Habits Never Die, They Just Recycle

A colleague of mine used to describe human nature thusly: People do what they do. Or the traditional observation that a leopard cannot change its spots.

The benefits of bureaucratic organization are many. Structured processes, experience and expertise, and explicit design. These organizational advantages replaced the arbitrary and unpredictable rule by all powerful leaders in authoritarian regimes. Bureaucracy is an essential component of government activity in a democracy.

But the strength of bureaucracy is also its weakness. It is stable, but rarely innovative; it is predictable, not situational in response; it is self-perpetuating even when the original circumstances may have long ago disappeared.

I was reminded of this bureaucratic paradox  when I received the Weekly National Rates and Rate Cap Report from the FDIC seen below.  After deregulation in the 1980s I thought government got out of the business of setting deposit rates.

No, as shown below, when the next big crisis came in 2009, the FDIC reactivated old habits. It passed a new rule setting the maximum rates that any FDIC insured institution could pay that was deemed to be “less than well capitalized.” Every kind of account at every level of maturity is listed. And the rate caps are reset weekly!

Regulatory responses to new events is to reprise old habits. This is definitely not isolated to the FDIC. The same is true of the NCUA. The difference should be that in a cooperative democratic system, the response should always be driven by what is in the members’ best interest, not the bureaucracy’s instinctive recall based on self-preservation.

Weekly National Rates and Rate Caps – Weekly Update

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On May 29, 2009, the FDIC Board of Directors approved a final rule making certain revisions to the interest rate restrictions applicable to less than well capitalized institutions under Part 337.6 of the FDIC Rules and Regulations. The final rule redefined the “national rate” as a simple average of rates paid by U.S. depository institutions as calculated by the FDIC. The national rates and rate caps for various deposit maturities and sizes are provided below.

For more information. see Financial Institution Letter FIL-25-2009

Weekly rate cap information for the week of June 3, 2019.

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