The Glass-Steagall Act (1933) was a durable piece of legislation, pork-bellying-up to the bar the same year prohibition drained away. Among its transparent virtues, Glass-Steagall established the FDIC to protect consumers and prevent the kinds of runs on banks that exacerbated the Great Depression. It also mandated the separation of investment banks from the commercial sort, with an eye toward eliminating a dangerous conflict of interest. The law lasted 66 years, enjoying a front row seat at the most mesmerizing show of economic growth in world history. It was 34 pages long.
The ersatz Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (2010), signed into law eleven years after Glass-Steagall’s repeal, also goes for the gold meddle. But it’s 2300 pages long, a paper habitat large enough for lawyers to live in for years without food or water. The congressmen may or may not have been familiar with Pascal’s famous lament: “I’m sorry this is so long; I didn’t have time to make it shorter.”
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