European Sovereign Debt Crisis – Does More Regulation Really Make Sense?
by Remberto Latorre-Artus
Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Last night the new Troika meeting honored the great physicist and approved another round of financial aid for Greece, which raises the question: why should there be any different outcome this time and bring the expected results?
Moreover, the growing narrative in Brussels suggests that the financial stress we have to endure today is nothing other than the inevitable consequence of massive deregulation. The free-market revolution fueled by the economic union allowed financial excess and encouraged irresponsible credit expansion across all member States resulting in several unsustainable booms and bubbles.
All around Europe the political class is dancing to the same beat. The old discourse against unregulated markets and institutions has been sold in a very coherent and attractive way, making it quite appealing to the lay taxpayer. Therefore, stealing from their pockets is naively accepted as a necessary “solidarity” action, or else, aliens will come and destroy the entire economic union.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Any serious inquiry to the nature and causes of the sovereign-debt crisis will provide a very rich source of market interventions and soaring regulatory planning.
Be that as it may, the concrete proposal put forward by our good old Keynesian Nobel laureate is to step in and add even more sugar: “…aggressive monetary and fiscal intervention in the core” inflating our sovereign debts away. The objective? Saving irresponsible member States who, by the same token, decided to scratch the backs of their fat crony friends in the private sector. But the most harmful and regressive consequence of this interventionist Keynesian paradigm has been the rolling back of the financial-freedom “insanity.”
Somehow, they sold us the story of Armageddon, had we dared to leave the market to correct itself and liquidate malinvestments. So, with all due respect, allow me to share a dose of common sense into the pie.
First of all, a fractional-reserve banking system where bailouts are implicitly guaranteed has allowed several institutions to privatize the profits and socialize the losses. Humankind has never witnessed any greater Ponzi scheme and moral hazard working together in one big, fat and magic melting pot. This deadly combination is clearly not the byproduct of unregulated markets.
The Eurozone crisis cannot be understood as the consequence of free-markets since, by definition, losses in a free-market system must always be accounted for. What we have in Europe instead is a socialist market system where the establishment draws upon “forced-solidarity” from the poor taxpayers to bailout financial friends in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Cyprus, and even Germany. Socializing the losses is not free-market capitalism; this is a clear-cut all-around socialist scheme.
Second, a full-reserve banking system based on sound money will never trigger such rapid credit expansion as the one we witnessed all across EU Member States. Why? This new system would require banks to keep the full amount of depositors’ funds in cash. Basically, it means the funds must be ready for immediate withdrawal on demand. It goes without saying why such system would completely eradicate the financial risks associated with bank runs (something that has become quite common in the old continent nowadays).
If we draw upon Mises’ praxeology, a full-reserve banking system should function as a natural “constraint” or framework for human action. Therefore, with such a sound banking system there is no need for more regulations and interventions from Brussels and the ECB.
In “The Mistery of Banking,” Austrian Economist Murray Rothbard asserted that fractional-reserve banking is fraudulent and inflationary. In “Money, Bank Credit and Economic Cycles” Professor Huerta de Soto makes a very compelling case to describe why and how a fractional-reserve banking system mirrors that of a Ponzi scheme. Moreover, if we dig deeper into the EU supra-State structure greasing the wheels for monetary (and fiscal) expansion, we will uncover a much larger-scale pattern, which suggests that the Eurozone crisis should rather be dissected as a Madoff scheme.
In any case, an honest scrutiny into the dynamics behind the multiplier effect of fractional-reserve banking can help us understand why Huerta de Soto’s thesis makes perfect sense. A full-reserve banking system leaves no room for a fraudulent expansion to take place.
Moreover, provided the evidence of the past decade and the importance given to tradition and spontaneous order, I dare to suggest that Professor Hayek would have agreed utterly on the claim that if let alone, a new system based on full-reserve banking would have evolved as a natural post-recession phase.
What I’m trying to say is that a full-reserve banking system should never be confused with more regulations, but rather be understood as part of an organic bottom-up process mirroring the tradition of the common law. In other words, if properly contrasted against a fractional-reserve human design, full-reserve banking should be dissected as the basic rules for a fair game and the baseline structure for a prosperous society based on responsible human action.
To conclude, a full-reserve banking system is not a move towards more regulation because Banks would be free to do as they please, provided that they back any credit expansion with capital reserves. Full-reserve banking is a complete new paradigm that Brussels could really use to their advantage.
Let us hope that the ongoing sovereign-debt crisis becomes the turning point in history that will allow some political elites to return to a system of sound money, where nobody is too big to fail and where everyone is free and responsible for their actions.
The views expressed on austriancenter.com are not necessarily those of the Austrian Economics Center.
Do you like the article?
We are glad you do! Please consider donating if you want to read more articles like this one.
Warning: Undefined array key "visual_appearance" in /austriancenter.com/subdomains/www/html/wp-content/plugins/give/src/Views/Form/Templates/Classic/Classic.php on line 203
The AEC’s fundamental goal is to promote a free, responsible and prosperous society. Through education and improving public understanding of key economic questions, the AEC promotes the idea of a free market economy and the ideal of a free society.