Saturday, April 11, 2020

On private interests

So far, the COVID-19 crisis has offered plenty of lessons about the limitations of delivering public goods through self-interested banks. Any relief has flowed only slowly, while the crisis has been turned into a profiteering opportunity both in the form of fine print imposing higher long-term costs on people who ask for it, and standard policies imposing higher immediate costs for people who don't.

Meanwhile, the major public-sector effort to distribute a new form of relief has been an unabashed success in terms of speed and efficiency (even if it's still too limited in scope). 

Which is to say that we're seeing further evidence that a blinkered focus (PDF) on putting banks in charge of deciding who gets money and how can't actually be justified in the name of speed or business efficacy. To the contrary, they're far more likely to dangerously limit any distribution of resources, while making any decisions only through ponderous approval processes which delay the receipt of help even where it is made available.

Instead, if we want to ensure that money actually makes it where it's needed (however that need is defined), the past month has demonstrated that the public sector is far better suited to the job.

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