The most powerful economist in the world has said that she does not believe there will be another financial crisis in her lifetime.
Janet Yellen, chair of the US Federal Reserve, recently said, during a visit to the UK: “Would I say there will never, ever be another, financial crisis? That would be going too far but I do think we’re much safer and I hope that it will be not by in our lifetimes and I don’t believe it will be.”
So, is she right?
Here is what she overlooks: technology.
It may boil down to your view of what caused the crisis of 2008. Was it down to greedy bankers, or was banking excess a symptom of something deeper? Maybe rising inequality, very weak growth in median wages, and surging house prices, combined to create a debt bubble, that was not sustainable. Mortgage securitisation was just a means that was found to benefit from the inflating bubble of that time. Without it, but with all the other factors, there would have still been a crash.
Forward wind the clock, and those underlying problems have not gone away – private debt has continued to surge, the aging of the baby boomer generation has created a savings glut, and sucked aggregate demand out of the economy and then there is technology.
Suppose AI really does destroy jobs, suppose autonomous cars and the sharing economy really do converge, destroying the global car industry – it is hard to believe that the world’s financial institutions could survive such events unscathed.
Ms Yellen knows her economics, but without factoring in the future effect of technology, her theories are incomplete