When Government Works

Our government justifiably gets a lot of criticism for what it does wrong. But sometimes government gets things right, and this is rarely recognized or acknowledged. So I'd like to highlight a small example from my own life.

I closed on a house this morning--a process that was markedly different than when I last bought a house in 2003. One of the most pleasant ways in which it was different was the ease of shopping for a loan. This was the result of new HUD rules standardizing what lenders must disclose to buyers in their Good Faith Estimate to make it easier for buyers to compare offers, which it certainly was for me. In 2003, I remember poring over lenders' estimates for hours trying to spot the junk fees and figure out which deal was best. This time the key factors--interested rate, lender fees, etc.--were easy to spot because the forms were identical. It took all of three minutes to figure out which was the best deal and then to call the other lenders to ask if they could do better. I'm sure HUD didn't plant this part, but the giveaway that I'd found the best deal I was going to get came when another lender stopped competing and started trying to convince me that it was a bad idea to go with the winner because the bank had received TARP money. I laughed out loud. ...And then I wondered if that actually works on people? 

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Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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