05 Jan 2009

The SEC Makes Wall Street More Fraudulent

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So I claim at mises.org, focusing on the Madoff scandal. An excerpt:

In the private sector, when a firm fails, it ceases operations. The opposite happens in government. There is literally nothing a government agency could do that would make the talking heads on the Sunday shows ask, “Should we just abolish this agency? Is it doing more harm than good?” It’s not just Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: throughout history, virtually every agency created by the federal government has been deemed too important to fail. (I vaguely remember some Republicans in the mid-1990s holding a press conference and declaring that the Department of Commerce was done, and that voters could “stick a fork in it.” I guess they found it was still pink inside.)

The pattern plays out perfectly with the SEC and the Madoff bombshell. Suppose a few years ago, I told a group of MBAs to imagine the worst screwup that the SEC could possibly perform, something so monumentally incompetent that members of Congress might openly question whether the agency should continue. I think that at least half of the class would have come up with something far less outrageous than what has happened in fact.

Here is a chart that may surprise you:

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