Monday, May 03, 2010

Financial Regulation Will Help! Not....

So, now the government is going to fix the financial industry, because markets don't work?

Look, the genesis of the financial crisis was a trap, set by federal government offiicials and regulators.

It was a trap baited with four kinds of tasty cheese:
1. Down payment subsidies, encouraging people to buy houses more expensive than they could actually afford
2. Changes in the definitions of "conforming" loans, with much looser requirements for packaging and reselling by Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac.
3. Artificially low interest rates that served to finance an asset bubble in housing and commercial real estate.
4. An implicit guarantee, made by all of the last four Treasury secretaries, that any decline in housing prices would be treated as a "market failure," prompting government action to prop up prices.

While it is clearly true that private investors behaved both greedily and in some
cases foolishly, these four factors ensured that the financial disaster would be
larger, and last longer, much longer, than would have happened if government had
just left housing markets alone.

Given the temptations to meddle, and given the inability of government officials to
obtain the accurate information that unfettered markets provide through prices,
there is no reason to believe that these new attempts at regulation will turn
out any better than the old ones.

In short, given that government had a substantial role in causing the crisis through
misguided regulation, there is no reason to believe that the new regulatory policies will help.