[Via Dani Rodrik]
Dani Rodrik writes...
A single loan requires not one but two terms to be negotiated, and that one may become much more important than the other in certain situations was clear enough to Shakespeare four hundred years ago. Wrote Geanakoplos:
“Who can remember the interest rate that Shylock charged Antonio? But everybody remembers the pound of flesh that Shylock and Antonio agreed upon as collateral. The upshot of the play, moreover, is the regulatory authority (the court) decides that the collateral level Shylock and Antonio agreed upon was socially suboptimal, and the court decrees a different collateral –a pound of flesh but not a drop of blood.” Thus did the The Merchant of Venice end happily, not with a cramdown, but with very different terms if the loan were to be foreclosed.
[Via Economic Principals]
For at least a century, he noted, economists have been accustomed to thinking of the interest rate as the most important variable in the economy – lower it to speed things up, raise it to slow them down. Yet especially in times of crisis, collateral demands – alternatively, margin requirements, loan-to-value ratios, leverage rates or “gearing” – become much more important.
Central banks, therefore, should rethink their priorities. The Fed should learn to manage system-wide leverage, he said, reining in on it in ebullient times and propping it up in anxious times, in order to prevent the worst outcomes.