Regulatory War of Choice

by Chidem Kurdas

“A just war” is how Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner describes the movement to expand financial regulation.  “It’s a war of necessity, not a war of choice,” he  is reported as saying about  the battle to impose greater government control on the financial sector.

This is the man who presided over the New York Federal Reserve Bank as the Fed assiduously provided the monetary fuel for the over-expansion of credit and the associated property bubble. The eventual implosion  of the twin bubbles caused the financial crisis of 2008.

For sure, markets are prone to ups and downs, because people are prone to behaviors like herding. And yes, bankers drank the spiked punch, as did myriad others from mortgage originators and real estate developers to over-extended households. But the Fed provided the heady stuff, thereby creating a boom-and-bust cycle of extraordinary magnitude.

Now, does Mr. Geithner’s proposed regulations seek to prevent similar nefarious policies in the future by limiting the Fed’s discretionary powers? Of course not. Silly even to ask. His quest is to expand the authority of government agencies, not to regulate them.

The one attempt to get a sense of what the Fed is up to, a bill by Congressman Ron Paul, has been destroyed at a Congressional sub-committee—even though it had 308 co-sponsors. Continue reading

Big Players and the Rule of Law

by Roger Koppl

Greg Mankiw quotes a recent WSJ article:

“Like many others I made the mistake of buying what I believed was ‘value,'” Mr. Gwin says, adding that investors who bought at the time believed the loans were worth more than their market price. “We did not contemplate having our first liens invalidated by a sitting president,” he adds.

Mankiw is worried that Obama may be “trying to achieve a ‘fair’ outcome as he judges it, regardless of preexisting rules and agreements . . . . in which case politics may start to trump the rule of law.” Continue reading

Rewarding the Punch Provider

by Chidem Kurdas


After causing a debacle by flooding the system with oodles of easy money, the Federal Reserve is to morph into the enforcer of  systemic prudence. We’re told that Treasury secretary Tim Geithner wants to create a single systemic risk regulator to oversee the whole financial system and the Fed will probably get the job.


Current conventional wisdom holds former chairman Alan Greenspan responsible for the Fed’s mistakes— such as keeping interest exceptionally low in 2002-2006 and not tamping down on excessive lending by banks. That staved off the recession in the aftermath of the stock market collapse, but created the twin credit-property bubbles and the current mess.

Continue reading

The Quality of Price Signals

by Mario Rizzo

In an under-appreciated book, The Foundations of Morality (1964), the Wall Street Journal and New York Times economic journalist, Henry Hazlitt, wrote that the price system does not send accurate signals in the absence of private property rights.

“It is important to insist that private property and free markets are not separable institutions… If I am a government commissar selling something I don’t really own, and you are another commissar buying it with money that really isn’t yours, then neither of us really cares what the price is” (p. 304).

The so-called Geithner (U.S. Treasury) plan to purchase toxic assets from banks disregards the relationship between an adequately functioning price system and property rights. Continue reading