Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Comment on Sumner's article on Reallocation to housing in 2001

  1. I agree with Professor Sumner's general view that during a slump (or reallocation) the right metaphor is like a bicycle going uphill. Fed is the cyclist pedaling vigorously. But if the effort is not about a certain threshold (NGDP) the bicycle will roll backward. You argue that the effort was below the threshold. I agree with this.
  2. While I understand the simplification, I am not convinced with housing vs tech. The reallocation should search for better (more investment worthy) assets. I don't think housing was "better" asset. It was chosen (I think it was deliberately chosen) as it was the only one that could absorb large volume of investments. I believe, had we not interfered, markets would have discovered alternate energy or some other investment-starved sector. 
  3. Housing is wrong choice. It is a dual-good. It sometimes works as consumption good other times it is investment good. Possibly housing as a consumption good may have been a cushion. But as investment good, it was only other bubble. Subprime is not a shock but a logical conclusion of an investment good being pumped with excess investment.
  4. I think there is a threshold level for money ( I use term loosely) in the economy. If total money in the system goes higher than this the system (if we let it be) creates deflation to destroy this excess. This deflation happens at the hands of those who have money invested. It happens in the rich balance sheets. The problem is it often overshoots the ideal level hence we want to control the process. In our zeal to control the process, we shift the deflation hotspot to public balance sheet or citizens balance sheets. This creates a problem of affordability. The few rich balance sheets could have afforded to deflate to a large degree but many poor balance sheets cannot deflate even to hundredth of a degree. Further, the rich balance-sheets willingly took the risk of investment while poor balance sheets were stuffed. This is the socialization of losses we talk about.

I have discussed some of these ideas in my book "Subverting Capitalism & Democracy"