Another excellent article from Prof Simply Simple. The original link is here


The word “quantitative easing” more commonly known as “QE” made a grand entry into our lives along the media highway. We had the QE 1 and then the QE 2 by the Federal Reserve to revive the US economy.

What is this QE all about? To understand let’s look at a simple story.

Let’s say there was a prosperous village – Suskhsagar. Most of the villagers were into agriculture. Their lands were fertile and the farmers were happy. The village had good schools, shops, entertainment hubs, hospitals, municipality etc. Then one day, a pundit, who enjoyed the confidence of the villagers, visited the village. The villagers believe that the pundit was blessed with the knowledge of the future and could predict their future.

One evening, the pundit called an urgent meeting for the villagers to tell them about their future. This kind of meeting had been a regular feature in the village and most people attended it because the pundit’s prediction often was accurate.

So while he addressed the villagers, the pundit dropped a bombshell. He told the villagers that the future appeared very dark. He expected that the villagers would soon lose their jobs and source of livelihood. Their incomes would vanish. Therefore, time had come for them to store all that they had so that they could overcome the bad times.

The petrified villagers acted upon his instruction without any further delay. They began to save their money like there was no tomorrow. The villagers were in a state of shock. It appeared like the smiles had been erased from their faces. People stopped spending money and just focused on saving.

They were in no mood to visit the entertainment hub. Nobody visited the market to buy anything. Markets wore a deserted look. Even people stopped visiting the hospital except for emergencies. The fear of losing their jobs and source of income was sucking out every aspect of happiness from their lives. The demand for all goods and services nosedived. The producers of goods felt the pain and reduced prices to get some hold of their lives. But the demand simply did not lift up. Clearly, negative sentiments had come to enshroud the entire village that led to a standstill of economic activity.

One day, a government official passed through the village and wondered to himself how Sukhsagar village turned into Dukhsagar village. He talked to the village elders to understand. After listening to them, he made an attempt to dissuade their fears by informing them that there was no imminent danger of bad times befalling on them. But the villagers continued to embrace fear. After all they had more faith in the Pundit than the government official. The official had realized that the villagers themselves were making things bad. Seeing that his advice was falling on deaf ears, he invited another learned person to address the villagers. But all his efforts were in vain.

Soon the villagers started suffering. Although they had money stocked up in their houses, it meant little. The producers of goods and services due to the demand slump had either closed shop or left the village. So now there was even a shortage of goods. This meant that even though there was no demand, the prices had stopped falling. So while everyone had money in their homes, there was no economic activity. Without economic activity the markets had dried up just like a car would get stalled without petrol. How does it make a difference to the car if there is petrol in the pump but not in the engine? Just as the engine of the car running dry and coming to a standstill, so did the markets in the village in the absence of money that did not reach the markets even though there was plenty in the homes of the villagers.

There was only pain and misery left in the village. Although there was no external threat to their jobs but the peculiar behavior of the villagers to save money and stop buying goods and services was turning out to be the cause of job losses. So in a sense, the behavior of the villagers was making their nightmare come alive.

The government official was afraid that the villagers would destroy themselves if they continued on this path. So he thought of an idea to release the village from this grip of negativity. He made an unprecedented announcement to jolt the villagers into action.

The key parts of his announcement were:-

1) Money would be made available to everybody at 0% interest
2) As much money that would be needed would be provided
3) The villagers could pay off their debts over time
4) The government would buy off all the debt that others owed them
This announcement was manna from heaven for the villagers.

The assurance of easy money made them realize that it was futile to hoard money in their homes. The announcement encouraged them to buy goods and services from the market. This led to an increase in the demand for goods and services. Soon, the producers of other goods and services who had fled from the village started to return in large numbers. The entertainment hub also sprung into action.

The economic engine sputtered into action just as a car engine would when supply of fuel resumes.

The sentiments of the villagers took a U turn from negativity to positivity and Dukhsagar once again turned into Sukhsagar.

This process of releasing money into the hands of people to revive sentiment and getting people to actively participate in economic activity is what is popularly known as, “Quantitative Easing”. Quantitative easing literally means easing (or increasing) the supply of money in the economy. This is done by printing additional currency.

The cheap money released becomes an incentive for the people to consume and invest. While consumption increases, the demand for goods and services infuses life to the production process, investment provides the credit to build manufacturing capacity for goods and services so that the rise in demand does not lead to high inflation. Thus changing sentiments is a self fulfilling prophecy that helps the economy to gain momentum and sustains itself. The moment sentiments change, people are inclined to hoard less and inject more money into the economy. The infused money acts as the lubricant for the economy to chug along smoothly.