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Obama remodels banks as DMV

Wednesday, May 13, 2009
By Dan

Coming to a bank near you

Coming to a bank near you

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Obama administration is considering imposing compensation limits on banks, even those banks that did not receive TARP funds.   There are so many reasons this is a bad idea, I have trouble knowing where to start.

Do you know anyone at the DMV who could get a better paying job?  Me neither.

First, we all work for money.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you, running for office or both.  No body comes into work each day for the fun of it, that’s why we call it “work.”  If you did it for free, it would be call “fun.”  Aside from semantics, the profit motive (even among employees) is the single most powerful incentive in human activity.  There is a reason money is still so darn popular: everyone wants some.

Telling banks how, who, why and when they can pay employees will reduce (if not eliminate) this motive.  Smart people who have other offers will simply go somewhere else to work.  If you had your choice of jobs, would you take the one that pays more or the one that requires a bureacratic form to get a raise.  Put another way, do you know anyone at the DMV who could get a better paying job?  Me neither.

It’s not as if the government is free of scandals.

Second, the government has absolutely no business modifying wages or putting their sticky fingers in corporate pies.  For one thing, it’s not as if the government is free of scandals.  Do we need to bring up the piles of cash in Representative Jefferson’s freezer?  Or the sex for oil scandal at the Department of the Interior?  Or anything Jim Murtha has ever done in his official capacity?  For another, where, exactly, does it say the government has the power to interfere with private contract?  Banks should be allowed, as any company, to run their own business.  if they fail, they fail.  (And yes, I said this before and after Lehman collapsed).

Finally, as a corollory to both prior points, limits on compensation do not eliminate malfeasance.  In fact, they often cause them.  A smart person will always find a way to make enough money.  If you cap their legal compensation, they will turn to illegal compensation.  As evidence, I offer Bernie Madoff,  Michael Milken, and every Congressman and their secret little graft machines.

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