A Government-Made Recession

By mid 2008 almost everybody knew that we were in deep financial trouble. But the forces that brought it about actually began decades ago with The Community Reinvestment Act in 1977. This legislation “forced lending institutions to grant mortgages to people whose income, credit histories, and net worth would previously have disqualified them from getting such loans.”

An old adage suggests that in getting a loan from a bank the recipient must first prove that he does not need one by listing his assets. The bank uses this list to retrieve all or a portion of what is owed should the recipient default on the loan. The less invested or potentially lost the easier it is for the recipient to walk or default. Such is long standing wisdom and favors the more industrious individuals, as it should. What this means in real life is that high crime or impoverished areas of town do not attract investors as readily.

Socialists (share the wealth advocates) saw a race connection, thus injustice, when it was realized that “only 72 percent of minority applicants were approved for mortgages, versus 89 percent of white applicants.” Moral outrage followed which was resolved by legislation ”forcing lending institutions to loan money to people they would otherwise not lend to and in places where they would otherwise not put their money” (“Government Bailout,” The New American, Sept. 29, 2008, pp.11-15).


“Small Is Beautiful” Guy Hearts Fed

Here’s a reply I just wrote to an email asking me where a certain person got the idea that the economy was in recession 40% of the time in the nineteenth century.  I am calling the person X, because he’s about the most uncharitable (and uncomprehending) antagonist I’ve ever faced — yes, even a genial guy like me has antagonists — and I’m all done dealing with him.

“I’d tell you where he gets it from, but my answer would be too crude.  X is a real estate agent who knows as much about nineteenth-century economic history as any other real estate agent.  (I am not saying real estate agents are ignorant, you understand, but that they tend not to be experts in this highly specialized area.) Yes, there were recessions, but contemporaries correctly blamed them on excessive issue of bank credit, often pushed by federally chartered national banks.  Austrians oppose this kind of activity in the first place, so X proves nothing by citing these panics.  Rothbard shows in his book The Panic of 1819 (Columbia University Press, 1962) that many people decided, in the wake of that panic, that the best policy was 100% reserve banking in a completely private system.  We never got that.  That system, say many Austrians, is the only one that would put a stop to the boom-bust cycle.