Geithner versus Darling
Timothy Geithner's partnership with the private sector to buy impaired assets is considerably less ambitious than Alistair Darling's asset protection scheme.
That can be seen from the crude numbers.
The British chancellor is providing insurance against losses on more than £600bn of poor loans and imprudent investments held by just two banks.
Geithner, the US Treasury Secretary, is helping to fund the purchase by newly-created investment funds of £350bn of such assets held by all US banks - though the total could rise to double that.
Even allowing for important differences between the two schemes, such as how the assets are valued and what share of loss goes automatically to the private sector, there's little doubt that in this instance, US taxpayers are less at risk of loss than British taxpayers - which is another way of saying that it represents a more modest "bailout" (to use the emotive phrase).
Geithner seems to be hoping that the mere existence of buyers for these hard-to-sell assets will lead to a rise in their market price, thus strengthening US banks' balance sheets even if the banks retain the relevant assets.
In that sense, his scheme is smaller than the UK's and is more market-based (and see this morning's note for a broader evaluation of the US and UK initiatives to restart bank lending).
But it'll be a bit eggy for Geithner if it turns out that he can't persuade private-sector funds to stump up even the relatively modest amount of readies he wants from them.
As Stephanie Flanders says, the two governments are attempting to skin the same elusive feline with different techniques. Which is better?
My hero Harry Hill would say: "there's only one way to find out - FIGHT!"
If the contest is in the stock market's reaction, today's bounce in share prices looks good for Geithner.
But it will take months to determine whether either the US scheme or the UK one - or both - has at last brought a bit more vital certainty to the valuation of banks and their assets.
It's certainly worth noting that the British insurance scheme has had a very positive impact on Lloyds' share price, which has risen almost 50% over the past fortnight or so.
Unless there's a sudden and unexpected reversal in Lloyds' share price, the new shares it is selling may not after all end up being dumped on taxpayers: they may be bought by mainstream, private-sector investors and the state could yet remain with a stake in Lloyds of less than 50%.