Governments around the world have kept people happy by promising their citizens good retirement income benefits, and access to at least some kind of minimal long-term care (LTC) safety net.
Central bankers in the United States, Europe, Japan and elsewhere have also kept young, working-age citizens happy by using “low interest rates” to funnel the money that could have gone into retirement income and LTC funds, which might have invested a decent percentage of their assets in infrastructure bonds, or industrial corporate bonds, into the initial public offerings of phone app developers; programs that paid for the construction of ghost cities in China; and lovely, rapidly selling office buildings and condos in what mostly seem to be the developed world’s soggiest, windiest possible coastal flood zones.
Who needs to use the world’s money to repair aging roads and bridges, or expand transit systems, or help sustainable energy efforts past slumps, when you can use it to create an app that helps connect pet owners with pet sitters, or to build a 50-story apartment tower with a bunch of units that will be sold for $10 million each to overseas investors, and mostly left empty, until the day when some hurricane comes and knocks out the utility connections in the basement, and mold creeps in and covers all the walls?
See also: Have REITs peaked?
Now, the investors who benefited from banking regulators and central bankers’ “let’s pretend everything is great” approach to managing the economy are holding their breath till they turn blue because the great pretenders are trying to pretend a little less.
Some are saying the central bankers should keep pretending the same way, longer, to persuade the toddlers, no, wait, children, to get up off the floor and breathe.
Maybe it would be better if the central bankers let interest rates go back up to something like normal, stick to the goal of pretending less, and assume that, if investors are fit enough to breathe, they’ll go back to breathing.
And, if investors are not fit enough to breathe on their own, maybe it would be better to know that sooner, rather than later.