What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

« August 2008 | Main | October 2008 »

September 2008 Archives

September 1, 2008


If Mrs. Palin were the presidential candidate I might be tempted out of presidential election abstention for the first time in many years, though I'd have a lot more due diligence to do first.

I spoke to a Republican party 'insider' at a party yesterday and he said that she was anti-ESCR and in favor of making abortion illegal in cases of rape and incest. (He had no motivation to BS me -- this was a private affair that had nothing to do with politics). If true that makes her the most principled pro-life candidate on the national stage, well, ever; or at least since Reagan.

Her chances at being the presidential candidate in 2012 and/or 2016 are probably better with an Obama win. I don't see how an Obama win could spoil them, at this point, but there are a lot of ways that a McCain win could spoil them.


The weirdest and scariest thing...

...about those among Obama's camp followers, up to and including Andrew Sullivan, who were pushing "baby-gate," is that they really seemed to believe that it would reflect badly on Sarah Palin if the rumors that Trig was really her grandson were true!

As so often, Steve Sailer got this exactly right.

Bottom line: even if the rumor-mongers had been right, they would have ended up looking like a bunch of jerks. And if they'd been wrong, they would have ended up looking like an even bigger bunch of jerks. Therefore (assuming the law of the excluded middle) they could only have ended up looking like a bunch of jerks.

David Frum...

...thinks that Barack Obama's qualifications for the presidency are better than Sarah Palin's. He attacks Palin's qualifications, while defending Obama's:

Continue reading "David Frum..." »

September 4, 2008

Miscellaneous thoughts on Burton-Auster-McGrew

Readers may be somewhat interested in my and Steve Burton's discussion with Lawrence Auster about the Palin nomination.

Since Auster is away from his computer for today, my most recent response to him won't be posted until some time later, perhaps tomorrow. I also didn't happen to save it as a sent item or a draft, so I don't have those ipsissima verba available. In this post I am going to say just a couple of things I said there, not terribly philosophical, and I hope to put up a post later today squarely on the subject of what it should mean to disapprove of illegimacy.

First, reader Gintas (who has been a commentator on our posts here in the past) implies that talk about men and women as not interchangeable will "set me off." I can't imagine why. I sometimes call myself "Mrs. Eagle Forum." I am one of the most traditional women I know of currently writing on the Internet. I believe in traditional gender roles. I say things deliberately to get people's goats like "The husband should be the head of the home" and "The mother's place is in the home." I defended Auster against hysterical feminist responses to his speculations about the ill effects of the female vote. And I brought up spontaneously on Jeff Culbreath's blog the idea that Sarah Palin would do best to be at home with her own children. But I also said there that I might under some conceivable circumstances (not in this election, because of McCain) vote for her.

In other words, I'm strongly anti-feminist, and Palin is clearly something of a feminist, but that doesn't mean I'd never vote for her. It's not a deal-breaker with me. This seems to me a reasonable enough stance.

The second thing I want to throw in here that I didn't perhaps make clear enough in the earlier exchange with Auster is that I do consider it blameworthy for him to use the unpleasant phrase "knocked up" for Bristol Palin's pregnancy and to try in several different ways to distance the girl from her boyfriend. For example, he has made fun of people who call the boyfriend her fiance, though (the upcoming marriage having been announced to the entire nation) that seems a literal enough term. And he implies that the wedding is not simply hastened by the pregnancy but definitely pushed through for the sake of Palin's political career. At least, that is how I understand him. One could, of course, think that perhaps the young couple had genuine affection and love for one another and were already thinking of marriage when they committed the sin of fornication and that the "shot-gun wedding" is so only in the sense of being hastened because of the pregnancy. One could also think that perhaps the family really is considering what is best for the girl in promoting the marriage and has decided upon consideration that this is best rather than pushing the marriage cynically for the sake of the mother's career. In other words, the impression I get from Auster on this subject is that we have to put the most negative possible interpretation on the whole situation and that any conservative who doesn't do so is to be mocked as a sentimental fool. But that is hardly necessary to any contentful point Auster might have to make about illegitimacy, Palin, or anything else, and while I wouldn't use quite Steve's terms--'shameful' and 'disgusting'--I would say that this sort of uncharitable and unjustified implicit speculation is pointless and deplorable.

