Saturday, February 21, 2009

The ghetto approach to the bailout

Dear Mr. Geithner,

...I have been observing your first few weeks in office. I figured you could use a little help.

I, personally, don’t have the expertise, so I thought I’d lean on a few acquaintances who have weathered several economic storms. ...

I’m talking about a group of financiers who spent years toiling in an economic sector where the government played no productive role — other than to impede progress with regulation and arbitrary use of the law. Not only did these successful entrepreneurs make beaucoup dollars in this climate, but they developed ways to actually make the government work to their own advantage. ...

Full disclosure: they had once been players in the underground economy, but they are now retired and spend most of their time in church. ...

They plan to get together weekly to discuss various aspects of the financial crisis, and of course your rescue plan. But I know you are in a wee bit of a rush, so I leave you with a little early advice.

The unanimous opinion among The Thugz was that you must base your work around a time-tested law of ghetto capitalism: losers must die in full view. What? This doesn’t make sense. O.K., well, let me explain. Your first mistake (more accurately, your predecessor’s error) was to mix the bad apples (banks) with the good (banks). By doing so, you forgot what makes capitalism so much fun: winners win at the losers’ expense, and everyone gets to watch and laugh. Sort of like public hangings, except reported on the financial pages. Otherwise, why read The Wall Street Journal?

The moral is: don’t ever take the joy of death away from the public. Because if you don’t see losers in pain, you begin to think the game is rigged. And we all know the game is fair, open, and transparent … yes?
--Sudhir Venkatesh, Freakonomics, on bailouts by thugz

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