Archives for posts with tag: Apocalypse

[R]ecognition of a state of bankruptcy would have the effect of an atomic bomb. Within a minute, economic agents would try to sell their assets, investors would empty their accounts, foreigners would flee, banks would be forced to close their counters. It’s hard to imagine what state of civil war would be the French and European society.

A bankrupt would have more serious than the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in September 2008 systemic effects immediately.

Or in the original;

[L]a reconnaissance d’un état de faillite aurait l’effet d’une bombe atomique. Dans la minute, les agents économiques essaieraient de vendre leurs actifs, les épargnants videraient leurs comptes, les étrangers s’enfuiraient, les banques seraient obligées de fermer leurs guichets. On a du mal à imaginer dans quel état de guerre civile serait la société française et européenne.

Un état de faillite aurait immédiatement des effets systémiques plus graves que la faillite de Lehman Brothers en septembre 2008.

Up on Jean-Marc Sylvestre’s blog. It is an interesting (and convenient) theory that the French Government cannot admit of its own financial distress and do something about it because it would trigger systemic risk, when several subsequent rating cuts have not had this effect. Sylvestre’s ideal type can only be a naive investor who’s been living under a rock and bases his investments decisions exclusively on Government announcements. In the real world, though, all empirical studies on flights and runs find that investors are informed and that adverse reactions are rather rational and sophisticated.

I especially appreciate likening flights and runs to atomic bombs and civil wars, all within the same paragraph. John Kay has also used the atom bomb comparison to discuss systemic risk recently. Now, perhaps we should pause and think about the level of sustained economic slowdown that would be necessary to actually destroy capital in a magnitude that is comparable to nuclear explosions or a civil war.

The passage ends with a comparison to Lehman Brothers. Now, this is particularly interesting, because Lehman Brothers did not recognize their own financial distress and tried to push it as far back as they could, willingly failing to prepare for insolvency. It was perfectly understandable, though morally reprehensible, when the worst your financial distress is the bigger are your chances are at securing a bailout. This is one of the principal reason why Lehman’s failure to secure a bailout turned out to be problematic; it had failed to act as diligens paterfamilias and prepare for a wind down. Contrary to the exaggerations in Sylvestre’s column, Lehman Brothers’ experience suggests that “systemic risk,” if there is such a thing, is what happens when recognition of financial distress is pushed back until it cannot be ignored anymore,  much like the French Government is doing.


Thus, the right to terminate or close-out financial market contracts is important to the stability of financial market participants in the event of an insolvency and reduces the likelihood that a single insolvency will trigger other insolvencies due to the nondefaulting counterparties’ inability to control their market risk. The right to terminate or close-out protects federally supervised financial institutions, such as insured banks, on an individual basis, and by protecting both supervised and unsupervised market participants, protects the markets from systemic problems of “domino failures.”

Source: Ireland, Oliver. 1999. “Testimony of Oliver Ireland, Associate General Counsel, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, on the proposed Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1999.” Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, Committee on the Judiciary. U.S. House of Representatives, March 18.

Qualified financial contracts privileges to avoid bankruptcy stay, greatly expanded by a 2005 amendment to bankruptcy laws, were one of the principal source of so-called “disorderly” liquidation during in Fall of 2008, and the main motivation behind most of the 2008 bailouts. It became a primary source of “systemic risk.” See Roe, Mark J. 2011. “Derivatives Market’s Payment Priorities as Financial Crisis Accelerator.” Stanford Law Review 63 (3): 539-590.

My research is on financial stability, but I like to dabble on the economics of fictional stories every once in a while. This is too good not to share.

First, let me tell you that I do think there are much more important subjects to be using your time and energy on than reflecting on hypotheticals in the fantasy world of horror flick monsters.  Still, we’re allowed to have a little fun every once in a while, especially on Halloween, right?

With that in mind, those that know me well know that I both REALLY like economics, and I REALLY like zombies, among other silly things. So when LearnLiberty publishes something like this video it makes me really, really happy. I tried the genre once, too.

Even thought it is fun and awesome to have something mixing zombies and economics, I’m not convinced by the analysis in the video. What I like about zombie fiction is the alternative institutional arrangements that authors come up with precisely because of the breakdown of traditional institutions to support exchange and peaceful cooperation. What is interesting is precisely that there is no more room for money to emerge, and no more room for anything even resembling a market price. It is not whether bullets or shovels will become the new currency. How do you trade and cooperate with one another when there is no significant rule of law left? How do you enforce contracts? What happens to cooperation when your temporal horizon becomes dramatically uncertain?

Anthony Davies asks the question, but cannot answer, of whether zombies face decreasing marginal utility. Of course not! The lights are on but nobody’s home for zombies. They don’t feel needs, they are never satisfied, and know no fear. They are moved only by stimuli and reflex. That is precisely what is scary about them; what happens to traditional defense techniques, strategies and weapons when there is no such thing as dissuasion? What happens when your opponents have perfectly inelastic demand for feasting on your guts? How do zombie apocalypse entrepreneurs solve all of these challenges?

I can’t wait for this project to come out, and hopefully answer some of those questions.

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