Saturday, February 21, 2009

You Can Give Me Money, But You Can't Make Me Lend It

I understand it's hard to argue for bank's case on anything nowadays. But I believe the old motto of "easy things are not worth trying" so I'll take a shot here.

(Speaking in evil bank's voice) Uncle Sam, do you want me to be a for-profit entity or a social service? Make up your schizophrenic mind quick because every hour in self-debate will put both of us, along with the society as collateral, in further limbo.

Even though I'm fundamentally a libertarian, I'm far from a fundamentalist libertarian. I readily concur some social services are necessary. I think forcing banks and investors to make mortgage mods is morally wrong nor will it work but I'll not argue it here. Let's assume for the moment we will make homeownership our social goal and banks will be the conduit. Fine. Then take over banks like Fannie and Freddie.

But if you don't have the stomach for it, then let banks be banks. Give banks a chance to do the right (economic) thing for a change. If they decide a credit is worth the risk, they will take it. If they refuse, generally speaking there's a good reason for it.They don't like anyone or hate anyone. They're for profit, remember?

If you force banks to lend to risky credit in this dismal climate, then you're forcing them to repeat the same mistakes that got us into this mess. Only this time you can't blame the banks. And you'd better be ready to keep pumping money into the system. Lots of it. For a long time.

And if you don't want to keep pumping in money, that's fine, too. Let'em fail. There'll be capable and hard-working people starting from scratch in no time. The market and the society will be much healthier and sustainable after rising from the ash.

Pick your poison.

Anything but what the government has been doing so far, which is absolutely the most convenient, irresponsible, morally bankrupt (there! I said bankrupt!), schizophrenic approach.


Clayton said...

Why would any bank acting in its own profit maximizing interest originate new mortgage loans when it could already buy existing performing mortgages from a number of other banks for far less than face value?

Bo Peng said...

It's a rhetorical question, Clayton. It doesn't hold water once you drill down a little. If the market is functional, which at this moment is a question, then for the same credit in the same locale, new mortgage and existing ones should be of the same value and risk.

However, reality is mortgage market is hardly a market anymore, with the massive government interference and widespread panic. So it's hard to say which one is cheaper without actual experience.