Friday, September 26, 2008

My Two Cents

I'm hard at work on a common-law conservative perspective on the current financial crisis. But before I'm done with it, I thought I'd chime in with two thoughts.
  1. The "bailout" plan is something that in general has to happen. It is not unthinkable that the state enters the markets and buys and sells on the markets. After all, that is what the Treasury does every day when it sells bonds. That is also what the Federal Reserve does every day when it buys bonds. Andy Kessler's article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal provides the basic framework for understanding the way this would work. The question about what the government would do with the proceeds is the key here. A separate agency should be established with its own budget, insulated from the federal budget, so that the monies do not disappear a la the Social Security "trust fund." Those monies should rather be rebated to the taxpayers, from start to finish completely separate from the federal budget.
  2. There can never again be a socialist-paradise inspired venture to set aside market discipline in the name of social justice or equality. This is what by now has nearly destroyed our financial system. Our hot-shot financial experts thought they had developed a new angle on risk so that non-creditworthy borrowers could be covered by creditworthy borrowers in super-sophisticated loan packages which in turn could serve as collateral for new lending. That they were allowed to do this was the hook by which the government got them to cooperate with its push for "affordable housing." The linchpin for this rickety setup was Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. This we all now know. We also return to the basic understanding of credit. Credit depends on faith, on trust. This contagion of bad risk mixed with good has done for collateral what bad currency did for good currency back in the old days of metallic coins. There was a term for this phenomenon: Gresham's Law (coined by Henry Dunning Macleod): bad currency drives out good. Perhaps we need a new law (Alvarado's law?): bad risk drives out good. This packaging of risk has backfired bigtime, and the guys who developed the schemes, with their computerized risk calibrations, have proven once again that basic laws of economics cannot be repealed. Bad credit cannot be lifted by good, good credit will only be destroyed by bad.

No comments: