November 21, 2008

Road to Recovery


This cartoon is from February 2002 but may be more relevant to the news now than it was then.

From RealClearMarkets: Bank Share Collapse Points to the Failure of TARP (via TIA Daily)

To its proponents, Paulson’s plan surely sounded nice amid frightened markets, but so far the results have shown yet again that government intervention in the private economy is always and everywhere a false God. Since mid-October the shares of Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are respectively down 45, 51 and 60 percent. Many would note that this past month has been a difficult one for stocks generally, but over that same timeframe, the S&P 500 has fallen a relatively pedestrian 11 percent. It’s also notable that the shares of San Antonio based Frost Bank, a banking concern that refused TARP funds, are down a scant 4 percent.

None of this should surprise us. By definition, federal money invested in private companies can only weaken them. Money supplied absent the sometimes rough hand of market discipline allows its unlucky recipients to delay the changes that brought them to the brink of collapse to begin with, all the while allowing the architects of those same mistakes to remain in place. It can’t be stressed enough that companies don’t so much fail due to lack of money as they collapse because investors lose faith in the executives in charge.

But even more problematic is that despite Paulson’s protests otherwise, there is no such thing as a government handout that doesn’t come with strings attached. Many, including Paulson, will note that the federal government’s shares are non-voting, but whether that’s true or not misses the point. Indeed, just six weeks in we’re already seeing the harm wrought by our federal minders. ...

Speaking once again to the truth that there’s no federal money absent strings attached, Treasury has made it clear that banks must aggressively lend in order to lift the economy out of the ditch. That being the case, it’s very apparent that to the degree banks comply, more non-economic lending will materialize such that the seeds of the next financial crisis are being planted right now.

Worse, governmental demands that banks lend with no regard to prevailing market conditions are an impoverishing concept. How soon we forgot that a successful capitalist system is reliant on the efficient deployment of capital.[Emphasis added]

From The Ayn Rand Institute: Stop Blaming Capitalism for Government Failures by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins:

Speaking of the financial crisis, French president Nicolas Sarkozy recently said, “Laissez-faire is finished. The all-powerful market that always knows best is finished.”

Sarkozy was echoing the views of many, including president-elect Obama, who assume that the financial crisis was caused by free markets--by “unbridled greed” unleashed by decades of deregulation and a “hands off” approach to the economy. And given this premise, the solution, they say, is obvious. To solve this crisis and prevent another one, we need a heavy dose of Uncle Sam’s elixir: government intervention. Whether it’s more bailouts, stricter regulation, a new round of nationalizations, or some other scheme, the only question since day one has been how, not whether, government is going to intervene. ...

But while capitalism may be a convenient scapegoat, it did not cause any of these problems. Indeed, whatever one wishes to call the unruly mixture of freedom and government controls that made up our economic and political system during the last three decades, one cannot call it capitalism. ...

Consider the current crisis. The causes are complex, but the driving force is clearly government intervention: the Fed keeping interest rates below the rate of inflation, thus encouraging people to borrow and providing the impetus for a housing bubble; the Community Reinvestment Act, which forces banks to lend money to low-income and poor-credit households; the creation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with government-guaranteed debt leading to artificially low mortgage rates and the illusion that the financial instruments created by bundling them are low risk; government-licensed rating agencies, which gave AAA ratings to mortgage-backed securities, creating a false sense of confidence; deposit insurance and the “too big to fail” doctrine, whose bailout promises have created huge distortions in incentives and risk-taking throughout the financial system; and so on. In the face of this long list, who can say with a straight face that the housing and financial markets were frontiers of “cowboy capitalism”?

This is just the latest example of a pattern that has been going on since the rise of capitalism: capitalism is blamed for the ills of government intervention--and then even more government intervention is proposed as the cure. [Emphasis added]

Posted by Forkum at November 21, 2008 11:05 AM