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No. If you want to make sensible policy, you have to decide what sensible policy looks like, and make your policy aims clear, objective, and explicit.

Clear, objective, explicit. Pick any two.

You will always need to give your regulators some amount of discretionary power. Otherwise, you'll be playing a never-ending game of whack-a-mole with too-clever-by-half rules lawyers who move to the next exploit as soon as you close the previous one. The only way to deal with rules lawyers is to be clear and explicit, but not too objective.

You can't allow your tools to define that for you - which is what money and accounting do.

I know roughly what I want to do.

I want everybody to have the option of living in a reasonably functioning, technically sophisticated industrial society, where they are free from arbitrary violence (social, physical and economic).

But when I'm making policy proposals, I don't make them in terms of the end point I'd like to see. I make them in terms of the institutions and policy tools that actually exist and are available to policymakers, and check that they are consistent with the end point I'd like to see.

It doesn't examine what "not remunerative" means socially.

That's not a bug, that's a feature. I don't want banks to be making that decision, because I think that they're structurally inclined to make bad decisions in that area of policy. Parliament and civil society are much better places to make that decision.

E.g. if a business is "remunerative" because it destroys other businesses and social networks, is that really a valid criterion for its continued existence?

No, but then the solution is to make the business non-remunerative or non-legal. Banks enable business, they do not (or at least should not) run it. Or if, as is the case for certain intoxicants, this is impossible then at least tax the shit out of it.

If you accept that banking is essentially strategic planning - which I agree with, up to a point - it becomes inevitable that banks cannot remain supervised and accountable, because they're already at the top of the political food chain and are able to wrap it around themselves.

Well, if the (proper function of) the Civil Service is essentially strategic planning, which no-one of sound mind will presumably dispute, then couldn't you say the same thing for it?

If banks and businesses are implicitly political, they should be explicitly democratically accountable.

Yes. That's part of the point of giving the central bank a de facto veto over their political decision, and then making the central bank accountable to Parliament. As Jerome perspicaciously noted at the very beginning of this thread.

If they're not democratically accountable, they have no business making policy.

Yes and no. Courts are not democratically accountable in the conventional sense. Yet no sensible person would suppose that they are not making policy. And that is generally seen as desirable. Civil society organisations are not democratically accountable in the traditional organisation-flowchart-of-government sense either (and indeed the difference between "civil society organisation" and "special interest pressure group" is mostly whether you agree with them or not). Yet nobody could doubt that they make policy, and sometimes do it better than Parliament.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 06:11:15 AM EST
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