The Fool in the Shower

Learned of Milton Friedman’s evocative image, “the fool in the shower” in this article, which Mish links to. I’ve underlined the truly astonishing part, for my busy readers’ benefit (don’t mention it!). You may need to read it twice (or ten times) to check you read it correctly the first time. Talk about double-take!

What the Fed is saying, in essence, is that as the economy improves, it’s appropriate to provide as much stimulus, or support, as it did in late 2008, when the economy was contracting and the financial system was imploding.

This is a dramatic shift. Given the long and variable lags with which monetary policy operates, past Fed officials at least paid lip service to the notion of acting preemptively: withdrawing excess stimulus — a fancy way of saying they will raise interest rates — as the economy improved.

Not so the current committee, which is tilted toward doves after the annual rotation of voting members. This group seems to think it should “continue to ease as long as there is economic slack,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. “It’s a classic, elemental mistake,” he said, one described by the late Nobel economist Milton Friedman as the “fool in the shower.”

The fool turns on the water in the shower, steps in and finds that it’s still cold. So he turns the knob all the way to hot, only to get scalded when the water heats up with a predictable lag.

via ‘Fool in the Shower’ to Give Fed a Scalding: Caroline Baum – Bloomberg.