- Conventional monetary policy has serious flaws and contributed to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Since then, emergency monetary policy has been relatively successful but lacks clarity. We should take the opportunity to reform policy such that the same rules apply in good times and bad.
- The Bank of England’s Open Market Operations (OMO) should be reformed to reduce discretion and provide financial markets with greater certainty.
- We should replace the Bank of England’s 2% CPI Inflation target with a nominal income (NGDP) target. Under current policy, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) must distinguish between demand shocks and supply shocks. Moving to an NGDP target resolves this problem as nominal income is aggregate demand, reducing the epistemic burden on the MPC.
- Central bank intervention should be restricted purely to managing the money supply.
- Open Market Operations should be as neutral as possible, focusing primarily on gilts. Financial markets should know in advance which margins the Bank of England intends to exploit. For example, if the Bank of England owns more than a certain percentage of gilts of a specified maturity, they then extend asset purchases to a pre-announced basket of investment-grade bonds.
- Monetary policy can buy policymakers time, but it is unable to solve underlying problems of low productivity. The Bank of England cannot raise the Natural Rate of Interest in the long-term, but free market supply-side reforms should be a priority for government.
- Stress tests, designed to measure the ability of banks to withstand market shocks, are complex. This makes them vulnerable to being gamed and it leads to risks that can be felt across the financial system. Prediction markets provide the best chance we have of avoiding future bailouts by boosting market competition and punishing excessive risk taking.
The Bank of England uses its stress tests to reassure the public that the UK banking system is safe. However, the Bank’s reassurances lack credibility and are contradicted by the evidence.
Rightly interpreted, the stress tests demonstrate the opposite of what the Bank claims they do: they demonstrate that UK banks are still financially weak and far from resilient. The UK banking system is an accident waiting to happen.
The conclusion that UK banks are weak is confirmed by an analysis of their capital positions and is further confirmed by banks’ market values being less than their book values. Low market values indicate problems with the banks that the stress tests did not pick up.
The Bank made a number of mistakes in its stress tests. Among these: it relied on book values instead of market values, relied on unreliable metrics such as risk-weighted assets and Tier 1 capital, relief on a single stress scenario and used insufficiently demanding pass standards. The Bank’s stress model also produced implausibly low projected losses and so failed a basic reality check.
More generally, the stress tests are based on a series of imprudent judgments that led the Bank to miss obvious problems with UK banks.
Regulatory stress testing is a highly imperfect tool with a track record of repeated failure in other countries, is compromised by conflicting objectives and by the Bank’s poor forecasting record. It is also compromised by basic Public Choice economics, i.e., that public agencies act in accordance with their own interest.
It also creates invisible systemic risks by pressuring banks to standardise their risk management practices to conform to the Bank’s view of the risks they face.
Far from providing a credible assurance that the banking system is safe, the stress tests are worse than useless because they provide false comfort, suggesting that the UK banking system is safe when it is clearly not. In this sense, the stress tests are like a ship’s radar system that cannot detect an iceberg in plain view.
The stress test programme is therefore dangerous and should be scrapped.
Read the full paper here.
In this polemical essay, Prof. Kevin Dowd lays into Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane's views on demonetisation—abolishing cash.
One of the most significant developments in economic policy in recent years has been a gradually escalating government war against cash. At first sight, one might think that there is nothing too much to worry about: we are merely talking about technocratic issues related to payments technologies and the implementation of monetary policy, and cashless payments systems are already both commonplace and spreading. The reality is rather different: the issues at stake are of profound importance. The abolition of cash threatens to destroy what is left of our privacy and our freedom: we wouldn’t be able to buy a stick of gum without the government knowing about it and giving its approval. The cash abolitionists want total control over your money and what you can do with it. Besides making us all entirely dependent on the whim of the state, banning cash also threatens to cause widespread economic damage and have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable in our society. Quite simply, the government’s war against cash is the state’s war against us.
“No Stress II: the flaws in the Bank of England’s stress testing programme”, challenges the stress tests carried out by the Bank of England to assess the financial resilience of UK banks, and refutes their claim that major UK banks could withstand another big shock.
The report's release comes as Europe faces a renewed banking crisis. There is already a major crisis in Italy and mounting concerns about Deutsche Bank, the biggest bank in Europe and recently described by the International Monetary Fund as the most systemically dangerous bank in the world.
Read the paper online here.
Anthony J Evans lays out the first, second and third best policies for monetary reform. He outlines reforms to quantitative easing policy that would reduce the distortions it causes; argues that inflation targeting and the Monetary Policy Committee should be replaced by an automatic nominal GDP target; and ultimately says the Bank of England should be scrapped altogether, replaced with privately-run ‘free banking’.
In 2014, the Bank of England commenced a stress testing programme in an effort to test the capital adequacy of major UK-based banks. It concluded that its results demonstrated the resilience of the banking system. No Stress, a report from the Adam Smith Institute, suggests that we should be extremely sceptical of the Bank’s conclusions.
The report sees Kevin Dowd, Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute, professor of finance and economics at Durham University, and author of three books, ten book chapters, and dozens of journal articles on risk modelling, present a powerful and rigorous indictment of the Bank’s stress testing programme.
Dowd makes the case that the stress tests are significantly methodologically flawed and worse than useless, giving policymakers unreliable information about the strength of the UK banking system, providing false risk comfort, and creating systemic instability by forcing banks to converge towards the Bank of England’s models.
For these reasons and more, he concludes that we should end regulatory risk modelling and re-establish strong bank governance systems that make decision-makers personally liable for the risks they take.
Prof. Scott Sumner, who inspired the US programme of QE3 and was dubbed ‘the blogger who saved the US economy’ by The Atlantic, explains how central banks—not bankers—caused the 2007-8 crash. He goes on further, showing how the European Central Bank is repeating the mistakes the Fed and the Bank of England made in the dark days. And he argues that they can solve the slump and prevent future crises with a market-based, rule-based, stability-focused monetary policy of targeting the level of nominal GDP.
An independent Scotland using the pound outside of a currency union would have a more stable financial system and economy than it has now or than a currency union could provide, argues Sam Bowman. ‘Adaptive sterlingization’ – a combined policy of unilateral use of GBP without a formal currency union and reform of Scottish banking regulations – would reduce risk-taking and increase competition in banking, significantly reducing the prospect of large-scale bank panics and financial crises. The ‘dollarized’ economies of Latin America – Panama, Ecuador and El Salvador – provide strong modern-day evidence that banking systems do better without central lenders of last resort.
Mikko Arevuo calls for a market-based alternative to bank regulation that puts executives on the line for bank failures by giving them a special class of share that makes them more liable for losses. By re-aligning incentives, other forms of bank regulation could be removed and a more stable financial system cultivated.
In this response to the Vickers report, financial experts Tim Ambler and Miles Saltiel argue that the report's findings fail to address the root causes of the financial crisis and would create another layer of bureaucracy. Instead, the government should allow the creation of new "Trust Banks" that would be safely run, reduce arguments for protection of riskier banks, and introduce new competition to the high street.