I once met a European who preferred America to Great Britain because our language "has fewer words."

I would guess that's why many Americans like it here, too..

We're a nation that perks up around a phrase-slinger like Ross Perot and glazes over in the company of circumspect characters like Alan Greenspan.

Mr. Perot is a sound-biter extraodinaire, a marvelous spinner of pithy electric-shock statements that slice to the heart of the matter in milliseconds.

Ambiguity of an Oracle

The Federal Reserve chairman, in contrast, is prone to deliver ornately constructed, polysemous pronouncements that few people have the patience to unravel.

It's pity, because some very serious warnings about the banking system issued by the Fed chief of late have been relegated mostly to the inside pages of newspapers. If delivered with pith, they probably would have made it onto the front pages.

Let me translate some Greenspan-ese into Perot-ese to show you what I mean:

Mr. Greenspan said this in a May 26 speech in Dallas:

"While the short-to intermediate-term prospects for the industry should not give us cause for concern, I am less sanguine about the long run."

Mr. Perot might put it this way:

"You hear that gurgling sound? We're flushing our banking system down the toilet. Woosh, out into the ocean. Chicken coops in Arkansas get better treatment."

|Allocative Efficiency' Woes

Mr. Greenspan: "Public policy, in my view, should be concerned with the decline in the importance of banking. To the extent that market forces are displacing the intermediation function of banks, economic efficiency is not being impaired; but to the extent that unnecessary laws and regulations are responsible for the decline, there is a significant reduction in allocative efficiency associated with preventing banking companies from fully exercising their abilities to underwrite and manage risk."

Translation: "Congress doesn't know a gosh darn thing about high finance other than raising tax loot and then throwing it away on honey subsidies. They've mucked up the banking system so bad, loan officers are afraid to do their jobs. There are business out there withering on the vine because they can't borrow a buck."

Mr. Greenspan: "As the non-banking sector expands relative to the banking sector -- because of artificial legal barriers to bank expansion -- human resources, physical assets, and capital must be reallocated to the nonbank sector.

"The transaction costs of this reallocation are not trivial. Further, the banking sector loses the opportunity to fully diversify its activities in a way that may permit it to move toward the risk-reward frontier rather than remain inside it."

Cleaning Their Clock

Mr. Perot: "Finance companies and brokerage firms are leaving the banking industry in the dust. There's a horse race, but Congress has tied the defending champ to the post.

"That's why you read in the papers about hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs in bank mergers and closings. It will get a lot worse unless we untie the banks, give them some new powers, and let them run."

Mr. Greenspan: "Finally, and most importantly, the consumers of financial services are denied the lower prices, increased access, and higher-quality services that would accompany the increased competition associated with permitting banking companies to expand their activities."

Translation: "John Q. Public is getting ripped off because these other players are charging top dollar for products the banks arn't allowed to offer. It's silly, like letting one man in town sell all the chickens but not any of the eggs.

"So the consumer has to go off looking elsewhere for the eggs. Free up the banks.. Let's behave like a market economy, not some lunkheaded Soviet regime."

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