Sunday, February 8, 2009

Banking Consolidation

The Winter 2009 Edition of City Journal has an interesting banking statistic. From Nicole Gelinas' "Can the Feds Uncrunch Credit?" (pps. 22-23)

Because of last year's [2008] flurry of bank mergers, the nation's top four banks now hold 36.2 percent of deposits in the country, up from 24.8 percent in 2007, according to SNL Financial. We thus may be setting up the next bubble-fueled crisis as we speak--and this time, it may be too big to recover from.

I am not sure what the author means. Is she saying that if the top four banks go under, the nation's savings will be toast? Perhaps she is warning that if the top four banks continue to lend recklessly, they will create another bubble. Neither of those scenarios makes much sense to me. The top four banks won't go under--they will be federalized before that happens. Moreover, banks are so scared, if anything, they're not lending enough.

Bonus: in the same issue, on page 58, Roger Scruton does his best impression of Samuel Huntington and writes about how Islamic and Western ideas differ. The problem with such generalizations, of course, is that they're generalizations--and it's nonsensical to apply them to billions of people. Still, Mr. Scruton had one particularly interesting paragraph that made much sense:

By living in a spirit of forgiveness, we not only uphold the core value of citizenship but also find the path of social membership that we need. Happiness does not come from the pursuit of pleasure, nor is it guaranteed by freedom. It comes from sacrifice: that is the great message that all the memorable works of our culture convey.

Unfortunately, Mr. Scruton makes an almost unforgivable mistake when he assumes that only Christianity favors such sacrifice and forgiveness. The idea that any religion has a monopoly on forgiveness is propaganda, pure and simple. If the three dominant religions believe in one G-d, then forgiveness must flow from the same fountain. A clash of civilizations may indeed occur in some form, but it won't be because one particular religion favors forgiveness more than any other religion. By creating false dichotomies, Mr. Scruton helps catalyze a clash of civilizations that need not necessarily occur.

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