Interessado em um modelo de “free banking”?

Quem gosta de currency board geralmente gosta do assunto. Larry White, agora na GMU, é uma das minhas leituras ocasionais, quando busco teses austríacas que vão além do reme-reme e do fundamentalismo de quermesse. Recomendo sua tese.

O departamento de economia da GMU tem um ganho incrível com a aquisição. Para quem, como eu, acompanha a produção acadêmica de lá há mais de 10 anos, trata-se de uma conquista considerável.


As agências de rating podem funcionar melhor?

Lawrence White acha que sim. Veja o trecho da entrevista:

Q. Are there drawbacks to more regulation?

Yes there are. In its efforts to get the NRSROs to “pull up their socks,” the SEC may well reduce or eliminate flexibility in the industry and squelch creativity and innovation with respect to alternative business models and better ways of assessing the default probabilities of bonds. Further, there is always the risk that the SEC “gets it wrong”say, mandating the wrong kind of Chinese wallsbut in that regulatory sphere, there are no alternatives.

Q. Is there a better way?

A. Yes, and it’s one which would rely less on regulation and more on markets.

Let’s start with the basic goal of financial regulation that led to the required reliance on rating agencies and then led to the SEC’s creation of the NRSRO category and its subsequent protective moat around the category’s incumbents. That goal was to insure the safety of the bond portfolios in banks, insurance companies, pension funds, money market mutual funds, broker-dealers, etc. This was a worthy goal. But in deferring to the NRSROs’ judgments as to safety (such as the determination of “investment grade”), the regulators were in essence delegating their safety judgments to this select group of rating agencies, who turn out not to have done their jobs all that well.

The key, then, is for the financial regulators to pull back that delegation. The goal should still be to have safe bond portfolios in regulated financial institutions. But the burden should be on each institution to defend its choices of bonds to its regulator. This defense could reside in original research. Or it could involve reliance on a trusted advisor, which could be a rating agency or some other advisory service. Regardless of the form of defense, the regulator should insist that the financial institution has a reasoned, sound basis for its choices.

Regulated financial institutions would thus be free to take advice from sources that they consider to be most reliablebased on the track record of the advisor, the business model of the advisor (including the possibilities of conflicts of interest), and anything else that the institution considered relevant. Again, the institution would have to justify its choice of advisor to its regulator. But, subject to that constraint, the bond-advisory information market would be opened to new ideas and new entry in a way that it has not been since the 1930s.

With this burden-on-the-institution regulatory model adopted by financial regulators, the SEC could eliminate the NRSRO designation.

Lawrence White tem sempre opiniões interessantes. Uma boa explicação sobre as causas da crise atual é de sua autoria e se encontra no Ordem Livre.


Qual a causa da crise atual?

The traditional role of the central bank as a “lender of last resort” is to make loans only to commercial banks, because the traditional rationale is to protect the economy’s payment system. The hope of the traditional last-resort lender is to avoid a collapse of the economy’s money stock by injecting reserves into the commercial banking system when there is an extraordinary “internal drain” of reserves (namely bank runs).

In the recent crisis, by contrast, there has been absolutely no threat of a shrinking money stock. Investment banks do not issue checking deposits, are not subject to bank runs, and are not part of the payment system. Neither are securities dealers. The Fed’s expansions of its own role therefore had nothing to do with protecting the payment system or stabilizing the money supply. The Fed’s new moves were rather made in the hope of protecting investment banks and securities dealers from the consequences of holding portfolios overweighted with mortgage-backed securities, or exotic derivatives based on such securities, while keeping levels of capital inadequate for such portfolios.The reason that some financial institutions have been having trouble rolling over their debts is fundamentally the market’s uncertainty about their solvency. It is not a liquidity problem.

