Bubbels zonder markten

NEW HAVEN – De speculatiebubbels op de huizen-, aandelen- en grondstoffenmarkten die voor en tijdens de huidige wereldwijde financiële crisis ontstonden, vormen ook de uiteindelijke oorzaak van die crisis. Kunnen we speculatieve markten dan maar beter kunnen sluiten of met een belasting op financiële transacties afremmen, zoals velen deze dagen voorstellen? Dat zou echter een foute conclusie zijn.

Een speculatiebubbel is een zogenaamde sociale epidemie waarbij prijsontwikkelingen voor de ‘besmetting’ zorgen. Het nieuws over prijsstijgingen maakt beleggers die vroegtijdig ingestapt zijn rijker. De verhalen die over hun successen rondgaan, wekken afgunst en belangstelling op. De opwinding lokt vervolgens meer en meer mensen naar de markt, waardoor de prijzen verder stijgen. Die trekken nóg meer mensen aan en voeden verhalen over ‘een nieuw tijdperk’. Zulke achtereenvolgende spiralen blazen de bubbel steeds verder op. Nadat de bubbel is gebarsten, leidt dezelfde besmetting tot een enorme inzinking: dalende prijzen zorgen ervoor dat steeds meer mensen de markt verlaten en dat negatieve verhalen over de economie enorm worden opgeklopt.

Voordat wij concluderen dat we na de crisis beleid moeten gaan volgen om de markten te beteugelen, moeten we eerst het alternatief overwegen. Speculatiebubbels vormen namelijk slechts één voorbeeld van sociale epidemieën. Zonder financiële markten kunnen die namelijk nog veel ergere vormen aannemen. Tijdens een speculatiebubbel versterkt de menselijke reactie op prijsbewegingen de besmetting. Sociale epidemieën hebben daarentegen geen markten of koersen nodig om de aandacht van het publiek te trekken en zich snel te verspreiden.

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