Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Bailout Thought

I haven't heard this discussed anywhere, but it seems to be of long-term significance to me. All of the conservative discussion of the bailout is centered around the idea that, by mitigating the costs of risk-taking (i.e. the threat of your company going under), you give companies an incentive to act in a reckless manner, since they suffer no long-term consequences when those risks come back to bite them. But there's another aspect too. If you have a set of circumstances where the government becomes the main entity absorbing the risk, aren't they entitled to a greater share of the reward?

Remember a little while back, there was a lot of discussion about a windfall profits tax on the evil oil industry? One of the most relevant arguments against windfall taxes was that the oil companies take the hit when the price of oil falls (as in the 90's when they were laying off employees in droves), and so have a right to reap the rewards in good times. If it is no longer the case, what's the argument against the government taking a "windfall" down the road?