Monday, October 29, 2012

Banks regulators, please, more humility… and also read more Hayek

Friedrich Hayek in his essay of 1945 “The use of knowledge in society” wrote the following: 

“The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess. 

The economic problem of society is thus not merely a problem of how to allocate "given" resources—if "given" is taken to mean given to a single mind which deliberately solves the problem set by these "data." It is rather a problem of how to secure the best use of resources known to any of the members of society, for ends whose relative importance only these individuals know. Or, to put it briefly, it is a problem of the utilization of knowledge which is not given to anyone in its totality. 

This character of the fundamental problem has, I am afraid, been obscured rather than illuminated by many of the recent refinements of economic theory, particularly by many of the uses made of mathematics.” 

And this truth was completely ignored by our current generation of bank regulators, who arrogantly thought themselves capable to act as the risk managers for the whole world, and so haphazardly set their risk-weights which determined the effective capital requirements for banks, based on perceived risks.

Of course that distorted it all and the banking system blew up… but these regulators still think they are up to the task of managing risks… As I see it the only possibility we have to make them humbler, at least for a while, seems to be, unfortunately, humiliating them.