Alan Greenspan does not like the Dodd-Frank Bill

by on March 30, 2011 at 7:54 am in Economics | Permalink

Here is his FT Op-Ed, sure to draw fury from those who think he no longer has much cache as an expert on financial reform.  (Addendum: Henry comments.)  Here are the most interesting excerpt:

During the postwar years, the degree of financial complexity has appeared to grow with the rising division of labour, globalisation, and the level of technology. One measure of that complexity, the share of gross domestic product devoted to finance and insurance, has increased dramatically. In America for example, it rose from 2.4 per cent in 1947 to 7.4 per cent in 2008, and to a still larger 7.9 per cent during the severe contraction of 2009.

Increased financial shares are evident in the UK, the Netherlands, Japan, Korea, and Australia, among others. Even China has joined, its share rising from 1.6 per cent in 1981 to 5.2 per cent in 2009. Deregulation, especially in America during the 1980s, clearly accounts for part, but certainly not all, of the share rise.

“among others” is not especially satisfying — is it a general trend or not?  Here is a useful chart, showing the evolution of finance as a share of gdp in the United States (and many slides here).  It runs straight up from 1940 or so onwards.  That said, I am not sure this is grounds for optimism.  The share is very high in 1929, and does not re-achieve that height until the mid-1980s (an eyeball estimate).  Does the graph show a pattern of natural growth?  Or is excess finance like a tumor which must be periodically excised and can remain at lower levels, relative to gdp, for decades, with no apparent harm?

Bill March 30, 2011 at 8:15 am

The amount of money in the financial services industry is staggering. Even those only tangentially related to it, such as software developers, make *significantly* more money doing the same job as those outside of the industry.

The best minds of our generation are going where the money is.

Ron Potato March 30, 2011 at 9:33 am

The best minds of our generation are taught to be advanced calculating machines without wisdom.

Dan Dostal March 30, 2011 at 11:09 am

+1

Brian March 30, 2011 at 11:55 am

a double edged sword, i suppose – those not in finance seem so eager to kill it but is that wise?

This is the information age and finance is an information business. Should the most profits accrue more to the person who can build something well, or to the person who has the vision to know what to build well?

dave March 30, 2011 at 12:27 pm

The financial industry is not in the business of figuring out what to build. Its in the exploiting market and regulatory inefficiencies to extract rents business.

Bernard Guerrero March 30, 2011 at 12:31 pm

All to the good. If there’s one thing we should be happy to see highlighted via successful exploitation, it would be “market and regulatory inefficiencies”.

Rahul March 30, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Exploiting market efficiencies is supposed to be good though isn’t it? I remember a friend working in automated trading telling me that all they do is extract arbitrage from the fraction of a cent that oil prices in different oilfields differ by on a minute to minute basis. The margins are tiny but if you trade large enough and long enough you can make a fortune.

Per se what’s wrong with getting arbitrage out of an inefficient market? [I want to sincerely not “like” what he does but I am hard pressed to find any legitimate objection.]

Bill March 30, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Smart people are doing interesting work, the problem is, they are way over-compensated relative to what they do.

There’s so much money and so few actors, there is an oligarchy that is dictating prices. They can get away with fractions of pennies per share or 1% of deals, because on the surface is sounds like so little, but it translates into billions of dollars sloshing around amongst a relatively small number of people.

Jamie_NYC March 30, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Think Bill, think! How do you know that they are “over-compensated relative to what they do”? What measure did you use?

From where I sit, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. It is my impression, for example, that for a trader dealing with complex derivatives, an IQ of 140 would be considered ho-hum. Add to that extremely high conscientiousness that is required, graduate degree, high stress environment, total lack of job security and extremely long hours, and you tell me how much they should be paid?

dave March 30, 2011 at 1:19 pm

They should be paid in accordance with the value they produce. Is this so hard to understand?

Revenue generation does not equal value. Its a tool for measuring value. If the local mob boss generates a lot of revenue by charging for “protection” he hasn’t created any value, he has just shaken people down. He may work long hours doing this, he may be extremely intelligent in the way he runs his organization, but he’s not creating value, he’s just extracting it from others.

We use price agreed upon by voluntary actors as a proxy for value because its usually the best approximation of value. But lots of factors go into prices, and accurate free market pricing requires all sorts of preconditions. All sorts of assumptions go into the idea that market prices are a good stand in for value, and those assumptions largely don’t hold in the finance sector.