More later, I hope, on the subject of illegitimacy.

What should a stigma on illegitimacy mean?

The recent situation with Sarah Palin's family has brought up within the conservative community the question of whether there should be a stigma on illegitimacy and what that might mean. I believe that some of my (and others') disagreement with Lawrence Auster on Palin's situation springs from a disagreement over what it should mean to disapprove of illegitimacy.

My impression is that Auster definitely believes that there should be a stigma upon pregnancy out of wedlock per se, as opposed to there being only a stigma on sex outside of wedlock per se. I may be misunderstanding him here, but this seems to me to be the best way of understanding his insistence that Sarah Palin, by continuing to be John McCain's running mate with a pregnant teenage daughter, is requiring conservatives to abandon a condemnation of illegitimacy. It also helps to explain what seems to me to be the oddity of the following exchange:

Me: You state that I am the one who wishes to get into a discussion of Palin's personal virtue. But I, in making my point about whether Palin was neglectful and the like, was thinking of comments of yours like this:
Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Palin raised their children with so much love and discipline that their 17 year old daughter went and got herself knocked up. Maybe if the family had actually been spending time together, and if the parents had exercised real discipline, as Laura W. powerfully argues, this would not have happened.

See? This isn't just saying she's got too much on her plate or even that we should not approve of illegitimacy. It's a lot more than that.

Auster:Yes, I was expressing diapproval of their daughter's illegitimate pregnancy, AS ANY NORMAL MIDDLE CLASS AMERICAN WOULD HAVE DONE 50 YEARS AGO, and I was making the larger point that regardless of whether their situation is ok or not, regardless of whether Bristol is "ok" and her baby is "ok," the larger social impact of this situation is to legitimate illegitimacy for the whole country

This seems to mean that, to show genuine disapproval of illegitimate pregnancy, we should express scorn for the opinion that the parents of a pregnant teenaged daughter raised her with love and discipline. We should conjecture about just how they were neglectful parents, and we should demand that the entire family be disgraced to the point that the parents (or is it just the mother?) cannot run for a new major public office as a result of the disgrace.

So, what should it really mean for us, as social conservatives and moral traditionalists, to disapprove of illegitimacy?

Continue reading "What should a stigma on illegitimacy mean?" »

September 5, 2008

Pro-Life Suites Part I--Infanticide

This is the first post of an as-yet-undetermined number in which I discuss issues other than abortion that pro-lifers are concerned about. The immediate impetus for this series comes from the implication in some paleo-right circles (here, for example) that conservatives, particularly evangelicals, care only about abortion.

It is now widely known among conservatives that infant euthanasia is carried out in Holland frequently. The publicization of the infamous Groningen Protocol brought this long-standing fact to Americans' notice in a fashion that could not be ignored. And Wesley J. Smith points out that the conceptual and ethical ground is being cleared by non-judgemental discussions of this protocol for its implementation in the U.S. Even more ground-clearing has taken place in the form of personhood theory a la Peter Singer, widely taught as part of "ethics" in our universities.

Continue reading "Pro-Life Suites Part I--Infanticide" »

September 8, 2008

All other things equal, ceteris paribus doesn't make for a very good argument

One of the more profound insights I've found in the writing of Pope John Paul II, though of course the idea does not originate with him, is that the things that we choose to do always end up changing who we are. This is a profound truth about the human person. Sin brings us closer to Hell because it makes us more the kind of person who will ultimately be at home in Hell. Good works, done out of our own free will with the help of grace, bring us closer to the Beatific Vision because they make us more the kind of person who is close to God. What we choose to do changes us.

A lot of argumentation in the blogosphere, though - particularly political argumentation - tacitly assumes that this is not the case. The notion seems to be that if I vote for a medical cannibal like John McCain or Barack Obama, having decided to do so as a choice of the lesser of two evils, that making that choice does not mean that I will do anything else differently: I will be the same person and do all the same things subsequently whether I vote for a cannibal or not.

But this is obviously not the case. It is not the case for an individual, whose effect on the election is literally negligible. And it is not the case when we aggregate individuals. Five million people who are unwilling to vote for a cannibal are a different kind of group from five million who are willing to vote for a cannibal. Refusing to pull the lever for the least bad viable option is in the end far more powerful on an individual basis than pulling the lever for the least bad viable option, because pulling the lever or refusing to pull the lever changes what kind of person you are. And what is true on an individual basis is true in the aggregate.

