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Government Equity in Private Companies_A Bad Idea_Becker_10-05-08

Government Equity in Private Companies_A Bad Idea_Becker_10-05-08

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1 Government Equity in Private Companies: A Bad Idea By Gary Becker The Federal government of the United States has seldom taken an equity interest in private companies, although this has been proposed sometimes, especially as a way to get higher returns on social security assets. However, the new financial bailout bill provides not only for the government to buy assets from banks, but that it also take an equity stake in the banks being helped. The purpose is to protect the government from paying too much for the many difficult to value assets that are acquired. The thinking is that if they overpay for some assets, they can make that back through a rise in the value of the stock or other equity interest that they would have. However, the main purpose of the buyout is to increase the liquidity of the banking system and thereby reduce the banking system’s retreat from riskier investments. Yet the government's actions regarding an equity interest seem to be based on a fear that it will be outsmarted in the prices it pays for assets that are very difficult to value because they have no market. Whether the government will lose after the fact is not clear since it can afford to hold the assets to maturity. Moreover, taking an equity interest is also unnecessary in order to protect taxpayers from overpaying. Modern auction theory offers various ways
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