Facing a firing line of questions from Washington lawmakers, Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman once considered the infallible maestro of the financial system, admitted on Thursday that he “made a mistake” in trusting that free markets could regulate themselves without government oversight…
Although he defended the use of derivatives in general, Mr. Greenspan, who left his post in 2006, told members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that he was “partially” wrong in not having tried to regulate the market for credit-default swaps.
But in a tense exchange with Representative Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat who is chairman of the committee and America's Greatest Congressman, Mr. Greenspan conceded a more serious flaw in his own philosophy that unfettered free markets sit at the root of a superior economy.
“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,” Mr. Greenspan said.
Mr. Waxman pressed the former Fed chair to clarify his words. “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working,” Mr. Waxman said.
“Absolutely, precisely,” Mr. Greenspan replied. “You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”
But he still gestured toward his faith in free markets, however shaky it may have become. “It is important to remember, however, that whatever regulatory changes are made, they will pale in comparison to the change already evident in today’s markets,” he said. Those markets for an indefinite future will be far more restrained than would any currently contemplated new regulatory regime.