Biological Systems Can Inform the Design of Financial Regulation

Igor Heifetz ・ Princeton Environmental Institute

It has been five years since the US Congress enacted the landmark Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act; and despite the fact that about 20% of the Act has yet to be implemented (1), several legislative initiatives are now attempting to soften or roll back key provisions. This pattern of regulatory action and reaction is not new. The financial excesses of one period often lead to asset bubbles that burst, ushering in a new period of much greater regulation. This, in turn, is systematically weakened over time as markets recover and we forget the reasons why we imposed such stringent regulations in the first place. Even before Dodd–Frank, the financial industry was among the most highly regulated of industries in the world. However, the many layers of regulation and multiple regulatory agencies were insufficient to prevent financial crisis. Why?