Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tyler Cowen's roundup on the sub-prime crises

From Marginal Revoultion:

Matt Yglesias points us to the following:

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said Monday [February 2004] that Americans' preference for long-term, fixed-rate mortgages means many are paying more than necessary for their homes and suggested consumers would benefit if lenders offered more alternatives.

By the way, Greenspan's recent Op-Ed claims he is not to blame, plus he disavows blame in his NPR segment the other morning.

The other day I wrote of widespread fraud; I was referring to the fact that many lower income borrowers lied on their mortgage applications or failed to provide documentation of income. Do any of you have figures here?

The New York Times today blames many factors, including lax and fragmented regulators, but most of all the irresponsible practices of mortgage-lending affiliates of nationally chartered banks. Here are the now well-known warnings of Ed Gramlich.

If you are curious to evaluate my record as a prognosticator, my earlier posts on whether we are in a housing bubble are here [TC: it turns out I didn't buy close to the peak] and here. Am I to blame? Here is Alex's insightful post. Most to the point, here is my post "If I Believed in Austrian Business Cycle Theory."

Some of the Austrians blame Greenspan for lowering short-run interest rates to one percent. From another direction, here are tales of a real estate bubble on the moon.

I browsed through a New York Fed conference summary the other day; it was about "systematic risk" and it was held about a year ago. I did not see a word about housing bubbles. The surprise was not the bubble, but rather than its collapse could be such a source of systemic risk and that it could freeze broader credit markets so much.

Paul Krugman claimed that the fundamental problem is lack of solvency, but he doesn't make a clear enough distinction between insolvent homeowners (for sure) and insolvent banks (has he bought puts?). I haven't seen an estimate of the losses that is large enough to imply anything close to widespread bank insolvency.

Matters would be easier to understand if they were either much better or much worse than they are; it is the current state of hovering which is so puzzling.

Here is Bob Dylan on what went wrong. It's the best account I've heard so far.

--I don't know if this counts as a libertarian answer to the sub-prime crises I posed about earlier. I think his basic point is that we don't really know why it happened so any efforts we could make to prevent it would have failed.

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