Jonathan Chait

Conservative Radio Silence On Financial Regulation

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Yesterday I commented on the miraculous nature of the sudden revival of financial reform. One other key element in this upsurge is the intellectual disarray on the right. Conservatives do not know what to say or think about this. A few of them are calling for breaking up the big banks. A few more are following the Frank Luntz line that regulation is a big favor to Wall Street. But mostly they're saying... nothing. It's almost a non-issue at the National Review and Weekly Standard blogs.

You can see why the issue would pose problems for the right. First, it threatens the self-image they've developed over the last year as opponents of the government-business nexus. Second, it's difficult to work out a free market response. If you let Wall Street invest however it likes, it will eventually precipitate a financial crisis, with massive government intervention being the only option to save the economy. Or else you can break up the big banks, or limit their ability to take on systemic risk. Either way, government has to get involved at some step in the process. It almost seems like conservatives can't choose which form of government intervention to accept, so many of them just aren't choosing.

In any case, the lack of a coherent conservative analysis is probably one cause of the GOP's retreat.

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