The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued an emergency order on Friday temporarily halting the short selling of 799 financial stocks in an effort to protect investors and markets.
The measure underscores growing concerns that short-selling has led to sharp declines in U.S. and European financial stocks since the onset of the credit crunch.
“The emergency order temporarily banning short selling of financial stocks will restore equilibrium to markets,” SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said in a statement. “This action, which would not be necessary in a well-functioning market, is temporary in nature and part of the comprehensive set of steps being taken by the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, and the Congress.”
As Bill Anderson over at the Lew Rockwell blog has said:
The last line is a howler worthy of Paul Krugman’s twice-weekly missives in his New York Times column. The SEC is not “restoring” equilibrium; it is preventing equilibrium.
It seems that policy makers are making the same terrible errors committed by the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations during the 1930s. (The Daily Kos, a popular Democratic blog, is calling for a “New New Deal.” Frankly speaking, we are not rid of the old New Deal.) The government wants us to believe that the real problem is falling prices, so if the government can prop up prices of assets by any means, then it is doing us a favor.
Remember that Carl Menger wrote in his wonderful Grundsatze that “all things are subject to the law of cause and effect.” Indeed, Menger’s words live here; falling prices are an effect, not a cause. Short sellers and others who are helping to drive down asset prices are restoring the markets to their natural equilibrium, not preventing it. Unfortunately, the SEC is channeling Hoover and FDR, and they are preventing the economy from recovering.
The more they tinker… the more pain we will end up in.