Taxpayer support for big companies
What would you think about lending a few bob to a giant FTSE-100 company?
And when I say "you", I mean all of us, as taxpayers.
Because the next phase in the government's attempt to stem the contraction of credit - that pernicious trend that's driven us into recession - will probably be to put a "sovereign wrap" around bonds and tradable paper issued by big companies.
It's the unfinished business of the Treasury and the Business Department, likely to be unveiled later this month, following the £11bn package of guarantees for bank loans to smaller businesses unveiled yesterday.
Broadly, taxpayers would be guaranteeing loans made to companies by pension funds, mutual funds, insurers and other financial institutions.
And the idea would be to funnel the cash in these funds to the biggest 350 or so British companies.
One reason for doing this is that we're about to see a big bulge in the maturing of loans to companies. As I pointed out in the post "2009 is payback year", for European companies in aggregate there's a trillion dollars of bonds that have to be repaid or rolled over during the coming 12 months.
And although the corporate bond markets have recovered a bit in the past few weeks (the putative "green shoots" which Shrita Vadera now wishes she hadn't pointed out), we as taxpayers are probably going to have to lease our creditworthiness to companies, in order to persuade big investors to back those companies in sufficient size and at the right price.
Which means that the £600bn of loans, guarantees and capital provided to date by British taxpayers directly to our banks would be augmented by substantial guarantees from us for borrowing by giant businesses.
In this instance, we'd be following where that recent convert to the alleged benefits of massive state intervention, George Bush's America, has been leading. In the US, there's already colossal support from taxpayers for corporate borrowing from investors in the form of commercial paper - with the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, buying the stuff and acting as de facto market maker.
As I noted in "The New Capitalism", the social, cultural, political and economic implications of the growing dependence of the private sector on the state and on taxpayers will be profound.
If you knew that you were lending to the vendor of your knickers, or the provider of your broadband service, would that change your attitude to them?
As swathes of the private sector receive vital financial support from taxpayers, the balance of power between citizen and big business will change. But for better, or for worse?