Me too March 30, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Dave,

Actually, the mob boss is creating the value. He just happened to illegally cause the value to be needed. I think you need to show that these financial people are doing something inherently immoral or illegal that would warrant your accusation. Otherwise, your current “mob boss” argument seems like it could apply to anyone.

dave March 30, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Have to show what they are doing is immoral? Have you not paid attention to financial markets for the last 20 years. If you want evidence its everywhere. Go do a goddamn google search. Can you not look at the evidence yourself?

I really don’t know where this gut instinct to protect plutocrats comes from. Does everyone have to work on a IB trading floor like I did and see the BS firsthand to acknowledge it? Are the reems of evidence and obvious effects in every neighborhood in the country not enough? Have you not read anything on this site or on any of the links you can find on this site. I mean the utter mass of fraud and malice that has gone on in the financial sector is staggering, how can we even be having this conversion? This isn’t 50 years ago, its not like this information doesn’t get out. There are hundreds of quality free sources you can find that chronicle the immorality of the finance sector. Do you not read them?

I’m just trying to figure out how someone can even make a statement like this. I understand it coming from someone that is getting rich off saying it, but how can a regular jackoff that is on the receiving end of such a pounding come to believe it. Is the world really that 1984 that people love Big Banker? Is it a lack of information, is it a cognitive bias, is it emotional?

I can understand having a disagreement over the best way to deal with the immorality in the sector, but to simply say it doesn’t exist or isn’t blindingly obvious is just unfathomable. You might as well tell me 2 + 2 = 5.

Rahul March 30, 2011 at 3:53 pm

“They should be paid in accordance with the value they produce. Is this so hard to understand?”

The hard thing to decide is who judges the “value”. What they “should” be paid doesn’t really matter. I think I “should” be paid a lot more too.

The question is what do you recommend doing? The government puts a cap on salaries? Windfall taxes? Special corporate tax on finance firms? Ban high IQ people from finance jobs? Nationalize all banks? What’s a practical solution?

We can crib all we want, but how do you reduce the finance % of GDP in a practical way?

dave March 30, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I would favor a very robust, independent, and well funded regulatory structure which had three basic principles:

A) The burden of proof for selling a financial instrument is on the seller.

The real goods market (say, your vacuum cleaner) is much closer to a perfect free market then the financial industry. As such, the production outcomes of real goods markets are (or should) generally left to their own devices. We generally place the burden of proof on the regulator to show that selling a product is bad for society.

The financial sector, by contrast, is rife with market failures such as the principal/agent problem, asymmetric information, etc. As such, the outcomes of such an imperfect market are highly suspect. In such an environment, the burden of proof for providing a financial product or service rests with the seller, they have to show that it enhances the allocation of investment capital in productive ways. If I had to take a pot shot at what IB functions would likely pass this burden it would go like this:

Pass:
Basic stock and bond issuance.
Basic stock and bond secondary market trading.
Investment and business analysis.
M&A consultation.

Fail:
95%+ of the derivatives market.
Complex and esoteric investment products, especially if not linked to the actual raising of capital for business investment.
High frequency trading and other programs of a similar nature.

I would also make some changes to some non IB financial services, but I will try to remain brief.

B) Try to attack the principle/agent and asymmetric information problems by making structural changes to the industry.

IBs and any bank deemed TBTF need to be reduced in size and become partnerships again. Get the owners skin in the game again rather then have the owners be aloof mutual fund holders that know they will get bailed out anyway. The SEC needs to actually do its job in investigating fraud. Changes to the credit rating agencies and some other things.

C) Try to separate trading and banking functions (Glass Stegal). Forbid any institution that could be considered TBTF from running its own prop desk. Try to separate the speculative and commercial banking functions as best you can.

Rahul March 30, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Thanks dave. Interesting ideas but not sure how realistic they are. e.g. ” show that it enhances the allocation of investment capital in productive ways.” That seems a prescription for a bureaucratic heaven. I can’t imagine how I might even faintly test that assertion for a given instrument.

PS. On what grounds do you object to High frequency trading?

