Oscar Wilde once wrote that “Everything popular is wrong.” He was describing our natural tendency to find comfort with well-established people and widespread ideas. Regulators, faced with the opportunity to open markets to alternative choices, hear a chorus of respected voices resistant to change. The SEC took until the year 2000 to repeal Rule 390—the rule that gave the New York Stock Exchange a monopoly in trading Blue Chip securities. The principles of open, transparent and connected public markets prevailed.
We raise this as the old idea underlying Rule 390, centralization of trading, is now being pushed as a popular fix for small company liquidity and capital formation. Of course, individual traders are determined to make trades in many different places, which means government intervention would be required to force stock trading back onto the largest stock exchanges. Rent-seeking regulations are often cloaked in the language of “reform” and the public good.