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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Strike when the Iron is Hot

Just a quick note. As you've probably figured out, I am at the Milken Global Conference and it's interesting how much financial reform has faded from the agenda. Two years ago, many, many sessions were devoted to how the financial sector would need to be reformed. Financial executives and others who spoke in the sessions admitted they had screwed up, and it seemed like many people, even those on the right of the political spectrum, agreed on the need for change. There were many warnings about doing this correctly, and disagreement about what "correct" means, but there was a general acknowledgment change of some sort was coming (and needed).

Last year, reform was still on the agenda, though not as much, and this year it has faded even more (there is one session devoted to global financial regulation). The main concern now is how to get the economy back to where it was before all this trouble hit. Part of that is an effort to roll back the little change we did manage to put into place in the financial sector, a theme that has emerged generally among the speakers who are politically conservative. For example, though it wasn't pointed directly at financial reform, I heard in a session yesterday that if government would just get out of the way we'd be back to full employment already.

It reminds me of the apologies that come after bad behavior. The next day, the person is apologetic, promises to change, etc., etc., and you hope they are serious this time. But over time, you realize the apologies were hollow --very little actually changes -- and it's only a matter of time until it happens again.

When financial reform first came up, there was a debate about whether to do it fast while the momentum and will for reform were there even if it might be a bit rushed and imperfect versus taking more time to get it right and risking that people would forget why reform is needed. Watching the process now, I think those who wanted to do it fast (and then fix any problems later) had the better argument. Waiting in an attempt to get it right doesn't work. We won't get any new meaningful regulation at this point, event though it's still needed, and we'll be lucky to keep what we have.

    Posted by on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 08:58 AM in Economics, Financial System, Regulation | Permalink  Comments (24)


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