Monday, August 9, 2010

If It's Not Elizabeth Warren Who Will Head the CFPB, Then Who?

There's not much to cheer about if Elizabeth Warren somehow isn't named to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Michael Barr, a Robert Rubin operative, is most frequently mentioned as a possible nominee to head the CFSB, if Warren doesn't get the nod.

In a profile of Barr,  WSJ reports:

One of Mr. Barr's most controversial proposals came in 2008 when he co-authored a paper saying banks should be required to offer consumers simplified, or "plain vanilla" financial products. Borrowers would be able to get complex loans only if they opt out of the standard product through a process designed to be difficult.

"A plain vanilla set of default mortgages would be easier to compare across mortgage offers," Mr. Barr, then a law professor at the University of Michigan, wrote in 2008 with co-authors at Harvard and Princeton universities.
This puts Barr completely in the "nudge" school of government manipulation of the masses.  The nudge concept has been most heavily championed by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler in their book, Nudge.

Sunstein and Thaler, in serious case of what can only be considered severe delusion, consider themselves "paternalistic libertarians".Their hypothesis is that they don't force anyone to do anything. They allow free choice, but structure things so that people are nudged in one direction or another. That 'nudging' exists can not be denied, a  sale sign is a nudge, placing "impulse items" near a cash register is a nudge, a hooker wearing a miniskirt is a nudge, yet Sunstein and Thaler fail to spend much time at all on these type nudges.

They spend 90% of their book discussing how to improve public school cafeterias, social security, 401 k's, and national healthcare. Of course, anyone who takes a careful look will soon realize that the only reason that Sunstein and Thaler,  in bizarre fashion, can call themselves libertarians, that don't force anything on anyone, is because the coercion has already occurred before they arrive on the scene. In other words, Sunstein, Taylor, and apparently Barr are the types of technocrats that governments love. They never object to the coercion around them and somehow cheerfully go around micromanaging a situation that only could exist because of heavy coercion. Sunstein, Taylor and Barr will also spread the propaganda that no coercion is taking place.

These types are very clever, have a sharp nose for which ways the political winds are blowing and will rationalize in their own mind whatever needs to be rationalized. Barr's not as dangerous as Elizabeth Warren because there is this political wind sock he is watching, unlike the Warren damn the torpedoes full speed ahead approach. But for anyone looking for any understanding of free markets and a consistent application of its principles in anyone President Obama is likely to nominate to the CFSB position is going to be completely disappointed. The candidates are all major government tools, some delusional, some Machiavellian.

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