Jamie Dimon: The Most Dangerous Man In America
Continued from previous page
3. Canada did fine during 2008-09 despite having a relatively concentrated financial system. Mr. Dimon would obviously like to move in the Canadian direction - and top people in the White House are also very much tempted. This is frightening. Not only does it represent a complete misunderstanding of the government guarantees behind banking in Canada (which we have clarified here recently), but this proposal - at its heart - would allow, in the US context, even more complete state capture than what we have observed under the stewardship of Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner. Place this question in the context of American history (as we do in Chapter 1 of 13 Bankers): If the US had just five banks left standing, would their political power and ideological sway be greater or less than it is today?
For a long time, our leading bankers hid behind their lobbyists and political friends. It is most encouraging to see Mr. Dimon come out from behind those layers of protection, to engage in the intellectual fray.
It is entirely appropriate -- and most welcome -- to see him make the strongest case possible for keeping banks at their current size and, in fact, for making them bigger. We should encourage such engagement in public discourse, but we should also examine carefully the substance of his arguments.
As we point out in the Washington Post Outlook section this week, Theodore Roosevelt carefully weighed the views of J.P. Morgan and other leading financiers in the early twentieth century - when they pushed back against his attempts to rein in their massive railroad and industrial trusts. Roosevelt was not at that time against big business per se, but he insisted that big was not necessarily beautiful and that we also need to weigh the negative social impact of monopoly power in all its economic and political forms.
If we don't find our way to a modern version of Teddy Roosevelt, Jamie Dimon -- and his successors -- will lead us into great harm. It's true that, after another crash or in the midst of a Second Great Depression, we can reasonably hope to find another Roosevelt -- FDR -- approach. But why should we wait when such a disaster is completely preventable?