Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The World Can Be Grateful for Roubini's Exit from Public Policy

"Mish" Shedlock has emailed me a link to a recent profile he has written about Nouriel Roubini. Mish says some nice things about EPJ in the piece, but, beyond that, the full commentray is worth reading and Mish has kindly given me permission to reprint it in full. It appears below.
Nouriel Roubini has called the economic crisis rather well. He gas gone on to turn success at RGE into an "economic brand". The Institutional Investor has an 8-page article on How Nouriel Roubini Became a Research Brand.

The article also notes that Roubini has been in the inner economic circles at the World Economic Forum at Davos, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the U.S. Congress.

Roubinbi served as a senior economist for international affairs at the Council of Economic Advisers, under the Clinton administration, and he spent a year working as lead adviser to Timothy Geithner, who was then undersecretary for international affairs.

World Grateful for Roubini's Exit from Public Policy

Roubini describes the experience under Geithner as "one of the most fascinating periods of his career, but he wasn’t prepared to give up academia for a life in public policy."

The world can be grateful for Roubini's exit from public policy. If only he would give up his academic wonderland theories as well.

As right as Roubini has been on the economy, he has been equally if not more wrong on what to do about it.

Central bank manipulations, bailouts, and Keynesian claptrap are not cures for the global economy as Pater Tenebrarum describes in One of the Biggest Stock Market Collapses in History
Back when central banks were put in charge of manipulating interest rates and the money supply, one of the arguments forwarded by the supporters of central banking and fiat money was that a 'flexible currency' would allow the planners to avoid precisely what has now happened in Athens. We note that they weren't able to avoid a similar outcome in the early 1930's either, but that hasn't kept the supporters of the central bank-led fiat money system from continuing to claim that it is superior to a market chosen money the supply of which can not be manipulated by central planning agencies.

One recent example for this conceit has been provided by Nouriel Roubini, a prominent proponent of interventionism, who said last November in Here's Why a Gold Standard Won't Work "A gold standard would just make business cycles more extreme."

Roubini has it of course exactly the wrong way around. We sure wouldn't want to employ him as a stable boy – the cart would always end up being put in front of the horse.

What exacerbates business cycles is precisely the willy-nilly expansion of the money supply that the fiat money system allows to happen. The idea that central banks need to 'fight inflation or deflation' rests on the erroneous assumption that without central banks, there would actually be something to 'fight'. If we had a free banking system based on a sound (market-chosen) money, were to eschew fractional reserve banking and were instead to return to the traditional legal principles that have been a mainstay of European legal doctrine since antiquity, there simply could no longer be any inflation – and if there is no inflation, then there can not be any deflation either. After all, the big bogey-man deflation whom the Bernanke Fed has set out to battle is only possible if there are uncovered money substitutes, i.e., fiduciary media, in the banking system that can actually be extinguished – money the banks have created from thin air.

We want to refrain from commenting too extensively on the alleged ability of money printing to 'combat unemployment' – suffice it to say that the idea is theoretically untenable and that there exists not a shred of empirical evidence in its support either.

As it were, for an empiricist like Roubini, the Athens General Index should prove beyond a shadow of doubt that there must be a big problem with his assertions.
The Gold Standard Never Dies

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. also takes on Roubini in The Gold Standard Never Dies
Welcome to the age of paper money, where governments and central banks can manufacture as much money as they want without limit. Gold was the last limit. Its banishment as a standard unleashed the inflation monster and leviathan itself, which has swelled beyond comprehension.

But guess what? Gold actually hasn't gone anywhere. It is still the hedge of choice, the thing that every investor embraces in time of trouble. It remains the most liquid, most stable, most fungible, most marketable, and most reliable store of wealth on the planet. It has a more dependable buy-sell spread than any other commodity in existence, given its value per unit of weight.

But is it dead as a monetary tool? Maybe not. Whenever the failures of paper become more-than-obvious, someone mentions gold and then look out for the hysteria. This is precisely what happened the other day when Robert Zoellick, head of the World Bank, made some vague noises in the direction of gold. He merely suggested that its price might be used as a metric for evaluating the quality of monetary policy.

What happened? The roof fell in. Brad DeLong of Keynesian fame called Zoellick "the stupidest man alive" and the New York Times trotted out a legion of experts to assure us that the gold standard would not fix things, would hamstring monetary policy, would bring more instability rather than less, would bring back the great depression, and lead to mass human suffering of all sorts.

One of the funniest explosions came from Nouriel Roubini, who listed a series of merits of gold without recognizing them as such: gold limits the flexibility and range of actions of central banks (check!); under gold, a central bank can't "stimulate growth and manage price stability" (check!); under gold, central banks can't provide lender of last resort support (check!); under gold, banks go belly-up rather than get bailed out (check!).

His only truly negative point was that under gold, we get more business cycles, but here he is completely wrong, as a quick look at the data demonstrates. And how can anyone say such a thing in the immediate wake of one of history's biggest bubbles and its explosion, which brought the world to the brink of calamity (and it still isn't over)? Newsflash: it wasn't the gold standard that gave us this disaster.

Roubini Embraces Bubbles of Ever-Increasing Amplitude

If you are seeking investment advice, perhaps you can get it from Nouriel Roubini's "Research Brand".

However, unless you specifically want bubbles of ever-expanding amplitude, bank bailouts, illegal actions by the Fed, increasing transfers of money to wall street and banks, more government intervention with a perfect track record of failure, and even more wealth disparity, then one of the last places you should seek economic cure advice from is the academic Nouriel Roubini.

Just because someone sees a crisis before others, does not mean the same person has a clue as to what to do about it or for that matter what caused it.

In this case, Roubini is clueless on both counts, offering nothing more than the same Keynesian cures coupled with support for government and Fed intervention that are the very cause of the global economic mess we are in.

Mish vs. Roubini

I am sticking with what I said about gold and the cures I offered for the economy in Hugo Salinas Price and Michael Pettis on the Trade Imbalance Dilemma; Gold's Honest Discipline Revisited.

In contrast, Roubini's Keynesian cures have a perfect track record of failure coupled with increasingly larger bubbles over time. Isn't it time we try something else?


Several people sent me emails regarding Roubini "Tweets". One pointed to an excellent post on the Economic Policy Journal: Roubini's Off the Wall History of Financial Crashes
Nouriel Roubini is continuing his mad streak of tweets attacking those who see dangers in central banking, in general, and the Federal Reserve in particular. His tweets distort the history of banking and crashes from the 1700's to modern day.


Nouriel Roubini is either ignorant of financial history, or attempting to keep the populace ignorant. Roubini should stop tweeting on history until he is willing to tweet the facts. The rest of us should continue to study history so that we will be aware when central bank propagandists are attempting to distort history in front of our very own eyes.
The post on Economic Policy Journal is well worth a read for an excellent rebuttal to more Roubini nonsense.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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