The Wall Street Journal's Heard on the Street column argues that General Electric should be subject to an even more obtrusive federal regulatory regime than Rep. Barney Frank, the liberal Democrat who heads the House Financial Services Committee, thinks the company deserves. The Journal's first argument is that "it creates a level playing field; Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and American Express all had to convert into bank-holding companies last year."
This confuses equality of opportunity with equality of result. A level playing field is one that gives all companies an equal opportunity to become bank holding companies if the company decides that the advantages to its shareholders of such a structure, such as access to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program, outweigh the disadvantages, such as more government regulation. What the Journal column proposes is a playing field. a field on which if some of the players choose the bank holding company structure, the other players are forced to follow. That isn't a level playing field, but a playing field that is tilted toward more government regulation.