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Wednesday, September 16, 2009 2:33 PM


Nassim Taleb: We Still Have The Same Credit Disease


Reflation or not, end of recession or not, the global economic fundamentals have not changed one bit thanks to the misguided actions of central bankers. Nassim Taleb, author of the Black Swan says: ‘We still have the same disease'

Here are some clips from a Globe and Mail interview including some thoughts on Canada.

Margaret Wente: Happy days are here again. The central bankers say the recession is over. The markets are buoyant. Can we relax?

Nassim Taleb: Not at all. Central bankers have no clue. In the first place, the financial crisis was not a black swan. It was perfectly predictable. They ignored the phenomenal buildup in leverage since 1980. They acted like airline pilots who'd never heard of hurricanes.

After finishing The Black Swan, I realized there was a cancer. The cancer was a huge buildup of risk-taking based on the lack of understanding of reality. The second problem is the hidden risk with new financial products. And the third is the interdependence among financial institutions.

MW: But aren't those the very problems we're supposed to be fixing?

NT: They're all still here. Today we still have the same amount of debt, but it belongs to governments. Normally debt would get destroyed and turn to air. Debt is a mistake between lender and borrower, and both should suffer. But the government is socializing all these losses by transforming them into liabilities for your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What is the effect? The doctor has shown up and relieved the patient's symptoms – and transformed the tumour into a metastatic tumour. We still have the same disease. We still have too much debt, too many big banks, too much state sponsorship of risk-taking. And now we have six million more Americans who are unemployed – a lot more than that if you count hidden unemployment.

MW: Are you saying the U.S. shouldn't have done all those bailouts? What was the alternative?

NT: Blood , sweat and tears. A lot of the growth of the past few years was fake growth from debt. So swallow the losses, be dignified and move on. Suck it up. I gather you're not too impressed with the folks in Washington who are handling this crisis.

Ben Bernanke saved nothing! He shouldn't be allowed in Washington. He's like a doctor who misses the metastatic tumour and says the patient is doing very well. The first thing I would tell Chinese officials is, how can you buy U.S. bonds as long as Larry Summers is there? He's a textbook case of overconfidence. Look what happened to Harvard's finances. They took a lot of risk they didn't understand, and it was a disaster. That's the Larry Summers mentality.

MW: Up here our [Canadian] government is promising we can get rid of our deficit by 2015. Any views on that?

NT: Governments never got projections right before, so why should they now?
Once again, it should be crystal clear the world as a whole is following in the footsteps of Japan. The Japanese government is now saddled with enormous amounts of debt with literally nothing to show for it.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com
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