Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Re: nationalization

I don't think I made my point on the nationalization of banks very clearly before. I don't mean to say is that the biggest banks cannot be nationalized. The insolvent ones certainly can, and should, be cleaned out and restructured to start over. I posted Obama's comment in order to show that he clearly sees the logic in that. I believe he is following an incrementalist strategy to move the country and the financial industry towards that solution with the smallest shock value possible. Although it would be extremely gratifying to get out the tar and feathers (which is what someone like John Edwards would do) that is not Obama's style, nor is it the best way to get us out of this crisis, in my opinion.

My point is also that there are dangers in the nationalization direction as well, and it must be handled in a very delicate way. A haphazard nationalization could cause a panic in the markets, tipping us over the edge from recession to depression. A pitchfork-weilding mob mentality that throws out anybody connected with the previous washington economic orthodoxy may not be the best way to bring stability to the world markets. Now, Geithner may not be the best public speaker (how would you like to be thrust onto the world stage for the first time during the greatest financial crisis of three generations?) but through his time as a treasury official he is respected and trusted by multiple groups of people that are critical to getting us through this rough patch in one piece.

If Geithner and Obama screw everything up than I will have been wrong to defend them. But I think I see the path they are following--let's call it non-confrontational nationalization. Why else would Obama bring up the Swedish example, if he didn't see something worthwhile in there?

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