Alan Shrugged: Greenspan, AynRand Their God (Free Markets) That Failed
His admission regarding the cause of the 2008 recession and cause of the Mortgage breakdown
(Published on Saturday, October 25, 2008 )
In a historic moment, former Fed chair Alan Greenspan acknowledged he had been wrong for years to assume that government regulation was bad for markets. Whoops—there goes decades of Ayn Rand down the drain.
In a congressional hearing room on Thursday, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, one of the most influential civil servants of the past century, saw his stock plummet—and his entire career lose its moorings. More important, the ideological battle over economic theory and the role of government in markets—a fight that has played out in the current presidential campaign—took a historic turn.
With members of the House oversight and government reform committee blasting Greenspan for his past decisions that helped pave the way for the current financial crisis, he acknowledged that his libertarian view of markets and the financial world had not worked out so well. "You know," he told the legislators, "that's precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well." While Greenspan did defend his various decisions, he admitted that his faith in the ability of free and loosely-regulated markets to produce the best outcomes had been shaken: "I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms."
In other words, whoops—there goes decades of Ayn Rand down the drain.
Democrats on the committee made Greenspan eat ideological crow. And after the hearing, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California released letters Greenspan had written to legislators in 2002 and 2003 that now cast the former chief banker as out of touch with financial reality.
Back then, Feinstein was pushing for regulating financial instruments known as derivatives—particularly those called swaps. In 2000, Republican Senator Phil Gramm, then the chairman of the Senate banking committee, had used a sly legislative maneuver to pass a bill keeping swaps free from federal regulation. (Lobbyists for financial firms had helped to write the bill.) The swaps market subsequently exploded, as financial firms bought and sold swaps as insurance to cover their trading in subprime securities and other freewheeling financial products. In a nutshell: the rise of unregulated swaps enabled the growth of the shaky subprime securities at the heart of the current financial crisis. Greenspan was an ardent supporter of keeping swaps virtually unregulated.