Is the Fed a Cult? – Part 2

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In my previous article I wrote about why the Federal Reserve is beginning to look like a cult, with its dogmatic beliefs in a system which, to the outsider, clearly does not work.

With that in mind, I decided to do a quick review of how the Fed installs such beliefs. Wikipedia lists cognitive and social biases which affect belief formation, business and economic decisions, and human behaviour in general1. Below are part 1 of the ones which I believe facilitate the ‘Cult of The Fed’:

Name Description

Availability heuristic

The tendency to overestimate the likelihood of events with greater “availability” in memory, which can be influenced by how recent the memories are or how unusual or emotionally charged they may be – The Fed can use the apparent positive outcomes of its policies by pointing at the short term performance of capital markets

Availability cascade

A self-reinforcing process in which a collective belief gains more and more plausibility through its increasing repetition in public discourse (or “repeat something long enough and it will become true”). – The Fed cult gets its members to recite the QE+ZIRP= recovery mantra ad infinitum, all the central banks lack is a Gregorian chant

Backfire effect

When people react to disconfirming evidence by strengthening their beliefs. – The more contraindications that start to appear, the more this seems to confirm the opposite – hence illogicalities such as good news is good markets and bad news is good for markets become accepted unquestioningly.

Bandwagon effect

The tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same. Related to groupthink and herd behaviour. This becomes an extension of the availability cascade.

Base rate fallacy or base rate neglect

The tendency to ignore base rate information (generic, general information) and focus on specific information (information only pertaining to a certain case). – We all know that creating more debt to repay debt is illogical and yet when we wrap it in ZIRP & QE paper, it becomes acceptable.

Confirmation bias The tendency to search for, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions. I’d say that the Fed & co have probably clutched a record number of straws in recent years.

Congruence bias

The tendency to test hypotheses exclusively through direct testing, instead of testing possible alternative hypotheses. –AT no point can I recall the Fed justifying policy with reference to alternatives except to say that if they hadn’t done exactly what they did, precisely when they did, then it would have been calamitous..

Conservatism (Bayesian)

The tendency to insufficiently revise one’s belief when presented with new evidence- The BoE’s own researchers came out with the is proof of QE+ZIRP and while it was factually accepted, it was practically disregarded.

Denomination effect

The tendency to spend more money when it is denominated in small amounts (e.g. coins) rather than large amounts (e.g. bills)- This is along the lines of the fed’s refusal to face the music in 2008 and take sever pain (a la Iceland) but instead to suffer a longer, slower but much more agonizing adjustment.

Duration neglect

The neglect of the duration of an episode in determining its value – ditto the above

Experimenter’s or expectation bias

The tendency for experimenters to believe, certify, and publish data that agree with their expectations for the outcome of an experiment, and to disbelieve, discard, or downgrade the corresponding weightings for data that appear to conflict with those expectations-This is so apt on so many levels!

Functional fixedness

Limits a person to using an object only in the way it is traditionally used.  Policymakers globally refuse to look at alternatives such as debt jubilee

Focusing effect

The tendency to place too much importance on one aspect of an event- The Cult of The Fed stems from the moment that everything was about saving the banking system and the assumption that this was in the common good.

Framing effect

Drawing different conclusions from the same information, depending on how or by whom that information is presented – sounds like every time Draghi opens his mouth

Hyperbolic discounting

The tendency for people to have a stronger preference for more immediate payoffs relative to later payoffs, where the tendency increases the closer to the present both payoffs are. Also known as current moment bias, present-bias, and related to Dynamic inconsistency.- All policy makers are drive by the need to produce the goods now and hang the long-term

Illusion of control

The tendency to overestimate one’s degree of influence over other external events-The Fed think that they can push water uphill and have spent 6 years preventing it flowing with ultimately disastrous effects because they think that they’re in control.

Illusion of validity

Belief that furtherly acquired information generates additional relevant data for predictions, even when it evidently does not- seems to tie in with fed clutching at straws- particularly using asset prices to validate the lack of real economic recovery.

Illusory correlation

Inaccurately perceiving a relationship between two unrelated events- again back to the correlation/causation blur.

To be continued…

Footnote:

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

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