If Milken’s Bonds Are “Junk” then Yunis’ Microloans Are “Junk” Too

(p. 167) The world owes a debt of gratitude to Mike Milken and his creative team. Did some people go too far? Yes. Did some of them take advantage of the freer flow of capital and end up doing more damage than good? Sure. But markets are messy. Major shifts in the flow of capital often lead to periods of excess before the pendulum swings back and equilibrium is restored. Mike Milken and his team made a major contribution to today’s market atmosphere of high liquidity, which in turn has also helped lift the world’s poor out of poverty. Today the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh has created microloans for mothers living on $2 a day. And that won Grameen the Nobel Prize. The Nobel Committee didn’t call microloans “junk” debt.

Wyly, Sam. 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire. New York: Newmarket Press, 2008.

One thought on “If Milken’s Bonds Are “Junk” then Yunis’ Microloans Are “Junk” Too”

  1. I’ll admit some degree of ignorance concerning Mike Milken beyond what a quick wikipedia glance tells me, but I’m fairly familiar with Yunus (I thought there were interesting ideas in both of his books “Banker to the Poor” and “Creating a World Without Poverty”). The idea of using social pressure to “enforce” a certain behavior (in this case, motivating poor borrowers with no collateral) is one of the great strides in economics.
    I had the great pleasure to meet and have drinks with economist John List in DC a few years back and I got to pick his brain about similar experiments he was doing with disadvantaged youth in Chicago in an effort to incentivize academic performance as well as disincentivize teen pregnancy. I don’t know if he has published his findings yet, but it was fascinating stuff to talk about.
    But when we talk about anything in finance, even if people are actually being helped, a lot of otherwise well-meaning people balk at the idea that things like “interest” are introduced or the possibility that the money is returned to the lender. I think it creates a bit of cognitive dissonance with them: we don’t help people by just handing them something–you help them by empowering and motivating them. But that makes some people extremely uncomfortable and it’s too bad because there aren’t any shortcuts out of poverty.

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