"If everyone did it the pro-life cause would lose" is simply false, because it rests on the unspoken assumption that all else remains the same. But all else never remains the same; and most especially we don't remain the same.


September 11, 2008

September 11.


What happened on this day seven years ago may be said simply: The Jihad delivered against America a most grievous and staggering blow; also, of course, a treacherous and spiritually impotent one — as befits the Jihad. It was not a blow delivered against the American fighting man. Against him the Jihad has generally withered or taken flight. We demean the word by calling what happened on September 11th a battle. It was a blow delivered against men and women the great majority of whom never had even a moment to contemplate self-defense. That some Americans — who we venerate today where their remains lie, in the wide fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania — gave battle to these brigands, and in the end conquered them by thwarting their conspiracy, shows indeed their valor, but does not grant their murderers the honor of the title Soldier.

The Towers fell; the Pentagon burned. It was a perfect expression of the Jihad. The guilt of its victims, according to doctrine, was fixed by their unbelief. America stood as the citadel and champion of Infidelity. There could be no innocents there.

And so honor, innocence, charity, kindness, courage, nobility, valor — all must kneel at the feet of the obligation of the Jihad to smash up the powers of Infidelity. America is the greatest of those powers. Whatever our foreign policy, whatever the character of our statesmen — still we shall attract, at least for the time being, the boldest stratagems, the cleverest sedition, the cruelest bloodlust of the Jihad.

Our countrymen perished in the flames of this wicked system, this terrible institution of Jihad. Today we remember them, we honor them, we lift up those who mourn them in prayer; and we steel ourselves for the day when the Jihad will try again.

September 12, 2008

Murder, Perfection, and Telling White Lies

When I say that I think it is wrong to vote for a Presidential candidate who supports the murder of innocents, including John McCain, people often respond as if they haven't heard what I said. A fairly typical response is that if I expect "perfection" in a candidate there will never be a candidate I can support, as if I had said that a candidate who would answer "no" to the question "does this dress make me look fat?" would be disqualified by taking that position. Lying is, after all, intrinsically immoral. But somehow "doesn't support the murder of innocents" has come to be equated with perfection in our politics.

There is a message in there for those who can hear, it seems to me.

As Evangelium Vitae tells us, there is a very basic contradiction at work when government officials support the killing of the innocent. Protection of the innocent from murder is fundamental to what a legitimate government is. A government which actively pursues the murder of the innocent is not merely doing something wicked: it is negating its own essence, destroying its very reason for being, indeed destroying its own being.

When we vote in national politics, what we are primarily doing - irrespective of what we think we are doing - is expressing our civic loyalty, our affirmation of the legitimacy of the governance which emerges from the election. My individual vote or deliberate abstention, as I have observed to much wailing and gnashing of teeth, is simply not going to affect the outcome of this election. Basing a moral choice on the idea that my vote can change the outcome is lunacy.

What my vote or abstention will affect is me: as a concrete act of civic duty it will express and even change the kind of citizen I am, and the nature of my commitment to the common good. When I am voting for a good politician - not a perfect politician, but one who at least minimally does not support the murder of the innocent - that is a good thing. When I vote for a politician who supports the murder of the innocent, I have contradicted every legitimate proportionate reason there might be to vote in the first place.


September 13, 2008

"You're free to choose--Just don't do anything I wouldn't do."

Via Secondhand Smoke comes a particularly odious and ominous Canadian reaction to the Palin nomination. Our neighbors to the North sometimes do seem to be somewhat more advanced in the disciplines of the culture of death even than Americans.

But others fear Ms. Palin's emergence as a parental role model sends a different message. As a vocal opponent of abortion, Ms. Palin's widely discussed decision to keep her baby, knowing he would be born with the condition, may inadvertently influence other women who may lack the necessary emotional and financial support to do the same, according to André Lalonde, executive vice-president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.

Lalonde tries to cast this as a matter of making women "free to choose."

Dr. Lalonde said that above all else, women must be free to choose, and that popular messages to the contrary could have detrimental effects on women and their families.

"The worry is that this will have an implication for abortion issues in Canada," he said.

