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Friday, January 15, 2010

"Legal Scholars Debate the Financial Crisis"

This is from an email that said, "I thought these non-economists' views on the crisis might be of interest to you and your readers."

I *think* I understand this one: Mae Kuykendall on David A. Westbrook's Out of Crisis: Rethinking Our Financial Markets. I did have to stop and think for a moment when I hit sections such as this:

Westbrook directs us to a critical insight for this crisis: we are collectively enmeshed in a tragedy of language, using it to govern financial exchange in ways that are naïvely representational or, in the alternative, unrealistic about the power of a linguistic construct to constrain the world. Disclosure as a strategy, given to us by our savants of the last finance reset, assumes what the English professors tells us is really a childish idea: that language serves as a window to a real picture and, as such, is just a conveyance to us of what is there to be seen and understood. In Westbrook’s phrase, this idea about managing the problems investment presents makes language invisible. 
In our other principal strategy-- risk management-- language is asked to set up containers for large swaths of poorly described arrays of claims on something real. The tragedy is the contradiction. We believe, like children, in being told what our basket of claims contains, and we rely, like language engineers, on the idea that a big enough basket of abstractions—claims on too many things to try to understand with the faith of children looking through a picture window—is conceptually safe.

This helped. This too, e.g.:

Out of Crisis explores a more complex and interwoven approach to both diagnosis and reform. It conceives the relation between regulation and markets differently than prevailing talk. Markets do not arise or arrive bearing inevitable or immutable traits, rules or roles. They are instead products of particular features of social and political organization whose participants help to shape their attributes and functions.

If so, the theme modestly emerges, debate must not dwell upon simple trade offs between regulation versus markets. People must appreciate that markets are social and political products and that participants in effect choose what design features particular markets should offer.

Update: Nick Krafft comments on the contribution from Mae Kuykendall.

    Posted by on Friday, January 15, 2010 at 07:22 PM in Economics, Financial System | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (11)

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