John March 30, 2011 at 6:21 pm

So basically it is job security that explains the difference in pay between a trader and, say, a public school teacher?

john March 30, 2011 at 8:23 am

So financial firms have captured politicians in other countries. What, exactly, is Mr. Greenspan’s point. We should feel good about having the same disease? Solace in numbers? The fact that smart Princeton grads are heading to work for JP Morgan and not going into engineering is a good thing? The fact that the financializaiton of our economy has led to the gross misallocation of capital into acres of empty Nevada tract homes is something is to be celebrated? The fact that consumer debt levels have skyrocketed since 1981 coincident with the growth of the financial industry is a badge of honor?

This man has been so thoroughly discredited by the events of 2007-2009 that he should be hiding under a rock in the desert. Certainly not being allowed to remake his image with editorials in the FT. Please call Bill Gross and have Greenspan placed in the “Biden closet” at his new Newport Beach mansion.

Gabe March 30, 2011 at 8:50 am

Talent flows to the money machine. Notice the up trend starts witht he Federal Reserve in 1913. These are the beneficiaries of the “new money”…th remaining masses get the money last and have to pinch their budgets to pay the interest ont he national debt and higher commodity prices. It takes awhile for the tumor to get noticable…but it is getting prety bad now.

Jim March 30, 2011 at 11:51 am

Notice how it doubles from around the foundation of the Fed to the GD and also from the 70’s (when Nixon broke the peg to gold) to 2008. As Gabe says, it’s no surprise that the financial sector, as the first receivers, benefits the most from the expansion of fiat money. Looks like clear evidence of the non-neutrality of money (a la Mises/Hayek) distorting the structure of the real economy.

Andrew March 30, 2011 at 8:52 am

I feel we are missing the point somewhere. I can imagine the finance industry being big due to too much money or too little capital, or both. The bottom line of most of the recent events appears to me to be a populist dismantling of capital concentration.

Alan March 30, 2011 at 8:55 am

The people who make a lot money in this game say that they play an essential part in the efficient allocation of resources. What is their definition of efficiency? For a tiny percentage of the population to acquire such a large percentage of wealth by creaming it off those who actually produce useful goods and services doesn’t strike me as very efficient.

The people who make a lot money in this game are also quick to support sturdy independence, individuality and standing on one’s own two feet. So why are they so keen on insurance and re-insurance? Insurance is an organised way to collectively avoid the consequences of the values they say the rest of us should adopt.

Th March 30, 2011 at 8:59 am

When you consider what functions finance and insurance play in the economy, an increase in revenue to those sectors is an increase in cost to other business sectors. Every dime Exxon or Apple pays to arrange financing or buy insurance is money not used to drill and process oil or develop and manufacture the next Ipad. Some finance and insurance is required for economic stability and growth, but at what level does financial services go from servicing to crippling?

And then there is the whole issue of mergers and acquisitions. Has that really helped our economy?

DanC March 30, 2011 at 9:05 am

How much of the financial complexity is driven by tax and regulatory complexity?

mulp March 30, 2011 at 12:39 pm

So, you suggest that conservative Republicans are the drivers of tax and regulatory complexity, while liberal Democrats reduce tax and regulatory complexity?

That argues for another FDR to drastically simply the tax and regulatory system to make the economy more efficiently productive….unless bankers/Wall Street extracting higher rents from innovators and risk takers with less and less innovation taking place, as Tyler argues, is a sign of increased efficiency.

Bernard Guerrero March 30, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I don’t see that he suggested anything at all. much less what you wrote he suggested. He asked a question.

Anotherphil March 30, 2011 at 12:51 pm

How in thee HELL did FDR simplify anything, you dolt?

He wanted to tell me people how to buy their damn chickens-until the Schecters took down the entire NRA.

That doesn’t even to begin to address the “alphabet” soup of agencies he created-and the SEC is relevant here.

Last I checked, they missed Global Crossing, LCTM, Enron, WorldCom, Madoff-but not porn on government computers and know they are spending resources trying to shove international accounting standards down our throat, principally for the benefit of the BIg 4.

Rain April 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm

xh83nd Stands back from the keyboard in amazement! Thanks!

Rahul March 30, 2011 at 9:05 am

The constructive question is:”What can we systematically do to reduce the share of finance as a percent of GDP?”

The industry is mostly free trading agents, right? Does the government much of a knob it can use? The industry has been almost monotonically increasing over the last 7 decades ( 1940-2010 ) over which it must have had exposure to Republicans, Democrats, high taxes, low taxes and all sorts of different regulatory and economic regimes.

