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  • PD Jonson

Après moi le deluge

'In every stock-jobbing swindle every one knows that some time or other the crash must come, but every one hopes that it may fall on the head of his neighbour, after he himself has caught the shower of gold and placed it in safety. Après moi le deluge! is the watchword of every capitalist of every nation'.

Markets are braced for another gruesome week after extreme weakness on Wall Street while Australians watched the cricket on Friday night.

There is President Obama's 'jaw dropping' budget to contend with and a downward revision to December quarter's GDP, now estimated to have fallen at an annual rate of 6 %.

Similar or worse rates of decline are evident in Japan and Europe.

There are real concerns about the global banking system and bank nationalisation, or part nationalisation is on the table everywhere, it seems, but Australia, where 'extreme capitalism' seems to have been controlled by Mr. Howard's right of centre government.

Arguably, however, the unlimited guarantee of the deposits (and wholesale liabilities) of Australian banks is a part nationalisation as it effectively attaches Australia's triple A credit rating to our banks, without the taxpayers standing behind this receiving a red cent of bank stock as compensation.

The Reserve Bank tightened monetary policy far too slowly in the boom. By allowing the economy to build excessive momentum, including inflationary pressure, this led it to tighten too far.

When the seriousness of the global financial crisis became clear, the Reserve eased dramatically quickly – with 400 basis points of rate cuts in six months.

Is the speed of the easing due only to the speed and extent of incoming bad news or does it represent the lessons of the boom?

Only time will tell, but clearly rapid easing was required and has been provided. We live in hope that necessary tightening of monetary policy will be provided equally quickly in due course.

Most of Australia’s ‘well connected’ journalists say a pause in the easing is the likely outcome of tomorrow’s meeting of the board of the Reserve, while apparently there are others who say another 100 basis point cut is on the cards. Henry buys the ‘pause’ story, based as it is on logic and common sense.

Whatever the RBA's decision tomorrow, the debate about the nature of modern capitalism and its regulation has been well and truly joined, and we shall make a modest contribution in our regular column tomorrow.

As a clue for interested readers, the quote above is supposedly from Karl Marx, that grandfather of all left of centre governments.

Governments of whatever color cannot say they were not warned that booms lead to busts, and big booms lead to big busts.

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