The subprime lending crisis also shows that, while central banks certainly have the power to expand a nation’s spending power, they can’t guarantee that the extra power gets used as intended, namely, to give a roughly uniform boost to the overall demand for goods. On the contrary: The crisis supports the argument, first developed by Austrian-school economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, that the techniques central banks employ to increase spending power are bound to distort spending patterns by driving lending rates below their sustainable, “natural” levels.
By injecting the new money they create into credit markets, central banks create an artificially high demand for long-term investments, such as real estate, in which interest costs loom large. Think back a few years. Even your auto mechanic was bragging about “flipping” condos with easy credit. That’s a natural consequence of the way central banks distort spending patterns. The trouble, however, is that the new money does eventually swell overall demand, including the demand for credit. Interest rates soon rise, ending the investment boom. Regrets multiply.
The ending isn’t as thrilling: “The Fed must be taken out of the fine-tuning business. Instead, it must observe a strict and unambiguous monetary rule, such as one calling for the Fed to announce and stick to an inflation-rate target.”
But he knows that.