The Downside of Marking to Market

Holman Jenkins has an excellent column today headlined "Mark to Meltdown?" on the degree to which mark-to-market accounting standards have exacerbated the current crisis. Certainly the present system is pro-cyclical, helping both to inflate credit bubbles and make their bursting all the more painful. On the other hand, it’s far from clear that any other system is superior: no one wants to go back to the days when banks would keep bad loans on their books for decades just to avoid having to write them off. Holman doesn’t propose an alternative, and I can’t think of one either; all we can do I think is hope that bank regulators are increasingly aware of the problem and try in their own way to mitigate it both on the way up and the way down.

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