Failure Is Good

Regular readers will know that we are fans of Thomas Hoenig, president of the Kansas City Fed (see here). I was catching up on the week’s news via Calculated Risk and came across Hoenig’s recent op-ed in the Financial Times, which I recommend as a follow-up to (or shorter version of) our previous post. Nor surprisingly, Hoenig argues that large bank holding companies should be allowed to fail, meaning:

Non-viable institutions would be allowed to fail and be placed into a negotiated conservatorship or a bridge institution, with the bad assets liquidated while the remainder of the firm is operated under new management and re-privatised as soon as is feasible.

Hoenig provides a list of arguments in support of this position. He starts with moral hazard, which would not have been at the top of my list. But I particularly like these:

So-called “too big to fail” firms have been given a competitive advantage and, rather than being held accountable for their actions, they have actually been subsidised in becoming more economically and politically powerful.

As these institutions are under repair, the Federal Reserve is making loans directly to specific sectors of the economy, causing the Fed to allocate credit and take on a fiscal as well as a monetary policy role.

A systematic approach would reduce the uncertainty that has paralysed financial markets; the cost is more measurable and therefre manageable.

Here’s a link to the whole thing again.

Originally published at the Baseline Scenario and reproduced here with the author’s permission.