Clearly, the United States and the world economy are undergoing a major financial crisis. Interbank borrowing and lending rates have risen to unprecedented levels relative to U.S. Treasury Bills. Several major financial institutions have failed. These real problems have also been associated with four widely-held myths about the nature of the financial crisis and the associated spillovers to the rest of the economy. The financial press and policymakers have made four claims about the nature of the crisis-
1. Bank lending to non financial corporations and individuals has declined sharply.
2. Interbank lending is essentially nonexistent.
3. Commercial paper issuance by non financial corporations has declined sharply and rates have risen to unprecedented levels.
4. Banks play a large role in channeling funds from savers to borrowers.
Here we examine these claims using data from the Federal Reserve Board. At least based on data up until October 8, 2008, we argue that all four claims are false.
Read the whole paper. It’s not long and easy to understand. Perception in financial markets, as in much of life, is reality. Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution thinks this is an Availability Cascade. What’s an availability cascade? Here’s the explanation from the abstract:
An availability cascade is a self-reinforcing process of collective belief formation by which an expressed perception triggers a chain reaction that gives the perception of increasing plausibility through its rising availability in public discourse. The driving mechanism involves a combination of informational and reputational motives: Individuals endorse the perception partly by learning from the apparent beliefs of others and partly by distorting their public responses in the interest of maintaining social acceptance. Availability entrepreneurs – activists who manipulate the content of public discourse – strive to trigger availability cascades likely to advance their agendas. Their availability campaigns may yield social benefits, but sometimes they bring harm, which suggests a need for safeguards. Focusing on the role of mass pressures in the regulation of risks associated with production, consumption, and the environment, Professor Timur Kuran and Cass R. Sunstein analyze availability cascades and suggest reforms to alleviate their potential hazards. Their proposals include new governmental structures designed to give civil servants better insulation against mass demands for regulatory change and an easily accessible scientific database to reduce people’s dependence on popular (mis)perceptions. (emphasis added)
Are there activits who could have pushed this to advance their agenda? Just asking…