Economist, blogger and former IMF head economist Simon Johnson makes a compelling case here (originally from the NY Times) that what we have  is a failure to regulate, moderate or in any way impose meaningful rules. Let me ask… do  any of the following key points, borrowed more-or-less directly from Johnson’s post, sound even vaguely familiar when talking about truly mammoth companies?

     ● In many cases big firms did well because they used unfair tactics to crush their competition

     ● Even well-run businesses became immensely powerful politically as they grew.

     ● There was a blatant attempt to use the political power of big banks to shape the financial playing field in ways that would help them

And by now I’m sure that the most common reaction might be something along the lines of “No kiddin’ Pollyanna. Welcome to 2010. There’s no getting anything past you, is there?”

Well, the neat little trick here is that Johnson’s talking about the last Gilded Age, about a century ago, rather than the current Gilded Age that’s just wrapping up… oh… right about now…

So I’m curious – what do you suppose the likelihood is that we might be able to find a reformer willing to take on this sort of concentrated power? A modern-day Teddy Roosevelt, as it were? Because make no mistake – if our experiment with a free market economy is going to continue, perhaps the biggest single requirement is a more-or-less open and fair market – and a champion to lead the charge for one.

The great shame, of course, is that we might have already had just such an individual warming up in the wings.

Except, of course, he appears to have fallen victim to his inability to keep it in his pants – possibly combined with a truly excellent frame job.