Ritholtz Gets Counterfactual About QE

Since the economy started to turn around in 2009, many pundits have contended that the weakness of the rebound is evidence that the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program has not worked. Barry Ritholtz says such logic is faulty.

“The problem with this ‘non-result result’ is what would have occurred otherwise,” Ritholtz writes for Bloomberg View. “Might ‘no change’ be an improvement from what otherwise would have happened? No change, last time I checked, is better than a free-fall.”

Ritholtz says this is a good example of people ignoring the “counterfactual” — the scenario of how events would have played out had one factor (in this case, QE) been different.

“In the absence of a functional Congress or an adequate post-recession stimulus program, the Fed is the only game in town,” he says. “Neither you nor I truly know what the impact of QE has been. Without that control group, we simply don’t know. I have my suspicions, you have yours. But neither of us truly knows.”