If it has still continuously grown, what can be done this time around that is different?

Zach March 30, 2011 at 9:14 am

“It runs straight up from 1940 or so onwards.”

That’s a weird definition of “straight.” Unless the underlying data in that plot is smoothed, there’s a significant inflection point around 1980. So, not only is the trend not a straight line but it’s 2nd derivative also changes.

Bernard Guerrero March 30, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Slopes from about ’40 to ’60 and from ’90 on are pretty similar, eyeballing it. Flatter from ’60 to ’80 and steeper from ’80 to ’90.

Tim March 30, 2011 at 9:19 am

Nice pun with cachet => cache (“cash”!). But – may want to change it and then delete this comment. Cheers

Jim Nazium March 30, 2011 at 9:20 am

The US economy is not a closed system. The percent of GDP from financial services has grown as the percent from manufacturing and agriculture has declined, as those sectors has moved to other countries. What is the trend of financial services as a percent of world GDP?

Anotherphil March 30, 2011 at 9:42 am

Talent flows to the money machine. Notice the up trend starts witht he Federal Reserve in 1913/

It really takes off about the early 1940’s. That’s just as the SEC really got going, World War II required enormous amounts of capital and there were wage and price controls to be avoided.

I’m guessing in recent years, with the passage of a variety of laws, the number of lawyers involved in finance has almost completely driven this trend. For the most part, finance has been busy SHRINKING traditional staff.

http://www.cfo.com/article.cfm/14533064?f=search

and there’s fewer publicly traded firms:

http://www.cfo.com/article.cfm/14563859?f=home_featured

Dean Sayers March 30, 2011 at 9:44 am

This is precisely what Marx criticized capitalism for – the tendency to transfer investment to “artificial capital” which served less of a role in the production of use-values. I’m a little surprised to see Greenspan say what he does above, but mostly because I haven’t been following him much since he left power – his harsh criticism of deregulation a couple years ago was certainly a trend in this.

Dean Sayers March 30, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Disregard my comment about Greenspan, I misread something

Nemi March 30, 2011 at 9:52 am

The financial sector must be the biggest market failure ever observed.
Would a 100 % monopolization of all production create a more distorted outcome?

Sunset Shazz March 30, 2011 at 9:55 am

Jeremy Grantham has argued vociferously that beyond a given level, financial activity involves primarily to a kind of rent-seeking, and that the 1960s level was sufficient to maintain a growing, well-functioning real economy.

Video Here.

celestus March 30, 2011 at 10:20 am

Maybe demand for financial services is driven not by income but by wealth. Then as long as wealth increases faster than GDP, the financial sector should tend to grow as a share of the economy. I believe that this inequality is true for the US. Plus, demand for the US financial sector is now also driven by global wealth.

None of this is to say that mutual funds (as an example) are not a scam.

Michael Cain March 30, 2011 at 10:31 am

Cain’s Law: Any situation in which it is easier to become wealthy by manipulating financial instruments than by producing the underlying non-financial goods and services will end badly.

SteveX (formerly Steve) March 30, 2011 at 10:36 am

Talent flows to the money machine.

Yes, but what KIND of talent? Greedy talent does for sure, and those talented at finding loopholes in the rules to line their own pockets are likely candidates.

In the mortgage industry collapse, these “talented” folk found obscure no-doc programs intended for a very small customer sector who were supposedly “low risks” based on factors such as savings history and credit scores, but who no longer had documentable income, such as affluent retirees who were living on significant 401k and IRA savings. They then conveniently ignored the “no risk” part, and used the “no doc” part to not only qualify every idiot who had any equity in his home during the biggest housing bubble in decades, but to convince them that what they were doing was actually affordable. Then the execs, who were supposed to be protecting shareholder interest and running a business ethically, overrode underwriting decisions to puff up the sales numbers. Anyone on commission, executives on bonus plans and investors savvy enough to bail out before the scam collapsed, made a ton of money. The other 90% of mortgage industry employees and investors found themselves on the street, calling headhunters whose clients had given them specific instructions of, “Don’t send any mortgage people.”

Is that the “talent” you think should be flowing to the money machine?

