Secondary Markets

The most unexpected things define our realities. We’re cut off from the truth, not because we can’t handle it, but because “journalists” won’t compromise their access to the people who are lying to them. Then RSS and blogging and Google come along and we’re surprisingly more connected to the nuances that have always been under-reported by journalists.

Secondary markets could be an equally surprising contender as the blogware of nation-building finance. “Secondary market” is the name for a capital market for investment instruments bundled into large offerings. When these instruments are sold, they yield very large amounts for whatever purpose the underlying debt serves.

Plain English:

  1. You get a $10,000 student loan by signing forms that are exactly the same as a million other student loans
  2. Because they conform to its student loan standard, all the loans are guaranteed by the US Government.
  3. Your bank sells the right to your payments to an intermediary, which means your bank can make far more loans than it could by using its own depositors’ capital.
  4. The intermediary sells shares in its $15 billion± portfolio of federally-insured student loans to investors.
  5. This allows large and small investors to provide the funds that the government and the banks otherwise could not.
  6. College tuition rises because there’s so much money available.
  7. Many more students spend spring break in Ft. Lauderdale.

Well, the intent is good.

The Policy Engine

Government policies are expressed through money. As the Republicans have been proving lately, if you control the budget, you control policy.

Let’s deconstruct the essence of government, which fortunately turns out to be less complicated than we might think. About 700 people in Washington, working closely with about 20,000 lobbyists, create laws. (Otto Von Bismark once said, “There are two things you don’t want to see being made—sausage and legislation,” a variation of the caveat against visiting your favorite restaurant’s kitchen.) Out of that fetid swamp of special interests some imperatives arise, and so our destiny is bent to the will of the couple dozen or so people who manage the perceptions and careers of those 700 people.

Once this spending engine revs up, the spending rules are interpreted by the people in the Executive branch to mean what most excites them. This is how an appropriation is parsed into a $25 million Halliburton bridge. Cynical? You bet. Once you’ve seen sausage or laws being made, you’re likely to become a disillusioned vegetarian.

But what about the Second Superpower? As the peace-loving majority finds its voice and collective will, how might a stateless consortium of like minds exert their force to bring about what Dwight Eisenhower envisioned 40 years ago:

I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.

Follow the Money

It doesn’t take a government to spend money. Big government hires big companies to spend big bucks, whether needed or not. That’s why we’re spending like Americans in Iraq rather than spending like Iraqis, who know how to build bridges much less expensively than Americans. They’d probably employ more people, taking idle hands off the stocks of rifles. As I said last time, why not create web applications that are, literally, loan applications? And work reports combined with PayPal requests. All this assumes you’re interested in redevelopment and not in funneling gobs of money into select companies.

In order to hire Iraqi companies and people to do what you want them to do, you’d have to pepper Iraq with WiFi and ATMs and debit cards. With those in place, people could do useful things and be paid for it, like the list from last time:

  • Credibly commit to build a $25 million Halliburton bridge for $1 million = $50,000
  • Deliver engineering drawings for the bridge = $50,000
  • Start, continue, finish bridge construction, etc., etc., etc.= $100,000, $100,000, $100,000
  • Send a child to a non-religious school for a month = $10 (?)
  • Teach in a non-religious school for a month = $500 (?)
  • Guard a pipeline within view of one of the 100,000 new webcams = $25/night

Most importantly, it would let people on the street experience an actual benefit from the occupation, and to feel invested in a civil society. This is not the kind of program a traditional government would even consider.

But the Second Superpower is not a government, just a consortium of like-minded peaceniks. Even though war is very profitable for some, peace is profitable for many more, with myriad options for profiting off productivity and the capitalization to support it. A web-based rebuild Iraq portal would create agreements as standardized as student or mortgage loans. Once bundled, they constitute a debt package large enough for the capital markets to pay attention to.

And enough capital to rebuild a country without the messy inconvenience of occupying it.

2:26:58 PM    

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