State of Innovation

Patents and Innovation Economics

Blaming Greenspan and the Free Market

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, being members of congress, are trying their best to pin the financial crisis on anyone but Congress.  It appears the favorite whipping boys are Alan Greenspan and unfettered capitalism.  Congress conveniently forgets that between Fannie, Freddie, FHA loans, Veterans Housing Administration, and the Community Reinvestment Act we don’t have unfettered capitalism.  Not to mention to the Federal Depository Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision, the National Credit Union Association, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and state banking regulatory agencies.  The only way someone can call that unfettered capitalism is to propagate The Big Lie: that the US is a bastion of unfettered capitalism, which causes all our problems.  

As Alan Greenspan pointed out:

 the surge in demand was the heavy purchases of subprime securities by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the major U.S. Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE). Pressed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Congress to expand “affordable housing commitments,” they chose to meet them by investing heavily in subprime securities. The firms accounted for an estimated 40% of all subprime mortgage securities (almost all adjustable rate), newly purchased, and retained on investors’ balance sheets during 2003 and 2004. That was an estimated five times their share of newly purchased and retained in 2002, implying that a significant proportion of the increased demand for subprime mortgage backed securities during the years 2003-2004 was effectively politically mandated, and hence driven by highly inelastic demand.

As Greenspan points out Congress had no interest in reining in the subprime mortgage party or the securitization of these mortgages (CMO).  In addition, Greenspan did warn about both the problems with Fannie and Freddie.  In 2002, he expressed concerns to the FOMC, noting that “…our extraordinary housing boom…financed by very large increases in mortgage debt – cannot continue indefinitely.” It did continue for longer than he would have forecast at the time, and it did so despite the extensive two-year -long tightening of monetary policy that began in mid-2004.  See Greenspan’s complete analysis at http://fcic.gov/hearings/pdfs/2010-0407-Greenspan.pdf.  

Greenspan then points out that there “was a pronounced fall from 2000 to 2005 in both global real long-term interest rates and nominal long-term rates, which indicated that global saving intentions, of necessity, had chronically exceeded global intentions to invest.  Yet the ex post global saving – investment rate in 2007, overall, was only modestly higher than in 1999, suggesting that the uptrend in the saving intentions of developing economies tempered declining investment intentions in the developed world.  This statement is the most interesting and important statement in all of Greenspan’s testimony.  Why had and has the developed world reduced its rate of investment?  Why has investment not grown since 1999?

Has the rate of investment in the developed world stagnated because we have run out of businesses and ideas?  No, since 2000 we have passed a number of laws and regulations that are killing innovation in the US. The incredible innovation of the 90s was based on technology start-up companies built on intellectual capital, financial capital, and human capital. All three of the pillars have been under attack since 2000. Our patent laws have been weakened reducing the value of intellectual capital. Sarbanes Oxley has made it impossible to go public reducing financial capital for start-ups and the FASB rules on stock options have made it harder to attract human capital to start-ups. If we want to create jobs, we need to have laws that encourage entrepreneurial start-ups. 

These issues are discussed in more detail in my book The Rise and Fall of the American Entrepreneur: How Little Known Laws and Regulations are Killing Innovationhttp://www.amazon.com/Decline-Fall-American-Entrepreneur-Regulations/dp/1439261369/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262911287&sr=8-1

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April 12, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by PriorSmart. PriorSmart said: at hallingblog, recent piece – "Blaming Greenspan & the Free Market" – http://bit.ly/coL4EO […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Blaming Greenspan and the Free Market « State of Innovation -- Topsy.com | April 12, 2010 | Reply

  2. How can you “blame” two things, neither of which has a brain?

    Comment by step back | April 14, 2010 | Reply


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