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Don’t Blame the Whole Housing Bubble on CRA: Part II

April 30, 2014 in Economics

By John P. Cochran


A follow up to Ryan’s excellent post.

Roger Garrison is at his best here balancing Fed policy and housing policy  including CRA and their relative impact of the latest boom-bust. An excellent example of  historical interpretation and “variations of the theme” of ABCT.

From his Alchemy Leveraged: The Federal Reserve and Modern Finance:

Unsound as these policies were, they were not the principal cause of the financial crisis. Again, Dowd and Hutchinson are right in identifying the expansion-prone Federal Reserve as the principal institutional cause. Had the Fed provided no fuel for the boom, federal housing policy, though perverse, would not have been unsustainable. The mortgage market would have had to compete with all other markets for the funds that savers provided. There would have been a continuing bias in favor of the mortgage market, and the ongoing rate of foreclosures would have been higher. House prices would have been higher (because houses and mortgage loans are complements), but they would not have been high and rising. Practitioners of modern finance would have paid due attention to the higher VaR, which would have reflected the expectation of an ongoing higher foreclosure rate. Conversely, had the federal government not enacted legislation and created institutions that rigged mortgage markets so as to increase home ownership, credit expansion by the Fed would nonetheless have created an artificial boom, which inevitably would have ended in a bust.


Although Fannie, Freddie, and related federal legislation are not the principal cause of the crisis, they do account for the particular character of the preceding boom and hence for the particular character of the subsequent bust. The terms boom and bubble are often used interchangeably in the literature on business cycles. It may be preferable, however, to use boom—or more specifically artificial boom—to refer to the credit-induced simultaneous expansion to various degrees of different interestsensitive sectors of the economy and to use bubble to refer to the artificial boom’s most dramatic manifestation. Which sector reveals itself as the bubble depends on the circumstances in which the credit expansion occurs. As indicated earlier, artificial booms entail a turbocharging of whatever else is going on at the time.

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