January 25, 2006

Paradox Unleashed

posted by Will Wilson @ 2:15 pm

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has long made hay via nearly unlimited access to defendants’ internal documents, data, and communications. Now, in an overdue turnabout, Mr. Hank Greenberg demands the same look into Mr. Spitzer’s own file cabinet. Last week, Mr. Greenberg won the privilege of seeing the AIG internal review that led to his dismissal.

Even the most scrupulous human is prone to human errors. An infinite number of monkeys digging through an infinite number of file cabinets will eventually discover the “smoking gun”—though, in SpizterWorld, the “smoking gun” is often more smoke than gun. Rifling through Spitzer’s drawers will undoubtedly unveil some of the same intraoffice slips, gaffes, and indecencies with which Spitzer has heretofore hung others.

As a one-time lesson to General Spitzer, we applaud Mr. Greenberg’s action. However, as a long-term instruction for all of us, we should note that unlimited review of internal information—whether it be government searching a business (or individual) or a business searching government—will be, most of all, COSTLY. More improprieties will certainly be found, but the sheer bulk hours of review, not to mention the compliance and opportunity cost, will cripple both government and business.

Let’s call a cease-and-desist on the whole shotgun subpoenae enterprise. But you don’t have to take our word for it; you can play the St. Petersburg Paradox yourself.