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《灭火》读后感:狂热、恐慌、溃败

发布于 2022-12-13 16:00

灭火美国金融危机及其教训思维导图.png

花了点时间,把《灭火:美国金融危机及其教训》(英文版:Firefighting: The Financial Crisis and its Lessons)一书读完,网上有总结得比较好的思维导图,如上图所示。除了这些内容之外,我读完后多少也有些想法,总结如下:

  1. 经济危机(或者叫金融危机)一定还会出现,上世纪30年代的算第一次大规模经济危机的话,2008年算第二次,书中作者把它称之为Great Depression 2.0,也许第三次和前两次不完全一样。历史不会简单重复,但经常押韵。
  2. 因为金融天生天然就是脆弱的。现代金融建立在信用基础之上。金融机构经不住挤兑,虽然现代银行有央行充当后盾。而绝大分部并不理性的人群,一旦对金融机构产生不信任,金融机构信用出现问题后像传染病一样快速传播,引发挤兑,形成恶性循环。尤其是在传统受监管的金融体系之处,像影子银行和非银行性质的金融机构,这种问题会更加严重,玩弄金钱,缺乏监管,人性之恶一定会把资金玩到资不抵债。
  3. 所有的金融危机都是遵循“狂热、恐慌、溃败(mania panic crash)”这样的三部曲模式,但人们包括金融业从业者和政客们,常常会错误地认为当前的状态会持久不变,无论是在狂热还是溃败的状态中,所以看不到狂热之后风险即将来临,也看不到崩溃后,春天总会到来。
  4. 人们一般认为机构和公司一旦大到一定规模,就会“大而不能倒”,但还是有些大型机构和企业倒闭了。真正的问题不是大而不能倒,而是因为大型机构与其它企业的关系太错综复杂,牵一发而动全身,美国是考虑到这个系统性因素,才出手救市,但救也会让这些企业机构付出代价。
  5. 美国对传统金融机构之外的监管并不到位,这有其九龙治水分散权力机构的原因。尤其是在歌舞升平的时候,政府机关并不愿意去碰难题,再加上民主体制下的低效率,导致该管的事情未能未雨绸缪,也就不能预防系统性风险出现。即使经历2008年次贷危机后,作者认为美国的现状也只是在预防上好了一些,如果危机再次出现,未必有相应的资源去灭火。
  6. 金融业天生就贪婪,这本身没有对错。那些风险投资机构、投资银行业,会利用自己的资源去游说政策制定者,影响相应政策的出台,这也很可能将危险化整为零,从而慢慢积累到某天爆发,因为风险并不是完全消除,只是暂时避开了政策的监管。而人们经常是短视的,对眼前利益关注多于长期利益。
  7. 投资银行、风投机构从业人员可能是这个世界上最聪明的人,也可能是掌握信息相对全面和快速的人群,但他们并不总是靠谱——万万不可迷信这帮人。书中提到的大投行、金融机构,都有遇到问题而无法收场的例子。究其原因,还是金融机构从业人员贪婪的本性使然,高利润的另一面是高风险,加过高的杠杆,缺乏足够的缓冲弹药,想赚尽市场上的每一块钱,到最后难以善终。
  8. 系统崩溃并不是一夜形成。它的爆发前期已经就有征兆,也一定有一个风险积累时期。能够在这个风险积累的时间段里就觉察到苗头的人才是最厉害的。这个事情上,像香港的李首富,早在2016年,就以他多年的商业嗅觉,认为中国大陆的信用泡沫比较高,于是他退出了中国大陆的房地产行业,从而避免了这几年的房地产衰退。
  9. 适当地让企业倒闭,像新陈代谢一样,淘汰那些不合格的参与者,是一个正常的资本市场,否则就像基督教里没有地狱一样,做恶的人得不到惩罚。
  10. 人类的天性会过滤掉自己的记忆,忘记过去的痛苦,回忆以前的美好。因此,我们即使知道这些教训,该犯的错还会再犯,我们个人无力改变历史的轨迹,但有智慧的人应该知晓这些规律,在历史洪流灾难来临前,就已经尽可能避开了它的危害。

读史可明鉴,知古可鉴今。对于经济学也是一样,2008年的次贷危机的确是一面好的镜子,让我们从中反思这些教训。

附个人在书中的高亮内容:

These vulnerabilities were allowed to fester by America’s balkanized financial regulatory bureaucracy, a hodgepodge of agencies and authorities and regulations that for decades had failed to keep pace with changing market realities and rapid financial innovations.

These problems did not seem pressing during the boom, when the financial system appeared unusually stable, conventional wisdom held that home prices would continue to rise indefinitely, and many in Wall Street, Washington, and academia believed that serious financial crises were a thing of the past.

We are all believers in the power of free markets, and we were all reluctant to rescue reckless bankers and investors from their own mistakes.

which is why we think it makes sense to think about crises the way Buddhists think about death: with uncertainty about the timing and circumstances, but certainty that it will happen eventually.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but as Mark Twain supposedly said, it often rhymes.

Panic is contagious.

While all crises begin with credit booms, not all credit booms end in crises, and the financial system seemed more stable than ever in the early years of the twenty-first century;

But financial crises will never be a thing of the past.

Long periods of stability can create overconfidence that breeds instability, as the economist Hyman Minsky famously observed.

It is during those boom times, when liquidity seems limitless and asset values seem destined to keep rising, that risk taking tends to get excessive, posing dangers that can extend well beyond the risk takers.

But none of us ever believed financial crises were obsolete, perhaps because we had spent so much of our careers thinking about them—Ben

Goldman had learned that good times never keep rolling forever, that panics can drag down the responsible along with the reckless, and that in a crisis, liquidity is king.

“As long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance.”

IT’S HARD TO FIX SOMETHING BEFORE IT BREAKS.

the only way to stop a run is to show the world there’s no need to run, to make credit easily available to solvent firms until the panic subsides: “Lend freely, boldly, and so that the public may feel you mean to go on lending.”

Every banker knows that if he has to prove that he is worthy of credit, however good may be his arguments, in fact his credit is gone.”

THE FIRE BURNED FOR MORE THAN A YEAR BEFORE IT consumed Lehman Brothers, but many Americans still believe the financial crisis began with Lehman’s collapse.

capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without hell.

if your neighbor sets his house on fire by smoking in bed, you want the fire department to put it out before it spreads to your house and your entire town, even though letting it burn would punish the perpetrator and send a strong message that smoking in bed will never be tolerated.

But we suspect that neither high-tech monitoring nor prudential supervision will fully protect the financial system from the failures of imagination and limitations of memory that seem hardwired in human beings.

The story of how the crisis happened is a complex story about risky leverage, runnable funding, shadow banking, rampant securitization, and outdated regulation.

As the Chinese philosopher and military strategist Sun Tzu supposedly warned: If you want peace, prepare for war.

But markets have short memories, and as history has demonstrated, long periods of confidence and stability can produce overconfidence and instability.

Unfortunately, our divided and paralyzed political system seems incapable of thinking ahead and making tough choices about the future.

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