Credit, Land, Crash. Repeat.
Adair Turner, interviewed by Lynn Parramore:
"If you look back at the story of advanced economies over the 20 years before 2007, you see an interesting pattern. During that period, the total value of national income — what economists call “nominal GDP,” meaning income unadjusted for inflation — grew at about 5 percent per year in a reasonably steady fashion. ...
Yet during all of that time, the value of all credit, unadjusted for inflation, grew at about 10 to15 percent per year. At the time, it seemed like we needed that pace of credit growth, but when you think about it, if your credit is going to grow at 10-15 percent per year in order to get your 5 percent GDP growth per year, eventually you’re going to have a problem. This isn’t a stable system. In my view, one of the reasons that it seemed that credit had to grow faster than total income was rising inequality. ...
If you look at the bottom 20 or 25 percent of the population, their real wages haven’t gone up for about 35 years! Meanwhile, the incomes of the top 1 percent have gone up 200 percent. This is a dramatic increase. The savings at the top have to go somewhere. At the bottom, there is a group of people who don’t feel that they’re participating in the growing prosperity, so they become very vulnerable to the delusion that if they borrow the money and buy a house, they’ll make up for their lack of real wages by house prices always going up. ...
We’ve made almost no progress at all in dealing with the fundamental drivers of economies that are too reliant on debt. We have not dealt with the fundamental fragilities that arise from inequality, from the bias of the lending system towards real estate, and from global imbalances. ... We need more radical policies so that we don’t just repeat the debt-fueled booms all over again and do another blow-up in 2025 or 2035. ...
The vast majority of the increase in the wealth-to-income ratio, which Piketty describes, comes from the increase in the value of urban real estate. The majority of that increase derives, in turn, not from new construction investment but from the increase in the value of land. ...
Instability mostly comes from the interface between the fact that the banks (or shadow banks) can create credit, money, and purchasing power in infinite quantities if we don’t constrain them, and the fact that credit is primarily created to fund the purchase of urban real estate and land, which is somewhat fixed in supply. In economics, when you put together a highly elastic thing and a highly inelastic thing, you create extraordinary potential for turbulence, volatility, and for unstable prices."
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