Central banks should not rescue fools

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. The one last Wednesday showing Christopher Dodd, chairman of the US senate’s banking committee, flanked by Hank Paulson, Treasury secretary, and Ben Bernanke, governor of the Federal Reserve, was such a picture. This showed Mr Bernanke as a performer in a political circus. Mr Dodd even announced Mr Bernanke’s policies: the latter had, said Mr Dodd, told him he would use “all the tools” at his disposal to contain market turmoil and prevent it from damaging the economy. The Fed has its orders: save Main Street and rescue Wall Street.

Such panic-driven politicisation is almost certain to lead to both overreaction and the creation of bad precedents. What then would be the right response to this latest scrape that supposedly sophisticated financial markets have fallen into?

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