April 06, 2013

Regulators did not trust the market and imposed their own judgments on the banks.

Sir, having Lunch with FT´s Edward Luce, April 6, Michael Sandel, when discussing his book “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets” says:“Right at the heart of the market is the idea that if two consenting adults have a deal, there is no need for others to figure out whether they valued that exchange properly. It’s the non-judgmental appeal of market reasoning that I think helped deepen its hold on public life and made it more than just an economic tool; it has elevated it into an unspoken public philosophy of everything”.

"Everything"? sorry, that is not true. Had it been, we would most certainly not be having the current crisis. You see the bank regulators, they did not trust the deals the consenting adult of bankers and borrowers did, and so they imposed their own judgments.

To make sure there was not too much risk-taking going on, they designed capital requirements which allow banks to make a much higher expected risk-adjusted return on equity when doing business with “The Infallible”, than when engaging with “The Risky”.

And of course, under such distorted conditions, banks are overdosing on sovereigns, AAA rated constructions and what else is officially considered safe-haven, and lending too little to “risky” small businesses and entrepreneurs the real forces of the real economy.

Edward Luce most splendidly comments: “There is a thin line between promoting virtue and practicing tyranny.” And I would say that line might be crossed by even trying to define what the virtues should be.

Sir, the arrogance of bank regulators believing they could substitute for the market is just unbelievable. And Sir, excuse me for saying it, but the foolishness of so many, including FT, to believe they can, is just astonishing.