Hedge fund king Ray Dalio said the U.S. will end up adopting an economic philosophy that uses zero interest rates to finance big government spending for more widespread growth.
Known as Modern Monetary Theory, the idea of running up large debts and deficits in order to pull the economy out of weak periods has some high-profile supporters, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and maverick New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Its detractors, a group that includes some leading progressives including Paul Krugman, worry the idea could create hyperinflation by injecting so much cheap money into the economy.
Dalio says the implementation of MMT is only a matter of time.
“To me the most important engineering puzzle policy makers around the world have to solve for the years ahead is how to get the economic machine to produce economic well-being for most people when monetary policy does not work,” the Bridgewater Associates founder wrote in a LinkedIn post.
“It is inevitable that this shift will happen because it is inevitable that central bankers will want to ease when interest rates are pinned at 0% and when quantitative easing will be ineffective in achieving the goal,” he added.
Quantitative easing is a practice in which central banks buy up financial assets from big institutions to drive down long-term interest rates and push money to stocks and corporate bonds. The Federal Reserve employed that tactic during and after the financial crisis and Great Recession, pumping about $3.8 trillion into the economy through three rounds of buying Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities.
While the program helped growth and led to the longest bull market in Wall Street’s history, its benefits were uneven. Wealth disparity soared in the U.S. as the benefits from QE flowed to the higher end of the income spectrum.
Dalio, who was the highest paid hedge fund manager in the world last year, said MMT could redirect stimulus from those who own financial assets to those who don’t.
“QE and interest rate cuts help the top earners more than the bottom (because they help drive up asset prices, helping those who already own a lot of assets),” he wrote. “And those levers don’t target the money to the things that would be good investments like education, infrastructure, and R&D.”
In recent days, Dalio has joined a chorus of powerful Wall Street figures who say capitalism has been inefficient at addressing the income gap in the U.S.
While backing the basic philosophy of MMT, he acknowledges that it has weaknesses.
“The big risk of this approach arises from the risks of putting the power to create and allocate money, credit, and spending in the hands of politically elected policy makers,” he wrote. “In my opinion, for these MP3 policies to work well, the system would have to be engineered in a way that decision making would be in the hands of wise, not politically motivated, and highly skilled people. It’s difficult to imagine how the system will be built to achieve that. At the same time it is inevitable that we are headed in this direction.”