Dan Dostal March 30, 2011 at 11:56 am

That scenario is an example. However, it does take a creative mind to come up with that kind of nonsense. So yes, I would say that’s exactly the type of talent we’re discussing, but that talent is the same talent that will cure cancer. However, the nobler goal does not sustain research better than a healthy lifestyle, something a bogus job that generates a lot of wealth can provide. Do-gooders are some of the least healthy people I know. I consider myself one of them and am looking to exit a lot of the volunteer work I do because it brings me a lot of stress and eats my free-time. Some people are just greedy, but most people are trying to live comfortably. Your example probably had both types involved, but I would speculate more of the latter than the former. Anecdotally speaking, I’ve never seen greedy people work together well. They need to leach off the success of really creative people, who certainly made a lot of money (probably more) than the greedy types in your scenario.

Dan Dostal March 30, 2011 at 11:59 am

Bah, I used the phrase “generates a lot of wealth”. Financial instruments cannot generate wealth. I meant to say “generates a lot of income”, which of course is a zero-sum here.

Bernard Guerrero March 30, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Incorrect. Un-utilized time-period T resources that are channeled into either creating additional capital goods (productivity-enhancing machinery, etc) or into supporting creative types coming up with the ideas for same (R&D, etc) generate wealth in T+1. And unless the manufacturer or the thinker already controls said resources (or calls-on-resources), that process cannot happen without other people foregoing their current period T utilization of resources and channeling them instead to the aforementioned groups. And they’re not gonna do that voluntarily (see USSR & forced-draft industrialization) without recourse to even more calls-on-resources in T+1, along with guarantees. Ergo, financial instruments. Even the Soviets couldn’t escape the payment of interests on deposits

So far from not generating wealth, I’d argue that large-scale wealth creation is impossible without financial instruments.

dave March 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm

The kind of financial instruments that help most companies and individuals raise capital for productive purposes has been around for a long time and is largely commoditized. Most of the increase in financial services comes from increasingly complex and esoteric products whose usefulness in allocating capital for productive purposes is spurious at best.

Bill March 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Dan here is addressing the big issue: there are some very interesting, intellectually stimulating problems in many areas of the financial services industry – so going into them isn’t a pure money grab often times. High frequency trading and algorithmic trading involve interesting technology and mathematics (for example.)

The problem is that the rents being extracted from the economy are causing a gross imbalance. Why does a software developer in the financial services industry get paid twice as much as a developer outside the industry? Because there is so much money in finance they can afford to over pay. The upper management of these companies still looks at the money their paying these people as peanuts compared to the multiple millions others are getting.

SteveX (formerly Steve) March 30, 2011 at 3:29 pm

per Dan: ” …it does take a creative mind to come up with that kind of nonsense”

I’m not sure it takes much talent and creativity at all if you’re willing to break rules and laws to get rich. If that were the case, the mob would be the best business talent we have.

I was trying to point out that not only talent flows to the money machine, but every scam artist who wants to make money, and there are a lot more of them than talented people. That’s why every government program, irrespective of which party invented it, is rife with fraud and always will be. That’s just the cost of doing business, the same way retailers bake shoplifting losses into the price.

EorrFU March 30, 2011 at 11:02 am

The purpose of the finance industry is the efficient allocation of capital resources driven by the market. The smaller the industry the more efficient the allocation for the most part. They have become rent-seeking leeches on the economy and need to be restricted to the point that finance is way too boring and predictable for any person with a brain.

Andrew March 30, 2011 at 11:12 am

My first question is ‘how is the government involved’ and specifically, how are they kneecapping competition or subsidizing monopoly. The question almost answers itself. Greenspan is still brilliant if not entirely self aware.

Douglas Knight March 30, 2011 at 11:24 am

How objective is this definition of “finance” used in the chart?

Is the above chart compatible with this chart from Simon Johnson’s Quiet Coup? SJ’s chart is much noisier and much flatter before 1980.

anonygoat March 30, 2011 at 11:32 am

A gross underestimation.

T. Shaw March 30, 2011 at 11:41 am

I do not like Dodd-Frank, either.

FNM/FRE securitization will not be required to retain 5% sellers’ equity, or require 20% plus downpayments, and higher debt service/income ratios, etc. Less private credit availability for low-to-moderate income families.

More unintended consequences: higher debit/credit card exchange fees, less loan liquidity for low-to-moderate income families.

