11 February 2012

Visible Hands and Invisible Reforms?

A new book edited by Stephany Griffiths-Jones, Jose Antonio Ocampo and Joseph Stiglitz "Time for an Invisible Hand: Lessons from the 2008 World Financial Crisis" takes on the policy implications of what to do.
They cycle through a wide range of ideas including:
  • Reforming financial regulation--the more liberalised the financial system, the greater the need for effective regulation. Effective regulation means making it counter-cyclical and comprehensive ("the domain of the regulator should be the same as that of the market that is regulated")
  • Fix flawed incentives for bankers and fund managers--put all bonuses into an escrow account that can only be cashed out after a period equivalent to a "an average full cycle of economic activity"
  • Asia may have learned the worng lessons from the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98--it improved domestic regulation and transparency and accumulated large reserves, but countries in the region did not put in place counter cyclical measures to cope with the vicissitudes of the global markets, within which they have subsequently become much more integrated.
  • the Special Drawing Rights system that the IMF put in place in the 1960s and which the G20 has refuelled in recent years need to be come more development orientated--they are still allocated according to IMF shareholdings (and so go largely to the rich countries) and there are no rules governing trading which is entirely voluntary.
I'm not an expert in this area, but the pace of reform in this area (3.5 years on) seems very very slow (do we really have to wait 65 years for the super sovereign reserve currency idea from Keynes to gain traction?). One of the chapters co-authored by Stiglitz delves a little into the political economy of reform, and shows how some global greenback currency would impact on domestic policy freedoms, especially in the US.
A good book--for me it reinforces the need to look harder at the political economy of financial market reform. The technical issues are not insurmountable, but the political ones seem to be.

No comments: