Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Stealing a page from Susan

I linked to it down below, but I think this post from last year deserves to be revisited, even considering that both M. and I covered it at the time. The wrongy wrongness of it is astonishing, and relevant.

I recently overheard someone bashing Alan Greenspan for not doing something about the subprime mortgage market. That something seemed a little fuzzy, but seemed to involve stopping banks from offering those dreadful, dreadful loans.
Take a big breath, we're going in deep.
This seems to be a fairly common sentiment, so I think it's worth pointing out that the latest data we have shows that the overwhelming majority of subprime loans are still in good standing. Subprime securities are taking a bath because defaults are higher than were expected, not because everyone who got one is in trouble. The 85% of homeowners with subprime loans who are currently making their payments might not agree that Alan Greenspan should have, in his ineffable wisdom, prevented them from getting loans.

Nor, so far, is there much evidence that the subprime problems are causing much fuss in the broader financial markets. So it's far from clear to me that Alan Greenspan should have acted--and indeed, far from clear to me that Alan Greenspan could have acted effectively.
Let's ignore Greenspan and just savor this line; "Nor, so far, is there much evidence that the subprime problems are causing much fuss in the broader financial markets". And she's not done yet, not by a longshot.
There's a disturbing tendency to think that every problem is the result of inadequate regulation. In fact, America's bank industry is, as Tyler Cowen points out, one of the most heavily regulated in the world. And not every problem can be solved by better regulation--some things simply can't be regulated without causing bigger problems than they solve. There is no perfect regulatory state that will allow us all to live in a serene economic paradise, and the sooner we stop looking for one, the more effective our regulatory state will actually be.
How wrong can she get? Well, she ain't quite finished.
Update In calmer consideration, that was too flip. But the financial holocaust that was widely feared has not come to pass, and is looking less likely to occur with each passing day.


Dhalgren said...

Big oops. Didn't she hear the Republican pundits say that this is the 'end of the beginning'?

We've only just begun the biggest recession in the post-war era.

Susan of Texas said...

Maybe if Tyler Cowen told her that Greenspan created bubbles she'd believe it?

You guys have always been my inspiration; I'm glad we're both going into the past. There's so much nutty goodness there.

Anonymous said...

Megan is NOT USELESS!!!

Her post from last year is proof that our key to economic bliss is to do the complete opposite of anything Megan says.