Monday, May 10, 2010


David Brooks in the April 27th New York Times:
The premise of the current financial regulatory reform is that the establishment missed the last bubble and, therefore, more power should be vested in the establishment to foresee and prevent the next one.

If you take this as your premise, the Democratic bill is fine and reasonable. It would force derivative trading out into the open. It would create a structure so the government could break down failing firms in an orderly manner. But the bill doesn’t solve the basic epistemic problem, which is that members of the establishment herd are always the last to know when something unexpected happens.

If this were a movie, everybody would learn the obvious lessons. The folks in the big investment banks would learn that it’s valuable to have an ethical culture, in which traders’ behavior is restricted by something other than the desire to find the next sucker. The folks in Washington would learn that centralized decision-making is often unimaginative decision-making, and that decentralized markets are often better at anticipating the future.

But, again, this is not a Hollywood movie. Those lessons are not being learned.
See also Phill Swagel in the American:
President Obama’s approach, as embodied in Democratic Senator Chris Dodd’s bill, is for discretion and thus for bailouts. Top administration officials state that they will impose losses on counterparties such as lenders to a failing firm. The reality, however, is that the Senate bill gives the government discretion, without a vote of Congress, to put money into a failing firm to pay off creditors. Shareholders will take losses but creditors can benefit from government-provided funds. Regardless of the administration’s intentions, markets participants will understand that the Senate financial regulation bill allows for bailouts, and this will give rise to riskier behavior that in turn makes future bailouts more likely.

(via Greg Mankiw's Blog)

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