But is that really what it is about? Look at the previous paragraph. Lalonde is evidently unhappy at the thought that the poor might get all excited by Sarah Palin as a role model and might fail to abort their Down's Syndrome children, despite the fact that, in his view, they lack the "emotional and financial support" to be capable of raising a Down's Syndrome child. (Adoption, I note, is not even in the menu of choices.) God forbid Sarah Palin should "inadvertently" influence anyone not to kill a Down's Syndrome child. My own suspicion is that she wishes deliberately to influence people in that direction, which would no doubt make Dr. Lalonde even more unhappy.

Later in the article, advocates for the disabled tell how women pregnant with Down's Syndrome children are given a one-sided view of the matter and thus pressured to abort. Dr. Lalonde is indignant at the suggestion, but he's already tipped his hand.

Giving women balanced information about the potential consequences of either decision does not mean they are being encouraged to abort their pregnancies, Dr. Lalonde said.

"We offer the woman the choice. We try to be as unbiased as possible," he said. "We're coming down to a moral decision and we all know moral decisions are personal decisions."

Yeah right. Just don't do anything he wouldn't do.

September 14, 2008

There May Be Other Sources of Meat, Redux

I and a few others have elicited skeptical responses to the notion that being McCain's vice president may end up ruining Sarah Palin. In fact, just being his running mate is bringing forth the early signs. Via Stony Creek Digest we get a little preview of things to come:

GIBSON: Embryonic stem cell research, John McCain has been supportive of it.

PALIN: You know, when you’re running for office, your life is an open book and you do owe it to Americans to talk about your personal opinion, which may end up being different than what the policy in an administration would be. My personal opinion is we should not create human life, create an embryo and then destroy it for research, if there are other options out there[*]… And thankfully, again, not only are there other options, but we’re getting closer and closer to finding a tremendous amount more of options, like, as I mentioned, the adult stem cell research.

Echoing her new boss, we learn from Mrs. Palin that it is good that we may not have to eat children, after all, because there may be other sources of meat.

I can only imagine what eight years of being McCain's vice president may do to this very promising and potentially formidable pro life politician. I again reiterate that the best thing for Sarah Palin, and the best thing for us with respect to Sarah Palin's future as an American politician, may be a McCain loss.

UPDATE: And the hits keep on coming. Also courtesy of Jeff Culbreath, McCain-Palin have a new radio ad, which goes:

They’re the original mavericks. Leaders. Reformers. Fighting for real change. John McCain will lead his Congressional allies to improve America’s health.
  • Stem cell research to unlock the mystery of cancer, diabetes, heart disease.

  • Stem cell research to help free families from the fear and devastation of illness.

  • Stem cell research to help doctors repair spinal cord damage, knee injuries, serious burns.

  • Stem cell research to help stroke victims.
And, John McCain and his Congressional allies will invest millions more in new NIH medical research to prevent disease. Medical breakthroughs to help you get better, faster. Change is coming.

McCain-Palin and Congressional allies. The leadership and experience to really change Washington and improve your health.

Paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee.

Now that's just about all you can eat.

[*] - In the video, Mrs. Palin emphasizes this phrase.


September 15, 2008

Sharia Law Comes to the U.K.

Via Rod Dreher, Sharia courts, the judgments of which are enforceable through the established legal system, have been established in several British cities.

The emergence of such paradoxically parallel yet established Islamic legal systems is a threat several orders of magnitude more severe than that of mere terrorist attacks, for the latter, by their very barbarity, summon forth resistance and denunciation, while the former, by insinuating themselves into the dense skein of civil society, become parts of society without which it is no longer possible to think of that society. They become, in another paradox, organic, woven into the very tapestry of order, of relationships, of societal customs, their very obscenity enabled by the enfeebling multiculturalist dogmas of our age. The more contradictory, the more monstrous the Other is - if I might paraphrase Lawrence Auster - the more we feel ourselves obliged to incorporate that Other into our civilizational substance.

No war on distant shores will deliver us from this threat; it is a threat that can only be addressed by means of domestic action, domestic reforms. We of the West must change ourselves, and not, as Dick Cheney would have it, change them, because we will not change ourselves.

September 16, 2008

Can't We All Just Vote Along?

