Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Bachus and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to be here today. I am Alex Pollock, a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and these are my personal views. Before joining AEI, I spent 35 years in banking, including twelve years as President and CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. I am a Past President of the International Union for Housing Finance and a director of three companies in financial businesses.
My career has included many credit cycles which involved issues of systemic risk, from the credit crunch of 1969, the commercial paper panic of 1970, and the real estate investment trust collapse of 1975 (in which the entire commercial banking system was thought by some to be insolvent) to the current example of the credit panic triggered by the ongoing subprime mortgage and housing bust, and a number of others in between. Moreover, I have studied the long history of such financial events and their recurring patterns.
Booms and Busts in Context
To begin with, let me try to put the issues of financial booms and busts and the related question of systemic risk in context.
The fundamental principle is that long term growth and the greatest economic well being for ordinary people can only be created by market innovation and experimentation. Markets for goods and services must be accompanied by markets in financial instruments, which by definition place a current price on future, thus inherently uncertain, events. This much is obvious but easy to forget when addressing the results of a bust with the benefit of hindsight, when it seems like you would have to stupid to make the mistakes that smart people actually made.
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Alex J. Pollock is a resident fellow at AEI.