Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

This comment follows directly on Professor Gerard’s observations about the difficulties political structures have in reducing governmental debt.  Ken Rogoff, fresh off his appropriately well received recent book with Carmen Reinhardt entitled This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, opines in Wednesday’s Financial Times that “Bubbles lurk in government debt.”  (Follow the link below.) He argues, persuasively in my view, that “conventional economic theory can rationalize bubbles” and that Reinhardt and he observe that large increases in both leverage (debt) and asset prices often “implode if confidence fades,” which inevitably it will.  Losses in the equity market fall directly (and often quickly) on the equity holders.  Losses in the debt market, however, generate long, drawn out negotiations about who should bear the losses.  Opportunities for shifting these losses from the politically strong to the politically weak abound, for governmental debt (and off-budget guarantees), which lacks sufficient transparency until its too late.