Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Hydra Called Dodd-Frank

I don’t follow the financial services industry very closely here. I do not know enough to offer anything resembling an informed opinion.

This morning I was reading an extended analysis of the Hydra-headed horror that is the Dodd-Frank bill. It’s from The Economist. It was written by one of the very few people who have actually read the monstrosity. I link it for those who would like to be better informed.

It’s the kind of analysis that American newsmagazines have long since ceased to provide.

I am most amused by the author’s contention that the law has nothing to do with people, but is directed at bureaucrats. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The law that set up America’s banking system in 1864 ran to 29 pages; the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 went to 32 pages; the Banking Act that transformed American finance after the Wall Street Crash, commonly known as the Glass-Steagall act, spread out to 37 pages. Dodd-Frank is 848 pages long. Voracious Chinese officials, who pay close attention to regulatory developments elsewhere, have remarked that the mammoth law, let alone its appended rules, seems to have been fully read by no one outside Beijing (your correspondent is a tired-eyed exception to this rule). And the size is only the beginning. The scope and structure of Dodd-Frank are fundamentally different to those of its precursor laws, notes Jonathan Macey of Yale Law School: “Laws classically provide people with rules. Dodd-Frank is not directed at people. It is an outline directed at bureaucrats and it instructs them to make still more regulations and to create more bureaucracies.” Like the Hydra of Greek myth, Dodd-Frank can grow new heads as needed.

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