Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
How would you blanket ban all tricks?
Easy as an atom bomb. Legislate a few defined financial market procedures an make any innovations subject to legal review and challenge prior to implementation. Make any unapproved procedures felonies. Define in law the purpose of financial markets as providing investment capital to socially usef projects and set up regulatory procedures accordingly. This would be like dropping a neutron bomb on Wall Street, but that, arguably, would be a good thing. When you have a giant parasite on the body politic the parasite needs to be destroyed.
You're arguing for a whitelist approach. Let me ask you: does the proposed whitelist include the simplest kind of put and call options? If so, then you've lost. General claims can be built up from only those(*), so your whitelist stops nothing at all, however many pages the legislation comes out to be.

Thus by the above, you are really arguing for a world in which no kind of puts/calls are allowed in any form, period. I am not opposed to such a world, but if you have to argue your case and someone points this out, what do you say?

The ordinary use of a put/call is a kind of insurance: it is entered into for protection against wild stock price fluctuations at some future time.

This is not a math problem with a logical solution. Capital and capitalization is the organizing principle of modern societies. The effects of the existing situation are not morally neutral. If your political and moral compass indicates that it is appropriate for Goldman to own the US Department of Treasury, to rent the US Senate, to dominate and intimidate the rest of Wall Street and to suck the life out of the rest of the economy, then, in effect you are saying that the cleverest thief wins, that who ever can most effectively grab and most ruthlessly use power is the legitimate ruler of our society.
All I'm saying is that the math says no to simple minded ideas that sound good but leak like a sieve. I'm not defending Goldman at all, rather I am saying that (as I see it) Goldman will laugh off these puny attempts if some US legislators do actually try them. It would be much more effective to just kill Goldman outright, or nationalise them and convert them into a nonprofit.

(*) Technically for those who want more details: a convex function f has an integral representation in terms of the functions (x - k)_+, and the latter are used to define call options. Thus one can build arbitrary differences of convex functions of an underlying asset using combinations of puts and calls, and this is plenty enough for any practical purpose of speculation, I should think.

$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Thu Jul 30th, 2009 at 12:23:42 AM EST
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