D-F spawned the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Obama anointed its lawless capa: Elizabeth Warren. She will single-handedly (through a puppet) set products for families, push markets in the “right direction.” She will end banks pounding on working class Americans. The tools: enforcement actions, jurisdiction, rules writing . . . No oversight. No control. Untouchable funding at 11% of FR System income. Oh, my.

Joyce April 9, 2011 at 11:52 am

pEfCZk Wow! Great idea! JJWY

uynuhcx April 22, 2011 at 6:09 am

eaLAOH iprjwwnsappm

Cliff March 30, 2011 at 11:58 am

Everyone seems unified in saying that this is way too high a % of GDP for finance and that basically finance = the devil. I am truly puzzled by this unity. What makes people think this? What is the evidence supporting this conclusion? Do people think they know the correct % of GDP for other industries like agriculture? I mean no one is holding a gun to anyone’s head, right? How can we assume these voluntary transactions are terrible for the economy?

Rahul March 30, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Exactly my point. If one crook sells a mis-priced exotic instrument and another idiot buys it, how is the government to do anything about it?

Dan Dostal March 30, 2011 at 12:18 pm

No one cares about 1 crook selling to 1 idiot. Maybe you should extrapolate your argument out to 1000 crooks/idiots and 10 million crooks/idiots. That’s the scenario we care about, and it is not the same as 1 crook/idiot. Scale matters.

dave March 30, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Ban the sale of instruments we know get abused more then used legitimately. Set up regulatory structure that tries to address known market failures. Etc. etc.

Dan Dostal March 30, 2011 at 12:16 pm

The difference is that the finance sector does not generate wealth. Under the right conditions it supports others generating wealth (small business loans). Under the wrong conditions it owns others that generate wealth(slave trade). Under our conditions it’s somewhere in between with a higher % of GDP implying that less money is spent on generating wealth and more money on transferring wealth. Which invariably leads to social instability and wealth generation turning back to it’s subordinate role.

dave March 30, 2011 at 12:37 pm

“Do people think they know the correct % of GDP for other industries?”

We can look at historical trends and take a guess. We can try to examine what is going on in the sector and form opinions. This is exactly the line of reasoning people used at the height of the bubble, that if people are doing something voluntarily they it must be value added and correctly priced. But lots of goods and services, especially in financial services markets, do not have the basic characteristics in place that allow that statement to be made. Adam Smith’s invisible hand had all sorts of stated preconditions in order for it to work, these are absent in the modern finance sector.

a March 31, 2011 at 3:35 am

“How can we assume these voluntary transactions are terrible for the economy?”

Look and see.

More specifically, where were you in 2008?

Bulldog March 30, 2011 at 12:31 pm

No one is going to mention the lack of self-awareness here?

There are plenty of aspects of Frank-Dodd to criticize, but the man who blindly presided over and even cheered on the very disaster we’re trying to address has no moral authority to speak on this.

He should retire and shut up. I’m sure there’s some new Ayn Rand slash fanfic he could go read.

tom March 30, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Don’t remember ‘irrational exuberance’? He was way ahead in his warning that bubbles were brewing. It’s probably you who should take the advice in your last line.

Bulldog March 30, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Now now, Tom, you know you don’t believe that. It’s a fun partisan game to try to throw the attack back against me, but if we can’t agree that the man who sat in the most economically powerful chair in the world during the 2000’s bubble wasn’t responsible for that bubble, then there’s little we can agree on.

For every “irrational exuberance,” there’s a quarter point deduction or speech about the self-correcting power of markets. He has no authority left.

Nemi March 30, 2011 at 12:35 pm

In an efficient economy – you wouldn’t need a financial sector (or at least only a very small one).

In the reel economy – 8 % of GDP apparently isn’t nearly enough to make it anywhere nearly efficient.

Given that the financial industry in itself where efficient – how fu**ed up is the real economy? I.e. how many percent of GDP do we have to spend to simply create the conditions that will allow trade and investments to take place in the real economy?

Noah March 30, 2011 at 12:46 pm

He just doesn’t know when to go away…Hopefully this adds more fuel for the pro-regulation crowd, considering how often Greenspan has been proven incorrect.

