Niall Ferguson has just made the first call for widespread debt rescheduling that I have seen published in a major newspaper–today’s Australian, and I am sure it is reproduced in many newspapers around the world (if your local paper is owned by News Limited, there’s a good chance that you will find it there).
The article is linked here–The great repression–and some excerpts are shown below. Read it and refer your friends to it. Finally the call has gone out that what is needed to get out of this crisis is not more debt, but less.
“There is something desperate about the way people on both sides of the Atlantic are clinging to their dog-eared copies of Keynes’s General Theory. Uneasily aware that their discipline almost entirely failed to anticipate the crisis, economists seem to be regressing to macro-economic childhood, clutching the multiplier like an old teddy bear.
The harsh reality that is being repressed is this: the Western world is suffering a crisis of excessive indebtedness…”
“The idea of modifying mortgages appalls legal purists as a violation of the sanctity of contract. But, as with the principle of eminent domain, there are times when the public interest requires us to honour the rule of law in the breach. Repeatedly in the course of the 19th century, governments changed the terms of bonds that they issued through a process known as conversion. A bond with a 5 per cent coupon would simply be exchanged for one with a 3 per cent coupon, to take account of falling market rates and prices. Such procedures were seldom stigmatised as default. Today, in the same way, we need an orderly conversion of adjustable rate mortgages to take account of the fundamentally altered financial environment.
No doubt those who lose by such measures will not suffer in silence. But the benefits of macro-economic stabilisation will surely outweigh the costs to bank shareholders, bank bondholders and the owners of mortgage-backed securities.
Americans, Churchill once remarked, will always do the right thing — after they have exhausted all the other alternatives. But if we are still waiting for Keynes to save us when Davos comes around next year, it may well be too late. Only a Great Restructuring can end the Great Repression. It needs to happen soon.”