My Homework: translate it into Chinese: An Irish Mirror 3/11/2010 18:59
An Irish Mirror
Everyone has a theory about the financial crisis. These theories range from the absurd to the plausible — from claims that liberal Democrats somehow forced banks to lend to the undeserving poor (even though Republicans controlled Congress) to the belief that exotic financial instruments fostered confusion and fraud. But what do we really know?
Well, in a way the sheer scale of the crisis — the way it affected much, though not all, of the world — is helpful, for research if nothing else. We can look at countries that avoided the worst, like Canada, and ask what they did right — such as limiting leverage, protecting consumers and, above all, avoiding getting caught up in an ideology that denies any need for regulation. We can also look at countries whose financial institutions and policies seemed very different from those in the United States, yet which cracked up just as badly, and try to discern common causes.
So let’s talk about Ireland.
As a new research paper by the Irish economists Gregory Connor, Thomas Flavin and Brian O’Kelly points out, “Almost all the apparent causal factors of the U.S. crisis are missing in the Irish case,” and vice versa. Yet the shape of Ireland’s crisis was very similar: a huge real estate bubble — prices rose more in Dublin than in Los Angeles or Miami — followed by a severe banking bust that was contained only via an expensive bailout.
Ireland had none of the American right’s favorite villains: there was no Community Reinvestment Act, no Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. More surprising, perhaps, was the unimportance of exotic finance: Ireland’s bust wasn’t a tale of collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps; it was an old-fashioned, plain-vanilla case of excess, in which banks made big loans to questionable borrowers, and taxpayers ended up holding the bag.
So what did we have in common? The authors of the new study suggest four “ ‘deep’ causal factors.”
First, there was irrational exuberance: in both countries buyers and lenders convinced themselves that real estate prices, although sky-high by historical standards, would continue to rise.
Second, there was a huge inflow of cheap money. In America’s case, much of the cheap money came from China; in Ireland’s case, it came mainly from the rest of the euro zone, where Germany became a gigantic capital exporter.
Third, key players had an incentive to take big risks, because it was heads they win, tails someone else loses. In Ireland this moral hazard was largely personal: “Rogue-bank heads retired with their large fortunes intact.” There was a lot of this in the United States, too: as Harvard’s Lucian Bebchuk and others have pointed out, top executives at failed U.S. financial companies received billions in “performance related” pay before their firms went belly-up.
But the most striking similarity between Ireland and America was “regulatory imprudence”: the people charged with keeping banks safe didn’t do their jobs. In Ireland, regulators looked the other way in part because the country was trying to attract foreign business, in part because of cronyism: bankers and property developers had close ties to the ruling party.
There was a lot of that here too, but the bigger issue was ideology. Actually, the authors of the Irish paper get this wrong, stressing the way U.S. politicians celebrated the ideal of homeownership; yes, they made speeches along those lines, but this didn’t have much effect on lenders’ incentives.
What really mattered was free-market fundamentalism. This is what led Ronald Reagan to declare that deregulation would solve the problems of thrift institutions — the actual result was huge losses, followed by a gigantic taxpayer bailout — and Alan Greenspan to insist that the proliferation of derivatives had actually strengthened the financial system. It was largely thanks to this ideology that regulators ignored the mounting risks.
So what can we learn from the way Ireland had a U.S.-type financial crisis with very different institutions? Mainly, that we have to focus as much on the regulators as on the regulations. By all means, let’s limit both leverage and the use of securitization — which were part of what Canada did right. But such measures won’t matter unless they’re enforced by people who see it as their duty to say no to powerful bankers.
That’s why we need an independent agency protecting financial consumers — again, something Canada did right — rather than leaving the job to agencies that have other priorities. And beyond that, we need a sea change in attitudes, a recognition that letting bankers do what they want is a recipe for disaster. If that doesn’t happen, we will have failed to learn from recent history — and we’ll be doomed to repeat it.


