Monday, November 17, 2008

Giving Money to Addicts

Ever since Ross Perot ran for President, I've just loved charts.

Bad news, well presented.

Amid the world-wide economic turmoil, my own private economic meltdown has been keeping me occupied, at the expense of this blog. But in the past few days some positive signs have got me feeling better! Still, actual cash would be even more appreciated.
Among our favorite columnists today, Billy "William" Kristol, legacy Harvard PhD and writer for either the Weekly Standard or the New York Times, or both, seems on the verge of some actual soul searching regarding conservatives' obsession with so-called "free" markets. Of course, a conservative's idea of a free market isn't really "free" at all. It is all dependent on various government constructs and police enforcement of made-up property rights. Take away those government interferences and we'll see a real free market. But that would be too scary.
Kristol hints at a rethinking of the innumerable and very obvious misconceived premises of recent economic thinking. Perhaps he is responding to an inadvertent personal glimpse of real life he's recently experienced, and realized that not all of us enjoy cradle to grave economic security. That real people suffer real consequences when jobs are lost. Or maybe he's just thinking in terms of realpolitik, that a cold and hungry Reagan Democrat will become a cold and hungry New Deal Democrat pretty quickly.

Hmmm. Squeezing my head makes my brain work better.

For these conservatives, letting the homos get married suddenly doesn't seem to matter quite so much when their money is swirling down the drain.

Of course, I don't know William Kristol. He seems pleasant enough on tv. But he's influential. And his public voice has helped lead public opinion of the elites that read the two rags he writes for down the wrong paths for several years now. So he deserves some serious criticism.

Likewise Alan Greenspan. I was stunned when he testified to Congress that he was surprised that banks and financial institutions did not "institutionally" impose more actively conservative risk management policies in their investments. Is he kidding? Can he possibly be that naive? The word "stupid" is in my head, but that can't be right. Can it? The folks who run these places are there to make money. For themselves. Did he not get that?

Oops. Sorry.

Markets are made of people. Institutions are made of people. People are not rational. People are selfish. People have agendas. Loyalty to their employer is way down the priority list, if on it at all, for most people. Investment executives are in their positions to "drive personal wealth." Their own. That is why executive pay, like structured financial deals, should ideally "align interests" of all the stakeholders involved. Of course, this doesn't happen that often. BECAUSE PEOPLE HAVE AGENDAS! So, they negotiate unobvious advantages for themselves into deals. Advantages like shifting all the risk to the sucker who provides the money. Thanks to the various recent bailouts, that sucker is now us. Thank you Congress!
I'm glad we learned from that Iraq War fiasco not to let fear rush us into imprudent action. These bailouts are obviously well thought out. What's the exit strategy again?

Free markets are a myth. We need fair and honest markets.
Banks and corporations are government creatures. Being government creatures makes these institutions subject to government restrictions. This doesn't have to cost a lot or even involve a lot of regulation. We can do it the conservative way, by unregulating!

Want to ease the pain of AIG's exposure to credit default swaps? Pass a law that the government will not enforce or aid in the enforcement of any credit default swap that was not given under applicable insurance regulations and has a proven insurable interest. Hah! What would happen then? I don't know because I can't find that anybody has modeled the results of this scenario. But it seems pretty obvious that nobody has modeled what is going to happen by having our civil courts available to enforce these illegal insurance contracts, and to pour hundreds of billions of tax dollars into AIG to honor them. That we are doing this without understanding the consequences, good or bad, is just plain crazy.

I do not want my taxes used for this. This is one screwed up mess.