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This blog post originally appeared on
on March 5 at 8:17 a.m. EST.
An important role in public policy is to manage a downturn. But what about the private sector? Does it have, or should it have, a more important role or obligation?
In his magnum opus,
, John Maynard Keynes wrote about the "
," also called the "Paradox of Savings."
Keynes' "Paradox of Thrift" suggests that while saving may be a private virtue, it is a public vice. According to Keynes, when an individual saves, it is a healthy phenomenon, but a community that seeks to increase its rate of saving would end up impoverishing itself and actually saving less, resulting in a catastrophic negative feedback loop and a downward spiral in economic activity.
Corporations respond in kind, and generally reduce their expense bases, cutting capital programs and reducing workforces. In turn, retail sales and housing activity plummets. (By contrast, when the community increases its consumption at the expense of saving, it ends up being richer and saving more.)
last night on "The Kudlow Report," my
to the private sector is a bold one, but it is simple in content.
- Isn't it time for the private sector to adopt a shared responsibility and to think more creatively about the present and future?
- Isn't it time for some large publicly held corporations, with strong balance sheets and good reputations as corporate citizens, to draw a line in the sand?
- Isn't it time for one of these corporations to start a precedent by telling its employees that, despite the weak economic backdrop and continuing economic uncertainty, there will be no more firings and that these corporations are prepared to take a hit for the benefit of the broader society?
My proposal would start by asking the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, one of the most revered industrialists extant, to make the commitment that
would immediately freeze firings at his subsidiary companies.
Then, on the next day, I would ask
Robert Iger to do the same.
Hopefully, by day three, other corporations would voluntarily catch on by making a public commitment to cease reducing workforces, and, in the fullness of time, the proposal would be adopted by many more.
Consider the positive effect of my proposal on consumer confidence.
It would be mind-boggling.
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At the time of publication, Kass and/or his funds were long Disney, although holdings can change at any time.
Doug Kass is founder and president of Seabreeze Partners Management, Inc., and the general partner and investment manager of Seabreeze Partners Short LP and Seabreeze Partners Long/Short LP.