Saturday, August 29, 2009

Welcome to the Oligopoly

Many years ago, Federal regulators looked at AT&T and realized that a single company running all phones in America was bad for customers. It limited choice, and gave a single CEO too much power over national communications. So, they broke up the behemoth and brought about our modern world where multiple landline, cellular, and VOIP providers are competing for your business. This has brought down prices and increased choice.

But when the economy tumbled, regulators decided that some banks were "too big to fail" and moved to prop them up with taxpayer dollars. The idea was that these banks should be given support for a short time, to allow the economy to heal, at which point they could be safely returned to the wild. Instead, as it turns out, all of the banks declared "too big to fail" have gotten substantially bigger and more powerful, while smaller banks are failing in record numbers. And what happens when a smaller bank fails? Inevitably, it is sold to one of the "too big to fail" banks.

How much do you want to bet that the NEXT economic crisis is precipitated by bad behavior by one of the "too big to fail" banks with too much power and no incentive to act cautiously, in light of a guaranteed bailout?

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