Nobody seems to agree with me that an individual act of voting is negligible to the outcome of a national election, and that therefore any double-effect evaluation of a particular choice to vote or not vote for president must hinge on other considerations. I guess I must just be crazy not to see the profound impact it has, which acts as the proportionate reason justifying remote material cooperation with grave evil.

But perhaps there is at least a middle ground position that we can agree on, even if we don't agree on the margins.

Suppose I were to suggest that people who do not live in swing states do not have a proportionate reason to vote for McCain/Palin. Can't we all at least agree to that? Does anyone who does not live in a swing state have an objectively proportionate reason to vote for a cannibal for President?


September 17, 2008

Double Non-Effect

A difficulty in recent discussions is that many folks are treating human acts as if they were an analog radio signal of effects and only effects which can be gradually attenuated down to nothing. They aren't. An act either categorically is deliberate remote material cooperation with grave evil, or it is not. It takes a certain minimum movement of the will to act at all.

If an act is deliberate remote material cooperation with grave evil at all, it can only be justified in the presence of a proportionate reason. And if the act is causally negligible with respect to the very outcomes which the person is analyzing under double effect in order to justify it, then a proportionate reason does not exist.

The contemplated act might be justifiable under some other understanding, of course. But it cannot be justified by appealing to double-effect with respect to outcomes upon which it has causally negligible effect.


September 20, 2008

The Parable of the Dollar Auction

A guy walks into a bar.

He slaps a $100 bill on the table and says "I'm auctioning off this $100 bill. Bidding starts at a dollar. The only rule is that the next highest losing bidder has to pay me too."

Bill and Ted can't help themselves. Bill would love to have some extra money to donate to Catholic Answers, and Ted is planning on using the proceeds to renew his subscription to Commonweal. A hundred smackers with bidding starting at a buck? What's not to like about that?

So Bill bids a dollar. Ted tops him by bidding $2. (Heck, who wouldn't put $2 on the line for a hundred?)

When the bidding gets up to $99, something interesting happens. Bill realizes that he is out $98 if he doesn't bid $100, but if he bids $100 he can still break even. Being Catholic, he consults the USCCB document on game theory. It says something to the effect that if he has a proportionate reason it is fine to make a decision to limit his losses. It doesn't mention Martin Shubik.

So he bids $100. Then Ted realizes that if he bids $101, he will only be out a buck instead of $99.

And so it goes. At some point the knife fight starts.


The Fallacy of the Clickable Universe

(Some straight-up philosophy of religion for your weekend.)

When philosophers talk about the Problem of Evil (aka "the POE"), they sometimes cast the question like this: "Why did God create a universe in which Adam chose to sin rather than a different universe in which Adam did not choose to sin? Was there no possible universe God could have created in which Adam did not choose to sin?" Then they go on to discuss these questions.

I think this is a confusing way for philosophers to cast the issue.

Continue reading "The Fallacy of the Clickable Universe" »

September 24, 2008

What We're Reading--A Severe Mercy

I've recently re-read Sheldon Vanauken's beautiful book, A Severe Mercy. The Wikipedia articles on Vanauken and the book itself are fairly accurate, as far as they go, and linking them moves us past the most general introduction for those who have never heard of the book.

It is said that every man has one good book in him. A Severe Mercy was that book for Vanauken. The writing is often lyrical. The delicately-written prologue draws you into the story with a third-person account of Vanauken's last visit to his family home, which he calls Glenmerle, by that time owned by strangers. He goes there at night like a ghost himself to say farewell not only to the family estate but also to the ghost of his wife, who has recently died.

A Severe Mercy is the story of a great love. You don't have to agree with everything the young lovers think or do. In fact, as it is an autobiographical book written by one of the no-longer-young lovers in hindsight, after his wife's death, he himself doesn't agree with everything they thought or did. But you cannot read the book with a receptive mind and come away a cynic. At every re-reading I am reminded that young love is one of the greatest and most beautiful gifts God has given to mankind.

Continue reading "What We're Reading--A Severe Mercy" »

September 25, 2008

Have economic questions; will listen to answers

Every once in a while I find myself asking questions to which I don't know the answers. For instance,

*To whom do we owe the National Debt?

*Who is the "we" that owes it? All the American people? The American government?

*Can whoever it is to whom we owe it foreclose on whomever it is that owes it?

