Sunday, 22 June 2008

Will Hutton and reflexivity

I did wonder again today why I bother reading The Guardian and The Observer at the weekend since the few good bits (Philip French film reviews for example) are usually overwhelmed by navel-gazing interviews with their own writers, celeb blah I have no interest in and some awful hand-wringing reportage. And the business coverage is usually rubbish too.

Still at least today there was a fairly interesting bit in Will Hutton's column:

It is true that competition tends to deliver efficiency and generalised economic benefits. But competition between banks is different. The reason is that, unlike other industries, the soundness of what any one bank or building society does depends on the behaviour of all the others. If they all compete to lend aggressively without any regulatory constraint, that provides home-buyers the plentiful mortgages to buy homes whose prices go up. That in turn makes the original collateral even sounder. Thus emboldened, banks lend again and again.

The result is a credit boom and asset price bubble that no power on earth, except prohibitively high interest rates, can keep in check.

George Soros ought to be pleased since the highlighted bit is his concept of reflexivity in financial markets in a nutshell isn't it? Having ploughed through three of his books, it seems that his main objective in life now is to get the idea of reflexivity taken seriously. Looks like he is getting there.

PS. One other columnist I do like on The Observer is Jay Rayner. Although he's a foodie he's pretty honest about the fact that if we ALL want to eat properly Grauniad readers may have to get over snobbishness about supermarkets and organic produce.

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