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Policy Makers, like Generals, Are Busy Fighting The Last War

Policy Makers, like Generals, Are Busy Fighting The Last War

The Maginot Line formed France’s main line of defense on its German facing border from Belgium in the North to Switzerland in the South.  It was constructed during the 1930s, with the trench-based warfare of World War One still firmly in the minds of the French generals.  The Maginot Line was an absolute success…as the Germans never seriously attempted to attack it’s interconnected series of underground fortresses.  But the days of static warfare were over – in 1940, the Germans simply drove around the line through Holland and then Belgium.  Had the Germans replayed WWI and made a direct attack, the Maginot Line likely would have done its job.  But Hitler wasn’t interested in a WWI re-do, so the fortifications were quickly rendered moot.  France, Europe, and the world would pay the price for generals fighting the last war rather than adjusting to the contemporary risks they faced.
In 2008, the economic generals at the various central banks likewise pulled out the playbook to refight the great depression…not realizing, this time was an entirely different opponent.  Federal governments and central bankers presumed doing what they had always done would again win the day.  Cut interest rates (this time to zero) to incent both public and private entities to refinance existing debt loads and undertake new, greater leverage.  This nearly free money would reduce debt service levels and the new loans would ignite a new wave of economic activity in the form of capital expenditures and small business creation.  Economic multipliers and velocity would ensure general prosperity with job and wage growth.  Instead, it’s the “Maginot Line” all over again for our economic generals as economic activity grinds to a stall absent the  illusory asset bubbles.  
BTW – if you are not a fan of charts or visual representations…this is not the article for you and likely best to stop here.

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