Especially interesting reading for those who blame, rightly or wrongly, Phil Gramm and his banking regulation reform for our financial mess. Ron Paul, the libertarian Republican, was against Gramm-Leach-Briley back in 1999, and here are some of his reasons why:

today we are considering a bill aimed at modernizing the financial services industry through deregulation. It is a worthy goal which I support. However, this bill falls short of that goal. The negative aspects of this bill outweigh the benefits....

  • The growth in money and credit has outpaced both savings and economic growth. These inflationary pressures have been concentrated in asset prices, not consumer price inflation--keeping monetary policy too easy. This increase in asset prices has fueled domestic borrowing and spending.
  • Government policy and the increase in securitization are largely responsible for this bubble. In addition to loose monetary policies by the Federal Reserve, government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have contributed to the problem. The fourfold increases in their balance sheets from 1997 to 1998 boosted new home borrowings to more than $1.5 trillion in 1998, two-thirds of which were refinances which put an extra $15,000 in the pockets of consumers on average--and reduce risk for individual institutions while increasing risk for the system as a whole.
  • The rapidity and severity of changes in economic conditions can affect prospects for individual institutions more greatly than that of the overall economy. The Long Term Capital Management hedge fund is a prime example. New companies start and others fail every day. What is troubling with the hedge fund bailout was the governmental response and the increase in moral hazard.
  • This increased indication of the government's eagerness to bail out highly-leveraged, risky and largely unregulated financial institutions bodes ill for the post S. 900 future as far as limiting taxpayer liability is concerned. LTCM isn't even registered in the United States but the Cayman Islands!
  • ...My main reasons for voting against this bill are the expansion of the taxpayer liability and the introduction of even more regulations. The entire multi-hundred page S. 900 that reregulates rather than deregulates the financial sector could be replaced with a simple one-page bill.

I wonder how many of Jacob Weisberg's favorite economic thinkers and politicians were this prescient this long ago? Add this to the "it's all the libertarians' fault" file.

Reader Bill Rrahmoni called our attention to this statement of Paul's.