O Potresima u Kontekstu – Charles W. Calomiris

autora/ice cronomy

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Profesor na Columbia Sveučilištu i autor knjige U.S. Bank Deregulation in Historical Perspective (kratke recenzije ovdje i ovdje), uzvraća u WSJ omiljenim popularnim objašnjenjima da je kriza plod deregulacije. Ta objašnjenja su zapravo politikantske prirode, a dolaze posebice kako je izborna godina sa ljevice. Machiavelli daje razlog za to. No dovoljno su jaka da odjekuju i u Hrvatskoj, gdje javnost zna povijest američkog bankarstva koliko ja jahati na slonu. (priznajem da ne znam) Puno je jednostavnije izmisliti jednostavno objašnjenje nego mukotrpno studirati sadašnje i povijesne događaje kako bi dobili ispravnu sliku realnosti.

Calomiris pita koja je to točno deregulacija uzrok današnje financijske krize? Većina na ljevici odmah skoči na 1999. (vidi prošli post), no taj deregulativni Act je vjerojatno pomogao više nego bilo koja regulacija u ovoj krizi. Da bi neka određena deregulacija bila jedini uzrok današnje financijske oluje, morali bi vjerovati da se sistem urušio zbog jednog jedinog faktora; jedne greške u sistemu. Korijeni krize su u mnogim područjima – monetarna politika kao gorivo, državno uplitanje u tržište nekretnina, ali naravno i privatne greške. Calomiris ukazuje i na iskrivljene poticaje umjerenju rizika i prudencijalne mjere Basel Komiteta. Ne zaboravimo da su par godina unazad hedge fondovi bili u centru pažnje kao mamutni neregulirani brodovi novca i rizika, a danas predstavljaju mnogo manji rizik od financijskih institucija sa stogodišnjom tradicijom. Proći će neko vrijeme da bi se uspostavio puni, ispravni konsenzus o tome što se dogodilo. Iako će sigurno usljediti privremena ear sa više novih regulativa (nekih dobrih ali i loših), “Deregulacija je kriva za sve” jednostavno nije taj konsenzus. Potrebno ga je uspostaviti jer jedino tako se može dizajnirati kvalitetna reforma kako bi se izbjegla ista situacija ponovo. Uz to, trebalo bi imati na umu da postoji razlika između državnig aktivizma i (de)regulacije.

Most Pundits Are Wrong About the Bubble

The repeal of Glass-Steagall has helped us weather the storm.

By CHARLES W. CALOMIRIS

It’s grind-your-favorite-axe day on the network news shows. The financial crisis is all the fault of dreaded “deregulation,” shout some pundits; others blame the “small government” mentality of the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress.

But haven’t federal and state tax revenues been growing even faster than home prices in most places in the U.S. over the past eight years? Hasn’t the problem with our government’s fiscal affairs been enormous growth in spending and entitlements not seen since the days of LBJ? Congressional Democrats — along with a surprising number of pork-barrel Republicans — demanded nonwar spending on a Great Society scale and the president gave in to buy their votes for the war.

As for the evils of deregulation, exactly which measures are they referring to? Financial deregulation for the past three decades consisted of the removal of deposit interest-rate ceilings, the relaxation of branching powers, and allowing commercial banks to enter underwriting and insurance and other financial activities. Wasn’t the ability for commercial and investment banks to merge (the result of the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which repealed part of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act) a major stabilizer to the financial system this past year? Indeed, it allowed Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch to be acquired by J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America, and allowed Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to convert to bank holding companies to help shore up their positions during the mid-September bear runs on their stocks.

Even more to the point, subprime lending, securitization and dealing in swaps were all activities that banks and other financial institutions have had the ability to engage in all along. There is no connection between any of these and deregulation. On the contrary, it was the ever-growing Basel Committee rules for measuring bank risk and allocating capital to absorb that risk (just try reading the Basel standards if you don’t believe me) that failed miserably. The Basel rules outsourced the measurement of risk to ratings agencies or to the modelers within the banks themselves. Incentives were not properly aligned, as those that measured risk profited from underestimating it and earned large fees for doing so.

That ineffectual, Rube Goldberg apparatus was, of course, the direct result of the politicization of prudential regulation by the Basel Committee, which was itself the direct consequence of pursuing “international coordination” among countries, which produced rules that work politically but not economically. International cooperation, in case you haven’t heard, is exactly what the French and the Germans now say was missing in the past few years.

So why blame deregulation and small government? The social psychologist Gustav Jahoda says that unreasonable beliefs often arise in circumstances where people lack control and need to believe in something to get them through a highly stressful situation. And a fellow named Machiavelli might help us to understand a different reason for simplistic explanations.