對這場金融危機﹐人們各執一詞。這些說法有的荒謬透頂﹐有的似是而非- 有人說自由民主黨人不知怎地迫使銀行向不配的窮人貸款(即使共和黨當時控制著國會)﹐有人認為玄妙的金融工具導致了混亂和欺詐。但是我們到底知道什麼呢﹖

不過﹐從某種意義上來說﹐這場危機的規模- 它影響大部分世界的方式- 對搞研究來說﹐最起碼是大有譬益的。我們可以研究一下那些幸免與難的國家﹐如加拿大﹐問一問它們的經驗- 例如限制杠杆作用﹐保護消費者﹐ 而且更重要的﹐沒有受到意識形態的困擾﹐這種意識形態否認監管的任何必要。我們還可以看一看那些與美國的金融體制和政策大不相同﹐但也遭受重創的國家﹐試圖找出共同的原因。


正如愛爾蘭經濟學家格雷戈里奧康納﹐托馬斯弗萊文和布萊恩奧凱利在一篇新近發表的研究論文中所指出的﹐“造成美國危機的幾乎所有明顯的成因在愛爾蘭的情況里都不存在﹐”﹐反之亦然。然而愛爾蘭危機的形式與美國的危機倒很相似﹕ 有一個不動產的巨大泡沫- 都柏林的地產價格上漲幅度高于洛杉磯或邁阿密- 繼之銀行大規模倒閉﹐最終只能通過昂貴的救市手段才止住。

愛爾蘭沒有美國右翼所鐘愛鞭韃的罪魁禍首﹕ 它沒有社區再投資法案﹐沒有房利美或房地美。也許更令人吃驚的是﹐外來資金在愛爾蘭也無足輕重﹕ 愛爾蘭的銀行倒閉不是因為所說的抵押債務債券和信用違約互換﹔而是發放過多的老式純香草貸款﹐即銀行向信譽有疑問的借款者提供大宗貸款﹐納稅人最終來買單。



第二﹐大量的廉價資金流入。 美國的情況是大部份廉價資金來自中國﹔愛爾蘭的情況是資金主要來自歐元區﹐其中德國是大的資本輸出國。

第三﹐市場的主要角色願意冒巨大風險﹐原因是﹐不管怎樣﹐是頭還是尾﹐它們總是贏家。 在愛爾蘭﹐這個道德風險基本上屬于個人問題﹕“無賴銀行的老闆在退休時他們的巨大財產不受損失。”在美國也有許多這種情況﹕正如哈佛大學的廬西恩別布丘克和其他人所指出的﹐美國破產金融公司的高級主管在他們的公司倒閉之前獲得了數以十億美元的“業績”巨額報酬。

但是愛爾蘭和美國之間最驚人的相似之處是“監管輕率”﹕負責保護銀行安全的監管玩忽職守。在愛爾蘭﹐政府監管不盡職﹐ 部份的原因是愛爾蘭在試圖吸引外國生意﹐部份的原因是任人唯親﹕ 銀行及房地產開發商與執政黨有密切的關係。

在美國﹐這種事也屢見不鮮﹐但更嚴重的是意識形態問題。事實上﹐愛爾蘭論文的作者們這一點沒搞對﹐他們強調美國政界人士如何歡呼美國人實現了擁有住房理想 ﹔不錯﹐他們說過類似的話﹐但這不會對貸方的貸款動機產生太大的影響。

實際上真正的問題是自由市場原教旨主義。它使里根總統當年宣佈﹐放鬆管治將解決儲蓄機構的問題- 結果帶來了巨大損失﹐繼之以納稅人的大規模救助- 它也使格林斯潘堅稱衍生金融工具的擴散實際上鞏固了金融體系。正是這種思維方式致使監管機構忽略了日益擴大的風險。

那麼從愛爾蘭完全不同的金融機構所經受的美國式的金融危機中﹐我們可以吸取什麼教訓呢﹖主要的﹐我們必須像重視監管一樣重視監管機構。讓我們採取一切措施限制杠杆作用和證券化的使用- 這是加拿大做對的一個方面。 但是這些措施除非得到實施﹐否則將不會奏效﹐人們應把向大銀行說“不”當成自己的職責。

這就是為什麼我們需要建立一個保護消費者利益的獨立機構- 在這方面加拿大也做對了- 而不是把這項工作推給那些擁有其它責任的機構。 此外﹐我們需要從根本上改變我們的觀念﹐認識到讓銀行自行其是無異與開出一劑自取滅亡的藥房。如果我們做不到這一點﹐我們就沒有從新近歷史中汲取教訓- 而且將註定重蹈覆轍。
smilhaNew at 3/17/2010 07:47 快速引用
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