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Seven deadly sins of deregulation — and three necessary reforms

Current crisis the result of the misguided notion that financial markets can regulate themselves.

Robert Kuttnerby Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect

The current carnage on Wall Street, with dire spillover effects on Main Street, is the result of a failed ideology — the idea that financial markets could regulate themselves. Serial deregulation fed on itself. Deliberate repeal of regulations became entangled with failure to carry out laws still on the books. Corruption mingled with simple incompetence. And though the ideology was largely Republican, it was abetted by Wall Street Democrats.

Why regulate? As we have seen ever since the sub-prime market blew up in the summer of 2007, government cannot stand by when a financial crash threatens to turn into a general depression — even a government like the Bush administration that fervently believes in free markets. But if government must act to contain wider damage when large banks fail, then it is obliged to act to prevent damage from occurring in the first place. Otherwise, the result is what economists term "moral hazard" — an invitation to take excessive risks.

Government, under Franklin Roosevelt, got serious about regulating financial markets after the first cycle of financial bubble and economic ruin in the 1920s. Then, as now, the abuses were complex in their detail but very simple in their essence. They included the sale of complex securities packaged in deceptive and misleading ways; far too much borrowing to finance speculative investments; and gross conflicts of interest on the part of insiders who stood to profit from flim-flams. When the speculative bubble burst in 1929, sellers overwhelmed buyers, many investors were wiped out, and the system of credit contracted, choking the rest of the economy. . .

To read further. . .

Links and sources
  Seven Deadly Sins of Deregulation — and Three Necessary Reforms, by Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, September 17, 2008

Posted: October 22, 2008

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