If you were asked how we should go about achieving real economic growth throughout the economy rather than just certain sectors of it, what would you suggest? Would you revisit the Keynesian toolbox and call for a really, really big stimulus instead of just another really big one? Would you impose more controls on business, especially the financial sector? Some people want to revive Glass-Steagall, the gem from the Depression era that was abandoned in 1999 — sound good to you?. How about officially merging the Fed and the Treasury — i.e., turn “monetary policy” over to the government? Perhaps you’d break out Sheila Bair’s plan to allow each American household to “borrow $10 million from the Fed at zero interest”? Her proposal was tongue-in-cheek, you say? Ms. Bair, the former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, proposed a plan that in its essentials would be received enthusiastically by those in the know — provided it was confined to special interests. But if it’s good for some, why not everyone?
“Look out 1 percent, here we come,” Ms. Bair trumpeted.
Many readers are familiar with the anecdote about a 1681 meeting between French finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert and a group of businessmen that included one M. Le Gendre. Colbert, a mercantilist, was eager for industry to prosper because it would boost tax revenue . . . sort of a fatten-the-goose approach to economics. When he asked how their government could be of service to the business community, Le Gendre famously replied, “Laissez-nous faire” — “Let us be.”