March 19, 2010
Geithner The Government Official
Posted by David Zaring

The sympathetic portrayal of Tim Geithner in the Atlantic by Josh Green is well worth your time, not least because it is almost written as an academic article, in that Green is a believer in shorthanding the great policy debates around Treasury as thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.

  • Hegelian dialectic #1 is Green's view of the impetus for deregulation.  Here the thesis was successful New Deal regulation that for decades avoided banking crisis.  The antithesis came from two camps: public choice scholarship out of the University of Chicago espying regulatory capture in all things, and New Left historians who called the New Deal the triumph of corporate capitalism.  The synthesis was a new era of deregulation, and you know what happened next.
  • Hegelian dialectic #2 lies in Green's view of the debate over regulatory reform.  He thinks that there are two viable models of reform, and that they mimic the anticommunist strategies of the cold war: roll back (i.e., shrink the banks), and containment (more and better insurance, that sort of thing).
  • Finally, Green notes something that we've had occasion to look at at the Conglomerate before with regard to Donald Kohn's tenure at the Fed: "Geithner was career staff. Although Treasury’s civil service works closely alongside its politically appointed leadership, the two groups exist on parallel planes and inhabit distinct social classes. It is almost unprecedented to cross from one to the other. Geithner made the leap."

I would have been happy reading law review pieces exploring any of these propositions, so score one for journalism here.

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