Philo March 30, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Greenspan writes: “During the postwar years, the degree of financial complexity has appeared to grow [I think he means it *really has grown*] with the rising division of labour, globalisation, and the level of technology.” It is, then, only to be expected that “the share of gross domestic product devoted to finance and insurance has increased dramatically.” In opposition to this simple, plausible story Tyler offers us his wildly implausible *tumor* metaphor.

dirk March 30, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Perhaps the rapid growth after 1973 is more effect than cause of TGS. The excitement and rewards of innovation in other fields is gone. Finance is less of an attraction than it is a default. I remember hearing a physicist interviewed after the supercollider project was cancelled in 1993. He said “Most of us will go work on Wall Street now. We’ll make more money, but we’d rather be doing this.”

Matt March 30, 2011 at 1:40 pm

As has been pointed out, globalization is a factor because the US is the world’s financial headquarters. How has global gdp growth done since 1940, while it was plagued by this “tumor”? US gdp? Most of the noticeably low performers during the past 70 years were countries that were cut-off from global capital flows and financialization because of planned economies that were all about “building things” without the inefficiency of capitalist financing holding them back. This is a broad narrative, but it should at least be considered before a central feature of the process is labelled a “tumor.”

More generally, it’s clear people are upset that there has been a recession, but re-writing the history of the world from the point of view of a 2 year trough seems over-hasty. On the other hand, writing a vaguely argued book about “stagnation” that perfectly captures the mood, is a transparent yet brilliant career move.

Andrew March 30, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I wonder if a lot of the ratios go away if looked at globally. We sell a heck of a lot of Treasurys as a share of USGDP for instance.

Me too March 30, 2011 at 2:59 pm

I was about to make a similar post (well, only about the global component of this issue). It seems to me, in its current form, this post is meant to be provocative. Its easy to hate the financial sector. Root causes and remedies would need much more investigation.

Dave March 30, 2011 at 2:55 pm

It’s striking the rise in share for financial services just before the Depression and the Great Recession. But can we untangle what led to those two credit bubbles? Was it really deregulation? Or was it low interest rates? Was it poor regulations? Some combination?

Bill March 30, 2011 at 3:07 pm

This is cool.

There are two Bills. One of them obviously is in the finance side. I am the one who is the antitrust lawyer and adjunct.

No longer will Andrew or John Thacker just come back and randomly criticize what I say. They won’t know which Bill, and will have to think further.

Now, if we can just get one more Bill, this will make it really interesting.

Bill, glad to meet you.

dave March 30, 2011 at 3:39 pm

two daves too

Rahul March 30, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Glad I’ve an obscure name.

Careless March 31, 2011 at 1:27 am

This threat is so much more entertaining if the lawyer is the only Bill making those posts, I think I’ll pretend I didn’t read this.

bbartlog March 31, 2011 at 9:23 am

Much of the profit in the financial industry over the last ten years would have proved to be an accounting illusion, had the government not stepped in to bail them out.
One unaddressed aspect of the rise in profits is the role of demographics. Since one of the (actual and productive) roles of finance is in matching up savers/investors with borrowers, the aging of the baby boom generation and their saving for retirement provided a large need for financial services. The increase in profits suggests that the middlemen got more than just a fixed share of the action, but all that savings and investment was surely a driver.

lingerie wholesale March 31, 2011 at 11:08 am

All to be good. If there’s one thing we should be happy to see highlighted via successful exploitation, it would be “market and regulatory inefficiencies”.

Dan Van Riper March 31, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I’ll add my voice to the common sense consensus on this thread. Investment corporations are NOT an industry, they are parasites who permanently suck wealth out of the USA.

So, what do we do about this threat to the United States? There is only one solution. Out nation and our society has to declare independence from the corporations that hold no loyalty to the United States’ Constitution.

If our nation is to survive, we must, at the very least, cut off all financial support for big corporations (all of them, financial or otherwise) and recapture whatever of our assets they have not already destroyed or exhausted.

If the corporations do not wish to comply with being regulated and taxed (like they are in China, for example) then we need to fight and defeat those corporations, militarily if necessary. And their chief officers and investors, if they don’t comply, need to be locked up until they learn to behave like human beings.

That’s a True Libertarian point of view.

AK April 1, 2011 at 6:23 am

Regulate the banks like the natural monopolies they are. Arbitrage is running the western economies to the ground except for Germany where they still have the understanding that creating value by producing goods and services should be the goal of an economy – NOT arbitrage.

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