Bem, assim pensa Lawrence White. Em outras palavras, a crise não é de falta de liquidez, mas de expectativa quanto ao socorro governamental. De fato, não houve uma corrida aos bancos. Mas deveríamos esperar por uma corrida aos bancos por conta do barulho no mercado financeiro? Talvez ajude ler o que disse Anna Schwartz, já citada aqui semana passada. Primeiro, o mesmo diagnóstico de White:

So even though the Fed has flooded the credit markets with cash, spreads haven’t budged because banks don’t know who is still solvent and who is not. This uncertainty, says Ms. Schwartz, is “the basic problem in the credit market. Lending freezes up when lenders are uncertain that would-be borrowers have the resources to repay them. So to assume that the whole problem is inadequate liquidity bypasses the real issue.”

In the 1930s, as Ms. Schwartz and Mr. Friedman argued in “A Monetary History,” the country and the Federal Reserve were faced with a liquidity crisis in the banking sector. As banks failed, depositors became alarmed that they’d lose their money if their bank, too, failed. So bank runs began, and these became self-reinforcing: “If the borrowers hadn’t withdrawn cash, they [the banks] would have been in good shape. But the Fed just sat by and did nothing, so bank after bank failed. And that only motivated depositors to withdraw funds from banks that were not in distress,” deepening the crisis and causing still more failures.

Entretanto, o que temos agora? Um problema de expectativa de socorro? Bem, é difícil dizer que não. Ainda Schwartz:

But “that’s not what’s going on in the market now,” Ms. Schwartz says. Today, the banks have a problem on the asset side of their ledgers — “all these exotic securities that the market does not know how to value.”

“Why are they ‘toxic’?” Ms. Schwartz asks. “They’re toxic because you cannot sell them, you don’t know what they’re worth, your balance sheet is not credible and the whole market freezes up. We don’t know whom to lend to because we don’t know who is sound. So if you could get rid of them, that would be an improvement.” The only way to “get rid of them” is to sell them, which is why Ms. Schwartz thought that Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s original proposal to buy these assets from the banks was “a step in the right direction.”

Talvez a idéia de Paulson fosse, de fato, a melhor. A crise ainda divide economistas (pelo menos é o que se vê na mídia que não se expressa em língua portuguesa oficial do Brasil), e a discussão ainda prevalece sobre qualquer consenso.

Um aspecto interessante da crise atual é que ela mostra o quanto um capitalista pode não ser um capitalista. Aquela história de “animal spirits” do Keynes parece um conto de fadas. O “animal spirit” do sujeito, na hora do pênalti (ou do pânico) é pedir socorro ao governo. Acho que nunca ficou tão explícito o quanto os estudos sobre grupos de interesse e economia (Public Choice)  são úteis para entendermos a realidade e desenharmos incentivos adequados para evitar problemas sociais maiores.

Se existe empreendedorismo – voltamos à discussão de Baumol e os tipos de empreendedorismo – este só é saudável para a economia se os incentivos funcionam na direção de maior saúde da economia (óbvio!). Neste sentido, ainda entendemos pouco, muito pouco, sobre como isto funciona.

A expectativa de socorro é maior que a expectativa de naufragar. Isto me parece bem pouco “capitalista” ou “kirzneriano”. Uma pergunta para o pessoal austríaco – algo maldosa, mas verdadeira – é a seguinte: nos ciclos econômicos, empresários são enganados pela ação do governo, segundo os austríacos. Assim, digamos que a crise atual é culpa do governo que enganou os empresários com suas taxas de juros artificiais. Então, um empresário austríaco pediria socorro ao Paulson? Ou ao Bernanke? Ou ele assumiria suas perdas? Se a pergunta lhe parece estranha, pense da seguinte forma: se a descrição austríaca dos mercados e do empreendedorismo é correta, porque os empresários agem de forma distinta do que prevê a teoria?

Há algo de bonito na visão empreendedora de gente como Kirzner, concordo. Mas não sei o quanto dela explica, realmente, o papel do empresário, inclusive o do ramo de bancos de investimento.

Apenas para sugerir mais um ponto marginal nesta discussão sobre a crise.