So, the Markets Can't Take Care of Themselves?

If the market knows best, why are all those oh-so-convinced capitalists running to the government, clamoring for hard-earned taxpayers' money to save their trembling bankers' butts?

It's barely two days ago that you saw shell-shocked bankers watching with mesmerized trepidation how their shares plummeted and how two of Wall Street's oldest and most venerated names were being erased from the board.

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Kathy Willens

That there was only ONE mood in the market: sheer and bottomless FEAR.

But now AIG is saved, cold sweat is being wiped off troubled brows and everything is fine again .... Cumbaya.

Really?

Come on! Talk about waking up and smelling the coffee.

Here's the newsflash: Everything is NOTalright again. The crisis is NOT over. And you better, BETTER NOT go back to business as usual. Because there jolly well IS a systemic risk.

Why?

OK, I admit I am an old socialist at heart. Born and bred in German steel and mining country, where men worked hard (and women often harder) and "suits" were eyed with instinctive suspicion. Where BANKERS were the "enemy." Where NOT being a union member was unthinkable and a steelworkers' strike was a REAL threat.

So maybe I AM biased. Hmmmpff.

But let's just look at what is happening here. I mean, beyond the balance sheet acrobatics and ABS exposure juggling. Beyond the analytical dissecting of what is a good asset and what is a bad asset. What is the real issue we are left with?

Not whether banks overreached themselves. Not whether investment gurus misjudged the markets. Not whether the Lehmans and Merrills and AIGs were over-leveraged. Not whether bankers conveniently threw overboard even the last token vestige of what might be called sensible banking -- forget PRUDENT.

No, what this is really about is something else entirely:

For eons the masters of capitalism have been drumming one mantra into our collective heads:

The market always knows best. WE know best. Regulation is bad.

Really?

If that is so, then why the devil are all those oh-so-convinced capitalists running to the government, clamoring for hard-earned taxpayers' money to save their trembling bankers' butts? Why is it that when the going gets tough, the capitalists screams loudest for SOCIALIST rescue plans?

Why? Because the market DOESN'T always know best. Bankers DON'T know best. Regulation is NOT bad.

We might not like it; but we have regulation and regulators to help guarantee our safety in other (well, try EVERY OTHER) walks of life. Heck, I would have thought in a world where we all meekly accept to put teensy-weensy bottles of shampoo and face cream in see-through plastic zipper bags, because SOMEBODY decided only THAT would stop terrorist attacks in airplanes ... well, to put no finer point to it: all ye bankers, brokers, derivatives engineers out there, waiting patiently in security queues, zipper bag in hand, why do you think YOUR business doesn't need protecting?

I mean, Warren Buffet famously called derivatives "weapons of mass destruction" and he can hardly be accused of anti-capitalist bias. The PRUDENT old bankers at the Bundesbank warned about the threatening "disjoint" between capital markets and the underlying production of the REAL ECONOMY spiraling out of control, IF derivatives were allowed to "live" in a practically regulation-free environment.

Well, let's put it this way: Yes! Yes! Yes!

But ultimately it isn't even about the question of "regulation - yeah or nay" This goes to the roots of capitalism. About its perceived "laws of nature" and "survival of the fittest" mentality. Because if these laws of nature can or even MUST be suspended on occasion ... well, then they are NOT laws of nature, but just man-made rules. And they should always be debatable. Especially if they have failed miserably, which I think we can safely say they have.

And maybe it was high time some fundamentalist capitalists out there read up Social Market Economy and its definition in the dictionary. I have always defined it as "capitalism with a social conscience."

Forget "social" conscience. Conscience of any sort seems a rare enough commodity these days.

Ciao for now. Silvia


PS: Might be a good time to invest in manufacturers of cardboard boxes these days. Demand is mushrooming.

PS 2: In case you have forgotten the ol' campfire evergreen, here it is:

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