- William Shakespeare
From Jesse’s Cafe Americain:
Jim Sinclair does a good job of explaining the difference between the notional and real value of derivatives, and how that real value comes to bear on the financial system in the event of a default. You can read this here for a review of the basic concept if you do not understand it.
Within my own view of money, uncollateralized financial instruments like derivatives are credits, or potential money. When an event triggers them so that they become real, with a significant presence on the balance sheet and the income statement, then they become money.
In the financial world we see the extraordinary growth of derivatives in notional value, to almost unbelievable proportions. This mass of derivatives facilitates the withdrawal of money from the real economy in the form of wealth transferal, such as bonuses and commissions for example. But they do not become actual money themselves until some trigger event. To perhaps stretch our analogy to the physical world, it could be described as the withdrawal of the ocean, as money is siphoned from the real economy by the financial world, in advance of the arrival of a tsunami as derivatives start hitting the balance sheets and are transformed into ‘real money.’
This could be the cause of a hyperinflationary policy error which I have been alluding to for the past several years. The policy error is not in the simple setting interest rates, but the Fed’s failure to regulate the banking system and manage its risks. In this the Fed, particularly under Greenspan, was an abysmal failure, and improvement has not been forthcoming.
The explosion of the realization of derivatives would create enormous fortunes and unpayable debts. Depending on how the monetary authorities deal with it, the potential for a Weimer experience is there. Nationalizing the banks and canceling the transactions is one way out. Attempting to sustain these mythical financial structures will take the existing currency system down. That is the limit of the Fed’s power.