Greenspan called the banking and housing chaos a "once-in-a-century credit tsunami" that led to a breakdown in how the free market system functions. Accused of contributing to the meltdown, but denying that it was his fault, Greenspan told a House panel the crisis left him -- an unabashed free-market advocate -- in a "state of shocked disbelief."
The longtime Fed chief acknowledged under questioning that he had made a "mistake" in believing that banks in operating in their self-interest would be sufficient to protect their shareholders and the equity in their institutions. Greenspan called it "a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works." ...
Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., suggested that Greenspan contributed to "irresponsible lending practices" by rejecting appeals that the Fed intervene to regulate a surging subprime mortgage industry. "The list of regulatory mistakes and misjudgments is long," Waxman said of oversight by the Fed and other federal regulators. "My question for you is simple," Waxman told Greenspan. "Were you wrong?"
"Well, partially," Greenspan said. But [Greenspan] went on to assign the blame on soaring mortgage foreclosures on overeager investors who did not properly take into account the threats that would be posed once home prices stopped surging upward. He said what had been "a critical pillar to market competition and free markets did break down. And I think that, as I said, shocked me. I still do not fully understand why it happened."
After reading this, Objectivists can take consolation in the fact that Greenspan no longer considers himself one of their number—and perhaps never did. Yet his vision of the free market is not so very different from Rand’s. Self-interest, Greenspan believed, would be sufficient to motivate banks to act in such as to protect their shareholders’ equity. Apparantly not so—much to Greenspan’s confusion and dismay!
Greenspan would have done well to have heeded Joseph Schumpeter’s insight about the sociological flaws of a free market based on “self-interest.” “[N]o social system can work which is based exclusively upon a network of free contracts between (legally) equal contracting parties and in which everyone is supposed to be guided by nothing except his own (short-run) utilitarian ends,” Schumpeter warned.