Thursday, February 16, 2012

Give Chuck Colson a D-

I like to interact with Chuck Colson because we have some important things in common.  It is because we have these things in common that I am sometimes disappointed with his analysis, or lack of it.  The transcript from his Breakpoint is a good example of this.

The topic is the recent rush by Congress to pass a bill to stop members of Congress and their staff members from ‘insider trading.’  Colson explains that the bill that was passed was the revival of a 2006 bill minus one of its key provisions.  This provision, Colson explains

would subject a new class of Washington insider, so-called political intelligence consultants, to the same rules as lobbyists. If you have never heard of “political intelligence consultants,” that’s because they want it that way.

Unlike lobbyists, you see, who advocate for the passage or defeat of a bill or regulation, these consultants pump people in Congress for information that they then pass on their clients, hedge-fund managers and wealthy investors. This information gives their clients an insider’s advantage when it comes to buying or selling securities.

The version of STOCK passed last week by the House omits this key provision. It was stripped out by the Republican leadership.

While I appreciate Colson’s concern here, his analysis is far too shallow.  The real problem is not that people who buy and sell stocks want to know what members of Congress know about stocks.  The real problem is that Congress is so deeply involved in matters affecting stocks that information about all this has become valuable.

I would be quite pleased if the manager of a mutual fund I own had some knowledge of things Congress might do to the stock market.  It is not limited to ‘hedge-fund managers and wealthy investors’ Colson so political-correctly cites as the financial villains he thinks the public will hiss and boo.

Anyone who risks his savings investing in capital goods (which is what happens when you invest in stocks) needs to know all he can about those things that might affect the future price of those capital goods.  The problem is that Congress, and the other branches of the central government for that matter, have seized control over much of what used to be the arena of free exchange.  It was this power grab that made knowledge of what they might do valuable.

Now Colson, probably like many others, wants to blame the victims of this power grab for trying as best they can to defend themselves.  That is shallow analysis of a kind far too often found in Christendom.

A better analysis would complain that government involves itself in matters is should not.  If Congress legislated only in those areas specified in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, there would be very little to be learned from Congress about the stock market.  No one would bother to do the things Congress is outlawing if Congress were not outlaws from the Constitution by their illicit meddling in matters that affect the market.

So I agree with Colson in condemning Congress, but not for the shallow and unperceptive reasons he cites.  I am in contempt of Congress for their ‘legislation’ in so many areas where they have no authority to legislate.

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