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BirdsEye View

mrs. o'leary's cow
The legend is that the Great Chicago Fire was caused by Mrs. OLearys cow kicking over a lantern in the barn while being milked and setting the straw on fire. Congress and the Obama Administration are trying to figure out the cause of the recent economic meltdown. They are looking for the Mrs. OLearys cow of economic disaster. The have of course picked on Wall Street. Just like the cow the guys on Wall Street are taking the blame for the entire mess and the Federal government believes that more regulation is the answer.
I am not a banker but I have spent the last 25 years of my life around the smartest people in the banking industry. I am not talking about Wall Street. Those guys are too big, too specialized and too removed from everyday banking to really understand what is going on in real banking. The people who are the smartest are the community bankers who depend on their wits and experience to make the system function on a daily basis. You know, the basic blocking and tackling that makes the economy go. Taking deposits, making loans to businesses and individuals, investing. These people, who number in the thousands at least, know far more on a collective basis than all the top brains in Washington who are, in the final analysis just theoreticians, not practitioners. Yes, that goes for Ben Bernanke, Paul Volker, Timothy Gheitner, and most especially the Congressmen and their aides.
We are not going to find Mrs. OLearys cow. For all we really know the recent economic troubles were started when some guy in suburban Atlanta defaulted on his mortgage or when some small time investor is Des Moines decide to sell off his entire stock portfolio. It could be like that physics theory [or is it chaos theory] that says a hurricane is started by a butterfly beating its wings in the Yucatan. The economy is too complex to expect that some silver bullet devised by some very highly educated but marginally experienced people in Washington [who may also have some other agenda] will prevent another recession [or depression or correction or whatever you want to call it].
The economy and life in general are fraught with risk. You have to take chances. You cannot be protected all the time by rules and regulations. Things go wrong, bad things happen. Life is full of uncertainty. We have to learn to live with that uncertainty in our personal life and in the economy. So, that is why I believe in Adam Smith and the unseen hand of the market place. These thousands of community bankers know better what to do that the government. Sure they will make mistakes, people will loose money, but take a look around, we are a prosperous and comfortable nation. If you dont think so take a trip to Africa or Southeast Asia or China.
We are not going to find Mrs. OLearys cow, and, by the way, we dont need to.