Speaking at a Brussels conference back in April 2011, Eurogroup President Jean Claude Juncker notably stated during a panel discussion that "when it becomes serious, you have to lie." He was referring to situations where the act of "pre-indicating" decisions on eurozone policy could fuel speculation that could harm the markets and undermine their policies' effectiveness.1 Everyone understands that the authorities sometimes lie in order to promote calm in the markets, but it was unexpected to hear such a high-level official actually admit to doing so. They're not supposed to admit that they lie. It is also somewhat disconcerting given the fact that virtually every economic event we have lived through since that time can very easily be described as "serious". Bank runs in Spain and Greece are indeed "serious", as is the weak economic data now emanating from Europe, the US and China. Should we assume that the authorities have been lying more frequently than usual over the past year?
When former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan denied and down-played the US housing bubble back in 2004 and 2005, the market didn't realize how wrong he was until the bubble burst in 2007-2008. The same applies to the current Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, when he famously told US Congress in March of 2007 that "At this juncture… the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime markets seems likely to be contained."2 They weren't necessarily lying, per se, they just underestimated the seriousness of the problem. At this point in the crisis, however, we are hard pressed to believe anything uttered by a central planner or financial authority figure. How many times have we heard that the eurozone crisis has been solved? And how many times have we heard officials flat out lie while the roof is burning over their heads?