Really Smart People Doing Things I Don’t Understand

by Brien Jackson

I’m glad someone other than me went there first:

I’m biased in this regard, obviously, because I think the costs of nationalization likely outweigh the benefits, and that in any case it would be very difficult for Obama to get Congress to authorize the trillion dollars or more the government would need to take over America’s biggest banks. And I agree with Thoma that the Geithner plan could work. But what I like best about his conclusion is something else: his implicit recognition that the people who came up with this plan — Geithner, Larry Summers, and Ben Bernanke — are well-versed in the problems of the banking system and serious about trying to solve them, rather than being either oblivious or corrupt. Much of the discourse around the Geithner plan, and around the nationalization debate more generally, seems to assume that Obama’s economic policymakers don’t understand the gravity of the situation or the virtues of nationalization, or else it assumes that they don’t really care about improving the real economy. I’d be very surprised if either of those things was true.

I don’t agree with the first sentence, but the rest of it seems on. It’s easy enough for us (yes, I’m including myself) that writing on the internet doesn’t actually make you an expert about everything, and agreeing with me doesn’t make you the smartest person in the world. Similarly, disagreeing with me doesn’t, necessarily, mean you must either be completely corrupt or the dumbest person in the world, although that’s certainly a possibility. It’s certainly fair to point out that Paul Krugman is a Nobel prize winning economist, but you know who else is a very accomplished economist? Tim Geithner! And Ben Bernanke! And even Larry Summers! And each of them has more experience with financial issues than Krugman, whose Nobel was won for his work on trade issues (and I don’t think David Sirota would approve of those ideas, for the record). Which isn’t to say that Krugman is wrong, or that I think he’s unqualified to give an opinion on the plans, rather it’s simply to point out that he’s not the only really smart person in the room, and there are plenty of really smart people who don’t share his opinions. These guys aren’t quarterhorse afficianados.

Also, making sure the executives get hit hard is not a recovery plan in its own right, and recognizing that does not make you a Wall Street stooge.

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