domingo, 22 de marzo de 2009

The Political and Analytical Diversions of ‘Financial Regulation’

The only thing governments seem to be doling out in greater amounts than bailouts to private banks these days are promises for all sorts of ‘financial regulation’. The EU recently promised sweeping financial regulation. Gordon Brown insists it must be international, while the Obama administration promises it will be wide-ranging and strict.
My first problem with these promises is not simply that the horses bolted long ago. It is that those now calling for doors to be shut are the same political forces that only yesterday sang the virtues of open barns and assured us that competition would ensure horses always came back. That in itself should give pause and good reason to question the motivations behind these proposals.
But my bigger problem is the implicit presumption that the current financial crisis is simply the result of a lack of effective (sweeping, international or wide-ranging) regulation, with little to no serious relationship to the underlying economic and social trends of recent years. This is not only plain wrong, but also politically diversionary.
Analytically, this presumption mirrors the weaknesses of mainstream economic theory. First there were perfect markets, financial or otherwise, and they would lead to socially efficient outcomes. Then came ‘imperfections’, typically caused by ‘informational’ or other micro-level problems with transactions, which gave rise to conflicts of interest, potential misallocations of capital and crises. Virtue lies in deducing the contracts, ‘institutions’ and state regulation that can ameliorate these microeconomic conflicts, align incentives, and help earthly markets become more perfect.
This scheme not only leaves out the destructive endogenous tendencies of financial markets towards instability, but also abstracts from the historical, social, economic and political processes that condition the formulation, enforcement and avoidance of regulation. There is no ‘optimal regulation’ that applies equally to all periods and benefits the interests of all social groups. Financial regulation is an important but nevertheless secondary element of broader economic and political regimes. It is only ‘optimal’ in relation to specific socio-political interests.
Lea toda la opinión de Paulo dos Santos aquí que aparece en un interesante blog llamado "Political Finance" cuyo propósito definido en su página de inicio es "contribuir con ideas que puedan transformar el sistema moneatario y financiero en favor de los intereses de los trabajadores. Los contribuyentes a este blog son críticos de los mecanismos financieros privados e individuales y ven favorablemente el fortalecimiento de la provisión pública y colectiva de éstos (...) "Political Finance" es igualmente relevante para todas las organizaciones políticas interesadas en desarrollar trabajos sobre la economía capitalista."

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