Jonathan Macey is one of the world’s most vitriolic opponents of effective financial regulatory cops on the beat. Those regulatory cops on the beat are essential to prevent a Gresham’s dynamic. When cheaters prosper markets become perverse and bad ethics drives good ethics from the markets. Macey’s argument relies on his assertion that we do not need financial regulators because he asserts that the industry is self-correcting because its officers are reliably dedicated to the interests of its customers due to their desire to maximize their executive compensation. His desired anti-regulatory policies have by and large triumphed over the last 30 years, producing the increasing criminogenic environments that drive our recurrent, intensifying financial crises. His assertions have been repeatedly been falsified by reality in those crises, but the worse his predictions fare the more dogmatic and snide he becomes in attacking those whose predictions have proven correct.
The usual apologists have rushed to the defense of Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase’s CEO, after he announced that JPMorgan lost over $2 billion on purported hedges. The academic apologist-in-chief, Yale Law’s Jonathan Macey, is outraged that anyone is concerned about these matters. Macey, channeling Dimon’s flacks, asserts that the facts are as follows:
“The sole purpose of hedging is to reduce risk. The particular trades that J.P. Morgan was making were designed and intended to protect the bank’s balance sheet against losses from its exposure to the apparently increasing risk of some of its European assets, including approximately $15 billion in European distressed debt.”
My prior column explained why the purported hedge was not a hedge but a speculative investment in derivatives in contravention of the purpose of the Volcker rule. This column makes two more basic points. First, if JPMorgan’s “sole purpose” was “to reduce risk”, particularly of “$15 billion in European distressed debt” – why didn’t it sell the distressed debt? That would have eliminated the risk, which is far better than “reducing” risk. A true hedge would lock in any loss in the “European distressed debt” so the vastly better strategy if JPMorgan’s “sole purpose” was to “reduce risk” was to sell the inherently extremely risky assets. Even a true hedge is rarely perfect and has some risk of performing poorly, so selling “distressed” assets was unquestionably the superior alternative if one believes (and I don’t) Macey’s assertion that JPMorgan’s sole purpose in dealing with the distressed debt was minimizing its risk.
By Payam Sharifi The author is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Economics and Public Administration at the University of Missouri – Kansas City
One of the most common observations I make as I frequent the comments section of MMT blogs are the arguments in objection to it. When one mentions “keystrokes”, these posters immediately think of Weimar Germany and machines printing money and throwing them out into the streets (via helicopter or otherwise). After these commentators understand (through the help of other posters) that MMT notes that inflation is the only possible constraint to the issuer of a sovereign currency, they typically have their “gotcha” moment. Quantitative Easing (QE), they note, has been responsible for higher commodity prices and hence, MMT’ers are a bunch of crazy fanatics who want to turn the nation and the world into Weimar (or Zimbabwe). The even larger implication is that enacting goals for the public purpose is not something the government should be involved with. The view that QE is responsible for higher commodity prices is not entirely without merit, but not for reasons typically ascribed to it. By understanding the institutional aspects that MMT describes, one will understand not only the real transmission mechanism but also some other problems and solutions associated with higher energy prices. This post makes an outline of these issues.