So how much
quantitative easing is enough quantitative easing?
into depression almost 20 years before everyone else, but it got no respect
for blazing the trail. Its zero-rate policy also got started more than seven
years before the US or Britain's. But again it was all "too little, too
late" according to Western observers.
deficit spending and creating money from nowhere failed to beat Japan's
"self-induced paralysis" said Ben Bernanke,
then a Princeton professor but now chairman of the US Federal Reserve, of
course - and accused himself of failing
to print enough electronic money to rescue America from the horror of
non-inflating consumer prices.
the Bank of Japan wants to get ahead of its critics. Especially those foreign
academics (now central bankers) who built their career claiming they would
make sure "deflation
doesn't happen here" in their own domestic economies. Yet Japan's
ambitions remain so very modest. Why won't the Bank of Japan man up and
decimate the currency?
that Japanese gold
prices have risen four-fold since QE began in 2001. Never mind that the
Bank of Japan today called its policy "powerful monetary easing".
Because inflation in Japanese consumer prices is still running around 0% as
the Bank noted on Tuesday. So for a Valentine's treat, its nine
policy-makers voted to create more than half as much QE as they have
undertaken in total so far - a further ¥22 trillion ($281bn) by year-end
- taking the total decade-long program to $832bn in money it simply willed
The aim of
all this money? The Bank of Japan says that "price stability in the
medium to long term" means a rate of consumer inflation between 0% and
2% per year. Today's vast new quantitative easing "more specifically
sets a goal at 1% for the time being."
creating so much money - somewhere between the annual GDPs of Turkey and the
Netherlands - result in such little inflation?
renewed criticism of the BOJ after the announcement," reports
Bloomberg, "with Kozo Yamamoto, of the Liberal Democratic Party,
saying the 1 percent target was 'too low' and not a substantial change from
existing policy. Takeshi Miyazaki, a ruling Democratic Party of Japan
lawmaker, said the central bank's approach seemed half-hearted...
of DPJ lawmakers is seeking a 2 percent to 3 percent inflation target."
where Japan's policy wonks are starting from. Buying government bonds with
their quantitative easing, the Bank of Japan currently owns just 6% of
national debt outstanding. Okay, that should rise above 9% in the next year,
and its very nearly equal
to the net debt due to be issued in the next 12 months, too. But 3 times as
much existing debt will also have to be rolled over by March 2013, and as a
proportion of Japan's broad M3 money supply, QE currently equals less than 4%
of the total. It's a bonsai tree in the forest, in short.
contrast the Bank of England. It got started in only March 2009, but its
latest QE plans will take quantitative easing to more than £1 in every
£4 of the UK's record-high national debt. As for the broad M3 money
supply, the Bank will have created and spent a sum equal to 14% of the all
the cash and savings in the UK economy.
real quantitative easing! It makes Japan's QE look paralyzed indeed, not
least with the UK enjoying annual price inflation of 3.5% per year since the
Bank of England first slapped the ink on its electronic printing press.
Japan's tepid QE has instead delivered an average 0.15% annual fall in the
cost of living since 2001.
So what did
QE achieve in Japan? "The program aided weaker Japanese banks and
generally encouraged greater risk-tolerance in the Japanese financial
system," concluded a Federal Reserve study in 2006...just before the
West caught up with Japan and embarked on its own credit-bust and depression.
easing may have [therefore] had the undesired impact of delaying structural
reform," said the Fed - a structural reform that
zero-rate money printing in the UK and US hasn't yet allowed either.
Our zombie banks continue to avoid collapse, thanks to the huge volume of
money thrown at their balance-sheets. Keeping them on life support, as the
Japanese experience shows, will mean extending and expanding QE indefinitely.
in the cost of living responds over the next decade remains to be seen.