Let me give you an example: last year, a debate was raging about the size of the European financial assistance facilities, the so-called “Eurozone firewall”. None of the very substantial amounts seemed to be enough: the 500 billion euro that were already on the table, and used to only a very small extent, were decried as insufficient. One trillion euro at least, if not two trillion or more, were seen as necessary.

One idea pushed forcefully by the “international expert opinion” was to “leverage” existing funds, by offering incentives to private and public entities to provide additional funds. And indeed, throngs of European officials worked night and day to devise and agree on two options to leverage the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF). Today the two instruments are there. They could work. Will they ever be used? The caravan of the “commentariat” had already moved on. No-one speaks about leveraging the EFSF anymore. In fact, the actual investors in EFSF bonds were put off by the leveraging options, because it made the EFSF structure more risky and less understandable.

The searchlight of attention of the markets and the commentary shifts fast. Yesterday it was the firewalls. Then it was growth. Today it is Spain. For sure, all of these issues require action. But designing and agreeing on responses takes time. No wonder that policy-makers are criticised for constantly being “behind the curve”.

Markets want to see immediate and forceful action from Europe’s politicians. And their criticism of the slowness of the European crisis response is in part justified. But democratic politics takes time. It is open, noisy, and messy. We cannot do “crisis management by Politburo”. We need effective communication and a proper public debate. This is especially true for the envisaged next steps towards deeper integration in Eurozone.

Why am I telling you this? Because it sheds light on the nexus between a new class of opinion formers, financial markets and policy outcomes.
Why does it matter? Because the discourse influences some of the most important financial markets for the Eurozone. If expectations that have been built up are not fulfilled, if alleged certainties do not materialise, if actions from politicians or central bankers are not forthcoming as anticipated by the “market consensus”, the reaction can be grave: volatility, contagion, all the way to complete market dysfunction. The systemic impact can be major, driving financial institutions, as well as sovereign borrowers into real difficulties.

The result is a situation where policy-makers – including the central bank – may feel compelled to react to market developments with ever more powerful responses, in order to contain the a systemic risk and avoid a meltdown.

What is the lesson? Central banks have to face up to the public and market discourse – especially because they are independent. We have to participate in this debate. We have to take on the critics, understand their points, and argue our case. We have to listen, explain, and convince.

Naturally, we will ultimately do what we judge to be the correct cause of action, in full independence and in line with our mandate. Actions speak louder than words. Especially when they are timely, measured and effective. This is what creates confidence.
「国際的な専門家の意見」として強く推奨されたアイディアの一つが、民間ないし公的な各種機関に追加資金を提供するインセンティブを与えることにより、既存の基金に「レバレッジを掛ける」というものでした。そして実際、欧州の官僚の一団が日夜を問わず働いて、欧州金融安定化基金(EFSF)にレバレッジを掛ける2つのオプションを考案し、合意に達しました。今日、その2つの手段は実装されています。それは実働可能な状態にあります。しかし、それが実際に使われることはあるのでしょうか? 「コメンター階級」のキャラバンは既に別の場所に移動してしまいました。EFSFのレバレッジについて口にする人はもはや誰もいません。むしろ、そのレバレッジのオプションによって、EFSF債に実際に投資する人たちの投資意欲が損なわれてしまいました。というのは、そのオプションによってEFSFの構造がよりリスクの高いものとなり、かつ、より分かりにくくなったためです*1
なぜこのようなことをお話するのでしょうか? その理由は、世論を形成する新たな階級と金融市場と政治的帰結の間の関係を明らかにするためです。
なぜそれが問題となるのでしょうか? その理由は、そうしたコメンター階級の意見がユーロ圏において最も重要な金融市場の幾つかに影響を与えるからです。もし形成された期待が満たされないのであれば、もし確実にそうなると言われたことが実現しないのであれば、もし政治家や中央銀行家の行動が「市場コンセンサス」通りで無いならば、それに対する反応は深刻なものとなり得ます。市場の変動、混乱の伝播、そして最終的な市場の完全な機能停止です。金融システムへの影響は大きなものとなり、金融機関や債務国家は非常な窮状に陥るでしょう。
このことの教訓は何でしょうか? 中央銀行は、一般ならびに市場の世論に向き合う必要があります。独立であるが故に、一層その必要があります。我々はこうした議論に参加すべきなのです。我々は批判者に向き合い、彼らの主張のポイントを理解し、自分たちの主張を論じる必要があります。我々は聞き入れ、説明し、納得させる必要があるのです。


*1:この辺りのエピソードはガイトナー・プットを巡るエピソード(cf. ここ)を想起させる。