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Free Market Regulation Explained

Free Market Regulation Explained
by Alex Merced

Everyone always assumes that  as free marketers that we advocate there be no regulations at all, but the truth is we think there should be no government monopolies of regulation or violence used in enforcing it. Then the response always is, if the government can do it then people won't. Although there are plenty of ways regulation can be done for profit in a way were the regulators have consumer interest more in mind than they do now. You've probably already read plenty of articles of the effects of government regulation as far as eating up resources and raising the barrier to entry reducing competition for the very firms your trying to control so let's take a different approach.

The intended or perceived intention of regulation is consumer protection, and we've seen that this is not always the result for one key reason, any entity is beholden to the people who fund it's operations in this case government. People think of the government as a intermediary of the people but while they are publically elected they are politically motivated. Since they truly hold the DIRECT power to fund these regulators, the regulators are beholden to them and their political goals (Bush, Dodd, Cuomo, Frank w/ lending regs) instead of pure consumer protection. So as politics distorts the mission or purpose of a regulator, consumer protection falls by the way side.

This is also an issue with private sector SRO's since they are usally funded directly by the firms in the industry they are regulating so they are beholden to those firms. If these's SRO's such as FINRA etc. enforced the rules closely on their biggest constitutents (Goldman Sachs) it'd greatly effect the inflow of cash for their operations so once again consumer protection falls by the way side.

The bottom line, a regulator will always be beholden to those that pay their bills, so if you want them to protect the consumer they must be paid by the consumer directly. Even then, a regulator isn't infallible so allowing a market of regulators that consumers can volunteer to pay into and firms can volunteer to deal with to get to those consumers will allow the correct incentives and pressures for the regulatory firm to advocate on their customers behalf (such as for-profit lawyers, you hire them to protect you. Also this structure is similar to AARP or other groups you pay memberships for).

This market of regulators shouldn't have any type special power handed over the government, since we've seen that ever mixing private/public institutions ends in disatrous results (Fannie, Freddie, FINRA, Sallie Mae, etc.). Industry firms will try to strike deals with as many of these regulatory firms as possible to have access to the consumers who hired them as their intermediary, and the industry firms that strike these deal will voluntarily be monitored by these regulatory firms who will then promote and recommend these firms monitored by them to consumers who pay for the regulatory firms services. Everyone who participates in this protection is doing so voluntarily but cause of the pressure created directly by consumers.

Another way to regulate in the free market is through review publications as we see in entertainment magazines that review the music and movies we enjoy. Musicians and Entertainers operate with the pressure of getting good reviews or have their success effected by it, although if one reviewer were to write good reviews for bad movies his audience would shrink and more over to another reviewer putting pressure to remain honest. Also, if one reviewer opinion is drastically different than other, this would also call into question the quality of his review. Although these review magazines are paid for directly by consumers, so they are beholden consumers.

Although in the case of securities rating agencys, giving them psuedo government power by keying legal regulation into their ratings created a perverse incentive to cater to their clients (the buy side) into rating things highly so they can legally leverage them. If there wasn't these coerced limits by government regulation, these rating agencies wouldn't of had the same pressures to rate the Mortgage Backed Securities AAA.

Even without the free market of regultors and review publications there is the ultimate free market regulator, consequence. If consumers and providers feel there are consequences to their risks, and there is nothing mitigating this consequence (FDIC, SIPC, Federal Reserve) then the risk will typically prevent them from taking "Irrational" risks, and those that do will suffer the consequence and serve as  a warning to others.

At the end of the day, protection of the individual is the responsibility of the individual. If the individual does not take the time and isn't willing to directly be involved in their own protection the protection they do get will never truly be on their side and the world around them will stagnate from the results. To fix the world you need more aware and active individuals, willing to pay for their own protection, willing to get involved in protecting themselves and truly understanding every individual decision they make.

Posted Apr 25 2010, 10:46 AM by Alex Merced