If the real economy, the economy of making goods and services that improve people’s lives is to recover, we need to make banking boring again. We need to focus on how to create goods, services, productive processes and real businesses. These means giving up the gin, poker, and roulette games of high finance. It will take real reform, but I am not optimistic of the chances for real reform. (see here for why) Today, Paul Krugman writes:
Much of the seeming success of the financial industry has now been revealed as an illusion. (Citigroup stock has lost more than 90 percent of its value since Mr. Weill congratulated himself.) Worse yet, the collapse of the financial house of cards has wreaked havoc with the rest of the economy, with world trade and industrial output actually falling faster than they did in the Great Depression. And the catastrophe has led to calls for much more regulation of the financial industry.
But my sense is that policy makers are still thinking mainly about rearranging the boxes on the bank supervisory organization chart. They’re not at all ready to do what needs to be done — which is to make banking boring again.
Part of the problem is that boring banking would mean poorer bankers, and the financial industry still has a lot of friends in high places. But it’s also a matter of ideology: Despite everything that has happened, most people in positions of power still associate fancy finance with economic progress.
Can they be persuaded otherwise? Will we find the will to pursue serious financial reform? If not, the current crisis won’t be a one-time event; it will be the shape of things to come.