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Ending the Financial Arms Race

As finance has become more complicated, regulators have tried to keep up by adopting ever more complicated rules. It is an arms race that underfunded government agencies have no chance to win, which means that it is time to change the nature of the contest.

CAMBRIDGE – People often ask if regulators and legislators have fixed the flaws in the financial system that took the world to the brink of a second Great Depression. The short answer is no.

Yes, the chances of an immediate repeat of the acute financial meltdown of 2008 are much reduced by the fact that most investors, regulators, consumers, and even politicians will remember their financial near-death experience for quite some time. As a result, it could take a while for recklessness to hit full throttle again.

But, otherwise, little has fundamentally changed. Legislation and regulation produced in the wake of the crisis have mostly served as a patch to preserve the status quo. Politicians and regulators have neither the political courage nor the intellectual conviction needed to return to a much clearer and more straightforward system.

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