By Michael Baxter, economics writer
When the dinosaurs went extinct, the mammals must have cracked open the Bolly. For when those great lumbering beasts went out of businesses, a vacuum was created. And into the market stepped a tiny shrew-like creature which thrived, and grew, and eventually became us — or some of them did.
That was the mistake Gordon Brown made when he said: "No more boom and bust.” He forgot about the meteorite.
He forgot about the credit charged comet hurtling towards the planet’s economy too. Not that he was alone. But if in trying to fix it, all we do is try to restore things, go back to what it was like before, then that may be a mistake.
In the wake of the financial crisis, finance has changed. Peer to peer lending is taking off. Business angel investing has been subjected to a kind of eBay type networking model. That’s good, but it may have taken a banking crisis to create the opportunity. The rise of new types of lending came despite, not because of the banks’ rescue.
Not everyone gets it. The Bank of England, the Fed, the Bank of Japan, and now the European Central Bank have resorted to a kind of virtual printing press to save the system. It’s a shame they couldn’t have put similar energy into creating a new one.
The FSA is a hurdle. Our beloved financial regulator is brilliant at putting the fear of God up little companies, but not so good when it comes to spotting systemic risk. It doesn’t like these new-fangled forms of lending — at least it doesn’t like it when ordinary folks get involved. It fears they will be led astray, and lose their money. They might, but the answer to that lies in securitisation, some regulation, but not in trying to limit involvement in peer to peer schemes to a hand full of sophisticates. Indeed there is no reason why existing banks cannot embrace this new way, if only the FSA could come on side.
Before the credit crisis, the baby boomers thought the best form of investment was into their property. Egged on by the IMF, the FSA and a glut of TV shows, they fell for the seduction of leverage.
Wealth is created via risk. There is no getting away from that. The real cause of the crisis of 2008 was the view that wealth can be created via rising house prices. Our most promising entrepreneurs discovered the allure of buy-to-let.
The destruction wrought by the credit crisis of 2008 should have created the realisation that there is no such thing as risk free. Creativity should have sprung from the ashes.
But then again, the one positive aspect of QE is that at least it has pushed interest rates so low that so called risk free investing — after taking into account the monster called inflation — is now quite risky. At least that may make people realise there is no global wealth creation if savers, acting like tiny critters hiding from a Tyrannosaurus Rex, opt to put their money into the safest assets possible.
Michael Baxter, firstname.lastname@example.org