John Kay’s column in yesterday’s Financial Times criticizes government guarantees to banks because they involve hidden but large costs. According to Kay:
- Such guarantees distort competition: sheltered banks outperform rivals not because of greater efficiency, but because capital becomes cheaper to obtain.
- Sheltered banks gain too-big-to-fail status, which creates barriers to entry for smaller, more efficient banks.
- Relief from business risk leads to more risk taking, AKA moral hazard.
- Cheaper private risk management incentives are reduced within and outside the bank.
Other kinds of government guarantees, such as social insurance, also involve large hidden costs. Social Security and Medicare’s guarantee of a paid holiday with medical care for the rest of retirees’ lives generates the same types of costs:
- Labor competition is reduced because the programs induce early worker retirements, which leads to higher wage costs, on average, and lower national output.
- Workers who believe they will receive Social Security and Medicare will engage in lower personal saving, which means less capital formation and lower economic efficiency.
- Retirement income guarantees induce riskier personal savings portfolios, AKA moral hazard.
- Guaranteed retirement income means poorer financial knowledge and poorer risk management.
And now, retiree political power is too big to fail as well!
How come when Kay writes about market distortions from government guarantees for banks, he gets published; but when I do the same about government guarantees for people, I get the cold shoulder from editorial page editors?