The laws of economics for the drinker and banks*
* It’s time again to benefit from my very good friend and occasional co-author Tim Coldwell as a source of ideas and connections. He discovered the following little text for us which allows us to enhance our understanding of economic relations and policy processes, and of the rationale behind current financial regulation.
Here is a dummies guide to what went wrong in Europe:
Helga is the proprietor of a bar.
She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics
and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar.
To solve this problem, she comes up with a new marketing plan that allows
her customers to drink now, but pay later.
Helga keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the
Word gets around about Helga’s “drink now, pay later” marketing strategy
and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Helga’s bar.
Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in town.
By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands, Helga
gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases
her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages. Consequently, Helga’s gross sales volume increases massively.
A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these
customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Helga’s
He sees no reason for any undue concern, since
he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral!!!
At the bank’s corporate headquarters, expert traders figure a way to make
huge commissions, and transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS.These “securities” then are bundled and traded on international securities markets.
Naive investors don’t really understand that the securities being sold to
them as “AA” “Secured Bonds” really are debts of unemployed alcoholics.
Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb!!!, and the securities soon
the hottest-selling items for some of the nation’s leading brokerage
One day, even though the bond prices still are climbing, a risk manager at
the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on
the debts incurred by the drinkers at Helga’s bar.
He so informs Helga.
Helga then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but being unemployed
alcoholics they cannot pay back their drinking debts.
Since Helga cannot fulfil her loan obligations she is forced into
The bar closes and Helga’s 11 employees lose their jobs.
Overnight, DRINKBOND prices drop by 90%. The collapsed bond asset value
destroys the bank’s liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus
freezing credit and economic activity in the community.
The suppliers of Helga’s bar had granted her generous payment extensions and
had invested their firms’ pension funds in the BOND securities. They find
they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing
over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds.
Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy,
closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.
Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their
respective executives are saved
and bailed out by a multibillion dollar no-strings attached cash infusion from the government.
The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on
employed, middle-class, non-drinkers who have never been in Helga’s bar.