The recent focus in Washington on mortgage modifications once again illustrates one of the most fundamental flaws in current political debate: the notion of using government to threaten or force the “voluntary” transfer of wealth from one group of citizens to another.
Just this week Rep. Barney Frank warned the banking industry if they don’t “voluntarily” do more to reduce foreclosures, Congress will step in and make them do so, by allowing bankruptcy judges to re-write mortgage contracts. This proposal is really nothing more an ex poste transfer of wealth from investors in mortgage backed assets to borrowers.
Of course, Rep. Frank and others respond that they are only trying to “bring lenders to the table” in order to keep negotiations going. In the words of many “consumer” advocates, this is just a “stick” to the motivate the lenders. I could think of few things more offensive to a free society. In a government truly constituted on the notion of the common good or general welfare, it would be no more appropriate to use the stick of the state on lenders than it would be on borrowers. Government quite simply should not take sides in purely private disputes.
One would think that if anyone could understand the principle that government should not interfere in the private, voluntarily entered relationships of consenting adults, it should be Mr. Frank.