Here is the non-stress-relieving truth. Severe financial crises have occurred in many countries — roughly 100 over the past 30 years — and even on a global scale many times before. About 2,000 years ago, Tiberius solved an early global financial crisis by making huge zero-interest loans to Roman banks. Sound familiar? These unusual events often reflect a confluence of different circumstances; for the most part they are not the inevitable result of a single, foreseeable fault in the system.

So what really happened and what should we do to make things better? The current financial crisis, like many in the past, had its roots in several areas: loose monetary policy (from 2002-2005, the real fed-funds rate was persistently negative to a degree not seen since the mid-1970s); government subsidies for leverage in real estate (the list is a long one, but the government’s role in Fannie and Freddie tops it); and many other errors by the public and private sector, including longstanding flaws in prudential regulation (see aforementioned Basel rules).

As we try to devise solutions to the regulatory problems, there is plenty of room for improvement and lots of sensible ideas about how to proceed — all of which have been around for a long time. The single most important reform that is needed is the restoration of discipline in the measurement of risk within the banking system.

Academics have been calling for reforms — especially a minimum subordinated debt requirement that would create ongoing, market-based measurement of true bank risk — for many years. In fact, a study of that reform was mandated by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. Although the study by the Federal Reserve indicated that the reform would be extremely helpful, the big banks successfully lobbied to avoid the imposition of discipline on their risk taking.

The starting point for reform is to begin with a dispassionate and informed assessment of what happened. History is messy, and the careful study of facts offers little satisfaction for one-note Johnnies. It’s easier to just invent one’s own history than to study the real thing (which may explain why invention is so much more popular).

All this reminds me of an old Doonesbury comic strip in which a history teacher tries to shock his class by telling them outrageous made-up facts, only to find that they finally seem to be taking notes. Neither Jahoda nor Machiavelli would be surprised.

Mr. Calomiris, a professor at Columbia Business School, is the author of “U.S. Bank Deregulation in Historical Perspective” (Cambridge University Press, 2006).

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Oglasi

2 komentara to “O Potresima u Kontekstu – Charles W. Calomiris”

  1. Prvo, čak i ako nije moguće pokazati na jednu ili nekoliko mjera koja je deregulirala banke i time proizvela ovu krizu, to ne znači da je deregulacija nešto dobro, niti da je daljnja regulacija nepotrebna. Ne slijedi jedno iz drugog.

    U “bitci ideja” koju spominje Milton Friedman i o kojoj si drugdje na sajtu recenzirao dokumentarac, državni intervencionizam je izgubio. Ideja da tržište može samo riješiti sve je isprobavana posvuda.

    Gorespomenutu labavu monetarnu politiku je provodio Alan Greenspan, vatreni pristaša te ideje. Prije par dana je priznao da se malo preračunao.

    Po mom (i ne samo mom) mišljenju, banke su poseban dio gospodarstva koji zaslužuje viši stupanj regulative nego ostatak gospodarstva. U narednom razdoblju ćemo doživjeti da se banke još strože nadziru.

    Sustav treba regulirati na način da se ne stvaraju moralni hazardi. Nimalo jednostavno. Basel II je pretrpio udarac i vjerojatno će biti revidiran. On inače ima i odrednice o kontroli od strane nadzornog tijela (tipa HNB), pa nije baš da je sve prepušteno bankama. Međutim sustav se tek uvodi, pa nitko nema puno iskustva s njim.

  2. Apsolutno si u pravu da je financijski sektoru uvijek bio i bit će drugačiji od ostalih u ekonomiji i zahtjeva neke vrste regulacije. Reagan-Thatcher eksperiment nikad nije u biti dosegnuo u financije.
    Ovo o deregulaciji kao krivcu je politčki motivirano objašnjenje za političke ciljeve.

    Labava monetarna politika nema veze sa Greenspanovim uvjerenjm o (de)regulaciji. To su dva različita područja; dvije različite funkcije koju obnaša centralni bankar. Istina da je priznao da je šokiran sa događajima i korporativnim menadžmentom. Zlodusti će odmah skočiti na to kao potvrda da ga treba razapeti, no to su već napravili i prije. Ipak treba pažljivo slušati i čitati Greenspana jer od svega što jest je vrlo pedantan.

    Sustav treba regulirati i nadzirati tako da se umanji asimetrija informacija. Da se uopće ne stvaraju moralni hazardi je (nažalost) previše optimistično. Samo postojanje državne garancije za bankovne depozite, koju svi uzimaju zdravo za gotovo, stvara moralni hazard.

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