The Economist: A survey of the world economy: Fixing the world economy
If markets are not always dangerous and governments not always wise, what policy lessons follow? In the aftermath of the crisis the battle will be to ensure that finance is reformed—and in the right way. The pitfalls are numerous. Banning the short-selling of stocks, for instance, makes for a good headline; but it deprives markets of liquidity and information, the very things that they have lacked in this crisis. Even if the easy mistakes are avoided, improving supervision and regulation is hard. Financial regulators must look beyond the leverage within individual institutions to the stability of complex financial systems as a whole. Wherever the state has extended its guarantee, as it did with money-market funds, it will now have to extend its oversight too. As a rule, though, governments would do better to harness the power of markets to boost stability, by demanding transparency, promoting standardisation and exchange-based trading.
Over-reaction is a bigger risk than inaction. Even if economic catastrophe is avoided, the financial crisis will impose great costs on consumers, workers and businesses. Anger and resentment directed at modern finance is sure to grow. The danger is that policymakers will add to the damage, not only by over-regulating finance but by attacking markets right across the economy *.
That would be a bitter reverse after a generation in which markets have been freed, economies have opened up—and prospered. Hundreds of millions have escaped poverty and hundreds of millions more have joined the middle class. As the world reconsiders the balance between markets and government, it would be tragic if the ingredients of that prosperity were lost along the way.