During the tightening era, a number said that the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee [FOMC] would telegraph their views through Greg Ip of the Wall Street Journal. If so, today’s article should be a concern to those favoring the view that the FOMC must loosen in order to
keep the speculative frenzy going preserve the integrity of the markets. Leaving aside the issue of whether it is even desirable to have any intervention in the market, such as Fannie and Freddie buying more mortgage loans, it seems like the debate has shifted to the question of encouraging moral hazard, something foreign to Alan Greenspan, who thought he could micromanage monetary policy.
The consistent throwing of liquidity at crises lulled investors into complacency over financial risk. Economies work best in the long run when risk-taking is moderate, not absent or crazed. It is good to have a bear market every now end then; it keeps investors honest. It is even good to allow failures of financial institutions, particularly risky ones at the fringe of the financial system for the same reason. Financial firms are opaque by nature, and investors should be skeptical of those furthest out on the risk spectrum, particularly when credit spreads are tight.
To those who favor using monetary policy to bail out dud (primarily) non-banks, I say two things: first, are we capitalists only for our profits and not for our losses? Are we the hypocrites who privatize our gains and socialize our losses? Second, it’s not in the FOMC’s charter. Alan Greenspan violated the purposes of the FOMC when he used it for any thing other than low inflation, low unemployment, and preservation of the portion of depositary financial system overseen by the Federal reserve.
Score me in the camp that sees no substantive change in the FOMC’s direction, but sees a nod in the statement toward the current troubles, and a little more in the minutes, but keeps the focus on inflation. I still don’t think the FOMC is moving in 2007.