Saturday, January 17, 2009

Not quite long, but surely boring and pretentious.

My fave political blog has a new post up on the Bailout. The gist of it is that quite a few of our congressional representatives are switching sides on the issue; several pro-bailout republicans are now against it, and several democrats--who campaigned against the bill just this last season--are for now for it. Mr. Silver quite rightly criticizes those pundits who see this as the instant corruption of our representatives ("sell out" is the term floated). Instead, Mr. Silver proposes the much simpler answer: political expediency. If Obama wants the bailout instead of Bush, it's pretty clear why the party lines are reversing on the issue.

But there are two things I want to take up from this article:

1) While it's true that corporations are not people, but rather collections of people, that doesn't make them equally likely to be greedy or untrustworthy are the rest of us. We would do well to remember what spurs people towards greed--leaving aside the popular populist rhetoric of personal obsession, which may hold sway in certain instances but is a poor assumption when modeling the general case. If we take the rather drastic step of assuming homogeneity of utility in the general population, then it is left only to ask what elements of an individual's professional situation informs that individual's actions. In this case, the desire for job security--and for a better job--might well inspire those individuals who make corporate decisions to be greedier. There's no reason to append a moral condemnation to this; if a CEO doesn't behave ruthlessly to advance a corporation, then the well-beings of those depending on that CEO are at risk. (There are certain naïve assumptions omitted here that I'll leave the reader to pick through.)

2) I (of all people) think that Mr. Silver might be being a little too cynical when he argues that the vote swap is informed only by political scheming. When he points out that the bill lacks oversight (to an astounding degree), he omits that, as of Tuesday, those not being overseen won't be Bush and Paulson, but Obama and whoever (I'll admit to being quite ignorant about Bernanke's future; Greenspan sat for so long that I've got it in my head that it's a permanent position, but that doesn't seem right). So the vote switching might simply be because democrats believe Obama will use the $700 billion well, while they believed that Bush was just going to right Dick Cheney a check and send him to the mall.

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