[*Should that be "whoever it is that owes it" in that last question?]

*What would a foreclosure on the National Debt look like?

*Could we all wake up tomorrow and discover that our entire country is now owned and ruled directly by China, which has foreclosed on the National Debt?

These are not smart alecky questions, to which I already know the answer. (Well, okay, so maybe the last one is a smart alecky question to which I already know the answer. The answer is "no."...Right?)

But actually, for all the others, I really don't know the answers. But I bet my blog colleagues and readers do.

September 27, 2008

Back to the Future

From The New York Times, September 30, 1999:

In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.

"From the perspective of many people, including me, this is another thrift industry growing up around us," said Peter Wallison a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. "If they fail, the government will have to step up and bail them out the way it stepped up and bailed out the thrift industry."

(HT: View from the Right)

September 29, 2008



Today, September 29, is the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, known in Merry Old England as Michaelmas. Michaelmas really is one of my favorite feastdays, and it seems particularly appropriate to us here at What's Wrong with the World, because the whole point of the reading for this feast is that the good guys do win in the end, and by battle, too, but that sometimes the ultimate victory takes a while. Here is the entire (exceedingly cool) reading for today from Revelation.

The Book of Revelation, the twelfth chapter, beginning at the seventh verse:

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the eath and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."

Continue reading "Michaelmas" »

Up The Creekonomics

I've been asked to summarize my opinions on the economic crisis. Most of what is here is buried in this thread, indeed this post is mainly an edit of some of the most important (to my mind) of those comments into a summary here, with some new material. I apologize in advance for the length.

First, coming up with an accurate narrative on how we got into this mess will be difficult, not because everyone is wrong about what caused it, but because nearly everyone is right. That is, most of the suggestions for contributing causes are true, and most of the attempts to dismiss contributing causes proposed by others are not valid. To pick on just one example, it is definitely true that pressure from the Clinton administration on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy sub prime loans to mostly poor mostly minorities was a contributing cause. But it hardly stops there, and indeed even if we took that out of the picture entirely it is not clear that the crisis would not have arisen nonetheless. I honestly don't want to even get into the clash of narratives - again, not so much because everyone is wrong as because everyone is right, and life is too short for that kind of flame war.

Continue reading "Up The Creekonomics" »

September 30, 2008

A Tale of Gold and Lead

Suppose we have ten thousands banks, and each of those banks has in its possession a thousand bags of metal. Somewhere around eighty percent of the bags are known to contain gold. Somewhere around twenty percent contain lead. These percentages are not hard and fast, but they are roughly good numbers.

Each bag of gold is worth $100,000, and each bag of lead is worthless, so on average there is $80,000,000 dollars worth of metal at each bank. But that is on average, over all 10,000 banks. The bags cannot be opened except over a lengthy and arduous process which takes years.

The distribution of lead and gold amongst the banks is entirely unknown, but it is definitely not uniform. It is not even entirely clear how many bags a given bank has. If I bought up all the bags from a given bank, or even a given cluster of banks, I could easily end up with all lead. On the other hand, I could just as easily end up with all gold. Most likely I would end up with some mix, but the percentages could easily be radically skewed one way or another. Buying up all the bags from a given bank is a crap shoot: an eighty million dollar crap shoot, on average.

On the other hand, if I have a large enough amount of capital to buy up all of the bags from all of the banks, it is perfectly reasonable for me to expect that 70% to 90% of them will contain gold. If I can buy bags on the open market for $20 right now, that represents a very good investment opportunity; only if I can buy substantially all of them. If I can buy them all, it is even well worth it for me to take out a loan to buy them all, because I only have to pay a couple of percent on the loan whereas my returns on the portfolio will most likely be quite a lot higher. It is a surer bet than (say) buying a house with a mortgage. If I only have enough capital to (say) buy up the bags of one bank, on the other hand, I am basically rolling the dice on my own solvency.

In a nutshell, that is why the federal government can afford to buy up these assets as a responsible transaction, effectively not costing the taxpayers a thing, and far smaller market players are incapable of doing the same thing.

In a peashell, size does matter.

And notice, please, that this does not even take into consideration any salutary external or strategic effects; for example, say, preventing credit lockup and halting a financial downturn on the order of the Great Depression.