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Why Sweden Ended Its Negative Interest Rate Experiment

Why Sweden Ended Its Negative Interest Rate Experiment

Negative rates are the destruction of money, an economic aberration based on the mistakes of many central banks and some of their economists, who start with a wrong diagnosis: the idea that economic agents do not take more credit or invest more because they choose to save too much and that therefore saving must be penalized to stimulate the economy. Excuse the bluntness, but it is a ludicrous idea.

Inflation and growth are not low due to excess savings, but because of excess debt, perpetuating overcapacity with low rates and high liquidity, and zombifying the economy by subsidizing the low-productivity and highly indebted sectors and penalizing high productivity with rising and confiscatory taxation.

Historical evidence of negative rates shows that they do not help reduce debt, they incentivize it. They do not strengthen the credit capacity of families, because the prices of nonreplicable assets (real estate, etc.) skyrockets because of monetary excess, and the lower cost of debt does not compensate for the greater risk.

Investment and credit growth are not subdued because economic agents are ignorant or saving too much, but because they don’t have amnesia. Families and businesses are more cautious in their investment and spending decisions, because they perceive, correctly, that the reality of the economy that they see each day does not correspond to the cost and the quantity of money.

It is completely incorrect to think that families and businesses are not investing or spending. They are only spending less than what central planners would want. However, that is not a mistake from the private sector side, but a typical case of central planners’ misguided estimates, which come from using 2001–7 as a “base case” of investment and credit demand instead of what those years really were: a bubble.

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