Advancing a Free Society

The 'Financial Repression' Trap

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Financial markets are in a precarious place, with European banks and sovereign balance sheets in the cross-hairs. Bank regulators are becoming increasingly aggressive, and euro-zone borrowing costs are rising as the debts of years past are coming due.

In this environment, policy makers are finding their authority, credibility and firepower being tested. In turn, they are finding it tempting to pursue "financial repression"—suppressing market prices that they don't like. But this is bad policy, not least because it signals diminished faith in the market economy itself.

Markets are not always efficient, but the market-clearing prices for stocks, bonds, currencies and other assets (like housing) are critical to informing judgments, in good times and bad. Market-determined asset prices often reveal inconvenient truths. But the sooner the truth is revealed, the sooner judgments can be rendered and action taken.

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