Losing money is no crime

Cafe Hayek’s Quotation of the Day:

… is from Jonathan Macey’s fine essay in today’s Wall Street Journal – an essay whose title, “Losing Money Isn’t a Crime,” is spot-on correct and germane:

The real lesson of what J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon has called the bank’s “egregious failure” in risk management is that hedging is far more difficult to do in real life than it appears to be in theory—because the real world is a complicated place. The trades that J.P. Morgan made were extremely complex, and it certainly appears that they did not work the way that they were supposed to. But the reason that markets work better than central planning is because market participants learn from experience, and they learn fast and thoroughly because they suffer significant losses when their investments, whether they be hedges or not, turn out badly.

Thus, far from serving as a pretext to justify still more regulation of providers of capital, J.P. Morgan’s losses should be treated as further proof that markets work. J.P. Morgan and its competitors will learn from this experience and do a better job of hedging the next time. They will learn because they have to: In the long run their survival depends on it. And in the short run their jobs and bonuses depend on it.

The second lesson from J.P. Morgan’s failed hedging effort is that politicians and regulators are opportunists who will use any pretext to increase their power and influence.

Reader Comments