Bankers and responsibility
A heavy burden is on the shoulders of Jamie Dimon - as probably the only American banker of seniority whose reputation has not been smashed to smithereens by the crash of '08.
Unlike so many of his battered peers, the chairman of JP Morgan has had the courage (or chutzpah?) to show his mug in Davos. And, by all accounts, he's been saying worryingly sensible things in those private bankers' meetings that are being held to provide finance ministers and government heads with the financial industry's view on how to save the global economy.
I am told that at the World Economic Forum's so-called governors' meeting yesterday - in which the banks, brokers, private equity firms and hedge funds tried to draw up a common agenda for reform - he warned against placing too much faith in the possible creation of a central clearing system for financial transactions between banks.
The proponents of such a system believe that it would restore confidence to inter-bank lending - which has been sadly lacking for most of the past 18 months and has been a massive contributor to the implosion of the global machine for creating credit.
The reason it could restore confidence is that it would involve the establishment of what's known as a central counterparty, which would in effect insure banks against loss if another bank was unable to honour commitments.
If there were a central counterparty, fnancial institutions that lend to each other would have less reason to fear that - in extremis - they could not get their money back.
Which would appeal to most bankers (as if you needed telling), especially in this era of high anxiety.
Except that Dimon posed the question whether it would really be sensible to reduce the requirement for bankers to think long and hard about who they're lending to and why.
After all, the mess we're in stems from bankers placing too much faith in computer models and the opinion of third-party credit-rating agencies when deciding where to make their loans and investments.
The debt bubble that precipitated the current debt drought and global recession was caused in large part by bankers abdicating their very basic responsibility to know their borrowers properly and to assess whether these borrowers had the remotest chance of being able to repay their debts.
So if we're going to try to prevent bankers messing up our economy again, do we want them to take greater responsibility for their actions, or less?
Surely in the new world economic order which will be built - though Davos has been disappointingly short of coherent visions of what will be constructed from the rubble - we need bankers to know their customers and to propely evaluate the risks of lending.
But the more that they're insured against losses on lending, the less incentive they will have to lend responsibly.
Which brings us to the Great Paradox (capital "G", capital "P") of our government's measures to restore the flow of credit to real businesses and households.
All of these schemes involve taxpayers' insuring away some of the risks for banks and financial institutions of lending and investing.
In respect of new lending, this is the effect of the Bank of England's new asset purchase scheme, the proposed state guarantee for asset-backed securities, and assorted guarantees for bank lending to businesses.
Taxpayers are even taking on the liability for banks' dodgy old loans and investments, through the establishment of the new public sector insurer of banks' toxic debts, which should probably be christened "The Imprudential".
In other words it is explicit government policy to reduce bankers' responsibility for their actions, their lending, even more than was already the pernicious case.
We're in this mess because too much was lent by too many in a wholly irresponsible way.
And ministers are now encouraging more of this lending by further reducing the responsibility of the lenders for their actions.
It's the economic policy equivalent of curing a drug addict by giving the addict a prescription for the drug of choice.
It might work. Or it might just make our economy's dependence on unsustainably high levels of debt even worse - and thus cause us even more pain when we're ultimately weaned off the addiction.
UPDATE: Here are some thoughts of mine from today's The World at One on how banks could become "good" again.