The Great Debate UK
So keen is the British prime minister to airbrush out his decade as a "light touch" finance minister that he embraced the heretical idea of a levy on financial transactions as one way to make banks pay for future bail-outs -- the so-called Tobin tax.
The idea was swiftly slapped down by the Americans and Canadians, although it enjoys warm support in Europe. But Brown's Damascene conversion may have more to do with British politics than international finance.
Facing public fury over the tens of billions of pounds spent on bailing out British banks, Brown needs to reassert leadership on the global economy and show he is on the side of voters, not bankers, if he is to have any chance of averting likely defeat at a general election next year.
Regulators are rarely accused of being too candid. But Adair Turner's observation that the financial sector is too large has seen the chairman of Britain's Financial Services Authority swamped by a wave of protest.
Executives, lobby groups and even Boris Johnson, London's Mayor, have responded with dire warnings about the risks of undermining the financial sector. This knee-jerk response shows the industry still fails to understand the consequences of the crisis it helped to cause. It is high time bankers engaged in a proper debate about their future.
So the watchdog can bark after all. Adair Turner, chairman of Britain's Financial Services Authority, says the financial sector has "swollen beyond its socially useful size". That is a striking statement for any financial regulator, particularly one that counts promoting London's financial centre as one of its goals. Identifying the problem, however, is the easy bit. Reversing decades of financial expansion will require global agreement on tough new rules, and the determination to make sure they are consistently enforced.
Turner's comments, in a debate hosted by Prospect magazine, underscore the extent to which the crisis has upended the received wisdom among policymakers. For years they assumed markets were self-correcting, that financial innovation brought lasting economic benefits, and that regulators should think twice before getting in the way.
They’re at it again. No sooner has the financial system begun to stabilise than Big Finance is reverting to its old ways — aggressive hiring, remuneration on steroids, wriggling out of regulation or threatening to decamp to evade tougher supervision.