This “like-no-other” Covid-19 pandemic is clearly a dangerously unique event, with ongoing severe economic and social consequences all around the globe. Nassim Taleb has famously described the Black Swan and more recently, BIS researchers pointed to the Green Swan in reference to the impact of climate change.
But the Covid-19 Swan is quite a combination of colours. It is an ongoing emergency situation, with fear often overcoming hope while anxiety heightens amid a decline in living standards.
UK chancellor Rishi Sunak seems to be trying to build for himself the image of a man who is not afraid to “tell it like it is” when the situation requires it. But his actions show that he is prepared to sacrifice long-term economic development for a short-term boost for his Conservative party.
If after the great financial crisis of 2007-2009 the word “extraordinary” characterised monetary policy, the Covid-19 pandemic calls for a much stronger adjective: “unprecedented”.
As the world has never before been faced with an instance when virtually all economic activity stopped for a certain period of time, this is an appropriate word. However, in monetary policy really very little can be said to be truly “unprecedented”.
For example, take modern monetary theory (MMT) — a theory about how to have your (monetary) cake and eat it, which (simplistically) states that if a country can print its own currency, that country will never default on its debt because it can create as much currency as it wants to and use it to pay back the debt.
Major central banks, to a certain degree, have already begun versions of MMT.
Before the new coronavirus pandemic, one of the main ways in which the UK’s Conservative Party boosted consumer confidence was pushing house prices up with the aid of various taxpayer-funded schemes such as Help to Buy.
But as the damage done by Covid-19 to the economy heaps pressure on the public purse, should the taxpayer still generously fund schemes that mainly serve to boost house prices and the fortunes of a few big companies and their already well-off clients?
The fact that chatter about a wealth tax is increasing to the point where it could become reality in the UK should not be a surprise. But it would be a very odd thing for a Conservative government to be the one to actually implement it.
The reports of the death of the European Union have been greatly exaggerated – to quote Mark Twain — a few times already in the bloc’s tumultuous life.
This time, however, the European Central Bank (ECB) cannot be the only one to do “whatever it takes” to save the eurozone – and implicitly the wider EU — from the economic consequences of the Covid-19 crisis.
So Boris, as he likes to be called, hopes he can reassemble a disjointed Britain. Under his benign leadership families that were torn apart by violently differing views on EU membership can be restored to harmony and domestic bliss.
The 29 million-odd people WHO DID NOT VOTE TO LEAVE THE EU in the 2016 referendum are to be dragged out willy-nilly to satisfy the 17.4 million who voted to leave. This is widely hailed as democracy.
Brexit rules the waves (which, incidentally, can only be used in future to transport goods at the cost of a hell of a lot more paperwork, restriction and delay). We will be poorer in the future than we would have been as EU members. Even the would-be leavers are forced to concede this.
The central banks’ “extraordinary” and “non-conventional” measures are now more than a decade old and they are still going strong.
If initially they were only supposed to last for a few years after the financial crisis of 2007-2009 until things “went back to normal”, this expectation was quietly dropped once it became clear that the extraordinary had become ordinary.
But as these measures continue, their toxic side effects are increasing. They may in fact be contributing to the sluggishness of the world economy and to the lack of productive investment, rather than counteracting them.