Monday, May 3, 2010
Financial Reform, Chicago-Style
"A 'trilemma' is like a dilemma, only there are three things to choose from and you can have just two. The current debate over post-crisis financial regulation suggests we face such a trilemma: We can choose any two of the following: but not all three: 1) efficient capital markets 2) no bailouts to big banks and 3) a depression-free economy. ... But the idea that big banks might be able to get new capital from the Treasury was scarcely even contemplated. Choosing one and two resulted in a global financial and economic crisis worthy of the name depression. ... Either the bill does not imply future bailouts, as Republicans argue. Or, as seems more plausible to us, it is going to introduce such a wide range of new financial regulations that the efficiency of our capital markets will be significantly diminshed. ... Whether or not there is any basis for the SEC's claim that [Goldman] misled investors, the key point is that the collateralized debt obligation (CDO) at issue was nothing more than an elaborate wager on the future price of some mortgage-backed securities--a wager with as much economic utility as a gigantic bet on a roulette wheeel or a horse race. ... But [derivatives] increased the instability of the global financial system. And taxpayers have paid a heavy price since the system all but collapsed in late 2008. ... There was never a good reason for treating credit default swaps and their ilk differently from commodity futures, which are standardized and traded on exchanges. ... The nightmare possibility arises: Could the proposed cure turn out to be just another symptom of the same disease? As the rules become ever so more convoluted, so the opportunities for the unscrupulous increase--and the efficency of the financial system as a whole decreases. ... First, in the more controlled capital markets of the 1970s, borrowers generally paid more for their loans because there was less competition. ... Second, it is not at all clear that our crisis was exclusively caused by a failure of regulation as opposed to a failure of monetary policy. ... Third, the crisis of 2007-2009 originated in one of the most highly regulated sectors of the financial system: the US residential mortgage market", my emphasis, Niall Ferguson & Ted Forstmann (F&F) at the WSJ, 23 April 2010, link:
I only disagree with F&F over this: we cannot have a "depression-free economy". Apparently F&F don't favor the Dodd bill either.