Assessing the toxic intellectual debt that builds up when too much liquidity is concentrated on too few assets can be an important job if research funders want to avoid heading short on overvalued research. The cause of the meltdown of the financial market is obvious: leveraged trading in financial equipment that bear no regards to the things these are supposed to be guaranteed against.
Science, too, is a market in which the value of research is secured against objects in the world ultimately. If the global world is not as it appears in a research paper, does the research have value? A paper that claims that smoking causes cancer or that terrorism is caused by poverty is valuable only when as it happens to be always a good explanation of cancer or terrorism.
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Consider the recent investments in neuroscience. Nobody with an intention in scientific trends and science policy will have failed to notice that cognitive neuroscience is another big thing. This narrative ‘s been around for at least a decade, but it is getting serious now. Much like a leveraged investment in mortgage bonds, most bureaucrats have little or no competence in identifying how these massive projects will turn out. Set up expectations shall be realized, research funding is framed with expectations that neuroscience will result in jobs and growth.
It should be little shock then to see newly emerging fields that attach “neuro” to some human characteristic – neuroeconomics, neuromarketing, neuropsychiatry, neuroethics – with the expectation that the techniques of neuroscience will describe the relevant human practice and behavior. The generous provision of funding for projects in neuroscience creates the first precondition for a science bubble.
Add to this a second precondition: the presence of speculators. Both experts and directors of research institutes hedge their wagers by helping research strategies that follow the existing fashions, publication stations, and funding streams. You could take it to figure out the causes of brain diseases apart. You could rig it to robotics and develop a whole new selection of intelligent technologies. You could strap on a pair of virtual actuality glasses and experience a brain other than your own.
Overly optimistic research programs and promises of future scientific impacts masses out more humble and pluralist research strategies pursued by scientists in the search for novel explanations and solid evidence building. Which is what research is focused on, not only mainlining what risk turning out to be always a science bubble.
If there was the “madness of crowds” then, think about these full times with Trillions flowing into passive ETFs, record corporate debt issuance, record securities and home prices, a proliferation of cryptocurrencies and a bubbling derivatives market. So long as the Given focuses on higher asset prices while providing liquidity backstops frequently, a culture of speculation becomes only deeper entrenched. Yellen’s speech makes repeated reference to “too large to fail” – and exactly how policy measures have dealt with this leading component of the previous crisis.
In truth, central bankers have guaranteed that “too large to fail” moral threat has mushroomed from an issue regarding large-finance institutions to a critical facet afflicting global securities and derivatives market pricing. Yellen’s talk, “Financial Stability ten years after the Onset of the Crisis,” somehow doesn’t address the historic test out quantitative easing (QE).
There’s no mention of the Fed (and global central banks) repeatedly responding to incipient market instability (with QE, an expansion of monetary stimulus, or a postponement of “normalization”). The powerful doctrine of the Fed “pushing back against a tightening of financial conditions” is omitted from the discussion. The Fed seat mainly avoids monetary plan entirely.
Yellen: “Investors have regarded the improvement achieved toward finishing too-big-to-fail… Credit default swaps for the top banks also claim that market individuals assign a low possibility to the distress of a big U.S. I’d caution against phoning out low bank or investment company CDS prices as evidence of progress toward finishing too-big-to-fail. CDS is atypically low over the spectral range of corporate and business borrowers.