Before reading Viewpoint pieces in the Sunday Business section, it often pays to look first at the little box stating the background of the author. If the author happens to be an academic economist, you know you're in for a real treat.
Case in point: Prof. David Felix's proposal--not even a modest one--to resolve the Latin American debt fiasco by expropriating (for that's what it amounts to) the assets held in the United States by the citizens of the defaulting countries ("Take Action Against Flight of Latin Capital," May 18).
Of course, Felix doesn't call it "expropriation." He calls it a "capital exchange": Latin American nationals surrender their assets in the United States for local currency "bonds." If that's such a good deal, maybe Felix would be willing to take his salary in Mexican pesos. No? I wonder why. Some Latin Americans, it seems, had a better understanding of the fiscal integrity and competence of their own governments than the econo-wizards from Citibank, Bank of America, et al. While the gringos were glibly committing all of their capital in "no-risk" loans to those governments, many private citizens were bailing out. For, say, a dentist in Cuernavaca to know more than a graduate economist must strike Felix as a form of lese majeste . How else can one rationalize the preposterous program he has propounded?
It was to the governments of these countries--with their long history of fiscal and political chaos--that the mega-banks made the loans. Let them look to those governments for repayment.
GEORGE J. LEHMANN