In a hilariously naïve opinion piece called Over-regulated America, the February 18, 2012 edition of The Economist makes “a plea for simplicity” to replace what it characterizes as the U.S.’s overly regulated financial system. In place of Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank, it proposes that regulations not contain specific rules but rather merely “lay down broad goals” and “leave the regulators to enforce them.”
This is the so-called “principles-based regulation” that they have in Europe – the envy of the world when it comes to banking. America should return to its European roots, The Economist is saying. After all, the U.S. is “the home of laissez-faire.” (You would think the editors could have sent a fact-checker through the Chunnel to the Bibliothèque de la Sorbonne, but the point is not lost for the error). According to The Economist, there is nothing wrong with the American banking system that a big dose of European regulation won’t cure.
So instead of having a regulations manual that says, for instance, banks cannot engage in specified levels of leverage in proprietary trading, The Economist thinks it would be good enough to have a regulation that says to banks: “don’t put your capital at risk.” Although we tried that already, let’s humor (or humour) The Economist and pretend we haven’t. What would that be like?