Thursday, February 26, 2009

Epicurean Dealmaker spanks Nassim Taleb

and good:
[Taleb] wants to nationalize "the utility part of banking," whatever that is, without specifying how government control would offer a better solution, rather than just an opening for the intrusion of politics into the relatively less compromised world of finance. Where would we draw the line around "utility" finance: commercial lending, retail lending, residential lending, commercial real estate lending, leveraged finance, asset-backed lending, securities underwriting, securities trading, insurance? How could we prevent contagion from the unnationalized bits—where, presumably, private banks would be free to succeed and fail relatively unconstrained—back to the nationalized ones? At what cost in efficiency, the price of money, political interference?

Those private individuals who commit their capital to the pursuit of risky returns, investors, pay taxes on their gains (at least most of the time). When they make money, we taxpayers benefit, and when they lose money, we taxpayers suffer, even if we are not investors ourselves. It is willfully shortsighted to deny that we already have an extremely robust, multifaceted system in this country for socializing both gains and losses from the activities of private capital. (Jobs, anyone?) It is appallingly disingenuous to assert that investment and commercial banks were the only entities which benefited from the multi-year credit bubble, and therefore should suffer disproportionately. And it is laughably ludicrous to compare military and security personnel—much less Roman legionnaires—to finance professionals. For the same reason I do not want to pay soldiers for the number of enemies they kill and security personnel for the number of threats they forestall, I do not want to pay a commercial banker for the number of loans he declines.

It is the height of epistemic arrogance to claim otherwise.

Back to the drawing board, Nassim.

I'm thinking that Taleb and Marx (Karl, not Groucho) have something in common. Their respective critiques of popular morays were amazingly perceptive; but their prescriptions made things even worse.

No comments:

Post a Comment