27
Nov
08

Paradox of thrift

Barely a year ago cash was considered dangerous to accumulate: investors urging board members for returns in dividends or reinvestment. We have thus seen a reversal of public opinion in recent months as companies are off in a mad scramble for any available operating cash.

No longer. For many big American companies, the day of reckoning came two months ago when the deepening financial crisis brought about the abrupt closure of the overnight commercial-paper market. This briefly sent even the most solid companies into a desperate scramble to find money to meet such basic obligations as paying their staff. Since then, the guiding principle for managers everywhere has been to gather up whatever cash they can find, and then do their damnedest to keep as much of it as possible for as long as possible.

This cash squeeze is a huge problem for the world economy, because as firms cut discretionary spending wherever they can, the result is likely to be a corporate version of what John Maynard Keynes called the “paradox of thrift”. Every firm does what is prudent for itself, but by cutting its spending it slows down the economy still further and thus hurts everybody, including itself. This will only reinforce the need for expansionary monetary and fiscal policy (see article) to boost demand; and also for more direct support in credit markets, such as the Federal Reserve’s prop for the commercial-paper market (already tapped by some large American firms).

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Read the article in its entirety via Economist.

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1 Response to “Paradox of thrift”


  1. 1 jim shertz
    December 1, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    good article dawg. i believe that we will see areturn to expansionist monetary and fiscal policy to increase demand in the next couple of years (keynesian philosiphy revisited). will probably include massive public works/infrastructure, energy related etc projects.


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