without cleaning the wound first.

This is happening now with the IMF, just as the IMF outlived its usefullness when Nixon pulled-out of the Gold Standard in 1971. The IMF was founded under Bretton Woods in 1944 to faciliate gold and currency movements to ensure a smoothly functioning Gold Standard, then when the Gold Standard ended the IMF re-invented itself as a guarantor (to the internationally politically-connected) of those lending money to governments in the 'developing world'.

International banks got the nice high returns for lending to poor countries with high risk ratings, the countries (the leadership of those countries be they elected fairly or not) didn't have to reform their fiscal and monetary policies to meet the demands of free international currency and debt markets, and the lendors got "bailed-out" went it all went awry. Needless to say as well that subsidizing the cash flow of poor countries doesn't help them become more accountable to their citizenry, nor does cheap money help economization of scarce resources as distorts the price signals necessary to make sound fiscal decisions.

So with the rapid economic growth after recovery from the 2001-2002 recession, the demand for IMF 'services' declined. Which brings us to today. We have seen the institutionalization of 'too big to fail' monetary policy in the developed world, where 'bailouts' and the anti-competitive measures this policy creates, raising the cost of banking services to everyone while the banks make monopoly rents, have become the norm.

So now the IMF is getting into the 'too big to fail' - systemic risk - bailout act and wants to create an international insurance fund (funded by taxes on international finance transactions of course) to bailout private international banks. Of course it goes without saying that an increase in taxes during a jobless economic recovery is the last thing the world needs. Whereas the most rational solution is to remove the lendor of last resort mindset which hasn't addressed the goverment-created asset bubble in the first place.

The solution is to let banks that make bad investments fail, not to enlarge a bad domestic policy agenda to the international. Just say no to (more) socialization of risk and private return, which has been the IMF's business model since 1971. If banks really wanted or needed an insurance fund they would create one themselves, privately, funded by their own contributions.