Surowiecki: QE2 Arguments “Overheated and Hysterical”

Fascinating discussion from James Surowiecki in The New Yorker:

“The German and Chinese governments, Republican congressmen, the liberal economist Joseph Stiglitz, and Sarah Palin don’t agree on much. But they’re united in their opposition to the Federal Reserve’s second round of quantitative easing—or, as it’s known, QE2 . . . What’s most striking about the attacks on QE2 is how hysterical they are. People aren’t just suggesting that the Fed’s policy—which is quite modest relative to the size of the U.S. economy—might be ineffective or mildly inflationary. Instead, they’re accusing the Fed of “injecting high-grade monetary heroin” into the system, pursuing a policy that “eviscerates” the middle class, and potentially giving birth to an “undead homicidal zombie market.”

This response reflects a pervasive sense of anxiety about both the state of the economy and any attempt to fix it. You can see it in the inflation hawks’ conviction that a crashing dollar and higher prices are right around the corner, even though core inflation is lower than it has been in the past fifty years, while the dollar’s value has actually risen in recent weeks. The same kind of anxiety fuels assertions that QE2 is “artificially” elevating stock and commodity prices around the world, as investors take cheap money from the Fed and invest it elsewhere. Never mind that stock prices are virtually unchanged since this spring, and commodity prices have actually tumbled in the last couple of weeks. The simple fact that some asset prices have risen since QE2 was first hinted at is treated as prima-facie evidence that markets are disastrously out of whack.”

Interesting stuff . . .

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Source:
The Big Uneasy
James Surowiecki
The New Yorker, December 6, 2010
http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2010/12/06/101206ta_talk_surowiecki

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