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How Things Fall Apart: Extremes Aren’t Stable

How Things Fall Apart: Extremes Aren’t Stable

A funny thing happens on the way to stabilizing things by doing more of what’s failed: the system becomes even more unstable, brittle and fragile.

A peculiar faith in pushing extremes to new heights has taken hold in official circles over the past decade: when past extremes push the system to the breaking point and everything starts unraveling, the trendy solution in official circles is to double-down, pushing even greater extremes. If this fails, then the solution is to double-down again. And so on.

So when uncreditworthy borrowers default on stupendous loans they were never qualified to receive, the solution is to extend even more stupendous sums of new credit so the borrower can roll over the old debt and make a few interest payments for appearance’s sake (also known as “saving face.”)

A funny thing happens on the way to stabilizing things by doing more of what’s failed: the system becomes even more unstable, brittle and fragile.

Central banks and states have latched onto a solution akin to a perpetual-motion machine: the solution to all problems is simple: print or borrow another trillion. If the problem persists, repeat the print/borrow another trillion until it goes away.

Consider China, a nation (like many others) dependent on a vast, never-ending expansion of credit. So what happens when defaults start piling up in the shadow banking system? The central bank/state authorities conjure up a couple trillion yuan (a.k.a. liquidity) so defaults go away: here, Mr. Bad-Risk-Default, is government-issued credit so you can pay off your defaulted private-sector loan. Everybody saves face, private losses have been transferred to the public sector/state, problem solved.

Small banks over-extended and technically insolvent? Solution: print or borrow another trillion and give the insolvent bank the dough. Problem solved!

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