Short Essay #3 due at 11:30 am, Monday, March 7 NO MORE THAN 4 pages Many economics texts that focus on U.S. finance (and, to be sure, other economic or historical subjects) clearly document a history of prescriptive government regulations generally, or at least purportedly, designed to enhance the economic well-being either of the general population or groups considered disadvantaged or unable to protect themselves from financial damage in a less regulated (laissez-faire) context. In his book Financial Exclusion: How Competition Can Fix a Broken System, author Robert E. Wright has a somewhat different story about what he characterizes as “top-down regulation:” This book is about financial exclusion, discrimination, and predation, i.e., bad behaviors committed by legitimate financial institutions with help from government regulators. Its main goal is to persuade readers, via an historical narrative informed by economic theory, that the best way to combat financial discrimination is through the encouragement of new entrants, not top-down regulation. (p. 1) Wright notes that much more of this discrimination used to be overt, and across a wider swath of the population. He observes that such discrimination is now at least out of fashion but concludes it has a long history and has persisted in various different ways. He follows this with chapters with a brief history of . finance and specific chapters on African-Americans, First Peoples, “White Trash,” and “Females.” The book ends with two chapters entitled “Avoiding Past Mistakes” and “The Self-Help Solution,” concluding that “self-help, combined with free entry, is the best way for market forces and governments to work together to reduce financial exclusion, discrimination, and predation in America,” (p. 10). He also highlights what he sees as the problems with very large financial institutions (“Bigger Is Not Better”). The Assignment You have been asked to write a book review (no more than four pages) that: 1. Is directed to a particular audience that might have interest in one or more of these groups (I suggest just doing one, but that is your decision); 2. Highlights what you see as particular strengths and/or weaknesses in Wright’s analysis, with examples; and 3. Give your own opinion on what you believe the effects would be in the group(s) you have chosen if the United States adopted Wright’s proposals. You will want to include some basic material about the group(s) you choose, and you will find those narratives in chapters 3-6. You may, if you wish, write this instead as a letter to either Prof. Wright or a politician or regulator for whom you believe it would be useful, educational, or necessary. 2. Please double space, use fonts no smaller than 10, and put page numbers on your analysis. You are limited to four pages of text. 3. For the articles included in the attachment, be sure to use quotation marks (or appropriately set off larger blocks of type) for direct quotes and be sure I can know which article is being referred to and which author, speaker, or commentator is making a claim. If you bring in other sources, you will need to give me full citations. These can be attached on an extra page. 8. This essay gives you wide latitude as to audience and emphasis, but you should demonstrate your understanding of Wright’s arguments in your essay. You are welcome to briefly indicate why you are addressing your opinion to a particular person or audience and include personal experiences. 1. We will be spending much of this week on housing, business finance, and other aspects of financial discrimination, complete with a short case on mortgages and their impact especially on African-Americans. 2. Economists often observe that regulations designed for one purpose have unexpected consequences. And, of course, it is possible that the originators of some economic programs actually had those consequences in mind. Feel free to express your judgement on this if you think you see one of them. 3. Is there specific information you have from other courses or sources that you think would be valuable? By all means, feel free to use it. 4. Good economists generally try to at least get some estimate of how important a particular action has been, is now, or could be. Can you tell your audience something about that? 5. Cost-benefit analysis is common in economics—but we also should try to ask, “Whose benefits?” “Whose costs?” and “Whose decision?” if possible. Are there “externalities” involved?
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