Jonathan Macey, a law professor at Yale, absolutely nailed the cause of the market collapse in recent weeks. While the market was down, it was panic by the government that caused panic in the private sector. Your average American is not a market expert, so they take their cues from "qualified" individuals. When those that are supposedly in-the-know panic, we all panic.
Despite all the hard work and good intentions on the part of our public officials, when economists and historians look back on the current financial crisis they are likely to conclude that government intervention prolonged and deepened it. In particular, officials at the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Treasury Department are to blame for publicly losing confidence in the very economic system they are supposed to protect.
The original Treasury plan -- which called for the transfer of virtually unlimited taxpayer dollars and unlimited spending discretion to Treasury with no judicial or congressional oversight -- sent a very bad signal to the markets. Instead of restoring confidence, this approach to the crisis instilled more fear and panic in the markets.
The Bear Stearns bailout, the restrictions on short-selling and the government's new $700 billion commitment to buy toxic mortgage-based assets all share the same fundamental flaw: They prevent the market from imposing discipline on banks guilty of massive over-leveraging and excessive risk-taking. Moreover, they punish prudent managers who invested conservatively, kept their companies' debt at reasonable levels and worked hard to raise new capital when necessary. The SEC's attack on short-selling punishes savvy traders who invested resources and effort in identifying companies with too much debt and unrealistically valued assets.
Preach on Mr. Macey, preach on.