The Third and Final Transformation of Monetary Policy
April 26, 2015
The law of unintended consequences is becoming ever more prominent in the economic sphere, as the world becomes exponentially more complex with every passing year. Just as a network grows in complexity and value as the number of connections in that network grows, the global economy becomes more complex, interesting, and hard to manage as the number of individuals, businesses, governmental bodies, and other institutions swells, all of them interconnected by contracts and security instruments, as well as by financial and information flows.
It is hubris to presume, as current economic thinking does, that the entire economic world can be managed by manipulating one (albeit major) subset of that network without incurring unintended consequences for the other parts of the network. To be sure, unintended consequences can be positive or neutral or negative. This letter you are reading, which I’ve been writing for over 15 years and which reaches far more people than I would have ever dreamed possible, is partially the result of a serendipitous unintended consequence.
But as every programmer knows, messing with a tiny bit of the code in a very complex program can have significant ramifications, perhaps to the point of crashing the program. I have a new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet that I’m trying to get used to, but somehow my heretofore reliable Mozilla Firefox browser isn’t playing nice with this computer. I’m sure it’s a simple bug or incompatibility somewhere, but my team...