“A Free Market Economy” Is a Terrible Excuse 

It's nearly impossible for members of Congress to trade stocks without privileged information. Why should we let them trade stocks at all?

Recently, a reporter asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi if she’d support a prohibition on members of Congress trading stocks:

“No. We’re a free market economy,” Pelosi said. “They should be able to participate in that.”

Frankly? No, no, they shouldn’t. It’s very clear that Congresspeople have used knowledge the general public doesn’t have to acrue wealth, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. This may or may not be illegal, but it is most certainly distasteful. It ought to be beneath us all, and we shouldn’t accept it as reasonable.

Serving as a member of Congress is an honor and a privilege. It would be completely reasonable to enact a law that prevents those holding these positions of power from trading stocks. Upon entering Congress, assets could be placed in a blind trust and invested in index funds. If the country did well, those assets would increase in value in kind. We can find 535 competent people willing to forgo the ability to daytrade while they have their hands on the levers of power.

Meanwhile, in a related story, the folks at Insider did some incredible work. Dealing with shockingly terrible computer systems, they were able to determine how Congresspeople and congressional aides are failing to comply with financial conflict-of-interest laws.