Two days of congressional hearings have failed to diagnose what went wrong with the silver market last month, but they have yielded half a dozen proposed cures of the silver fever.
The prescriptions will be bitter medicine for the nation's commodity markets, which until now have not had to stomach much federal regulation.
Yesterday the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, James Stone, added his own treatments to those suggested on Monday by his counterpart at the securities and Exchange Commission, Harold Williams.
Some of the Stone's and Williams' suggestions are aimed directly at curtailing speculators like Nelson Bunker and W. Herbert Hunt, who came close to cornering the market in silver.
Much of what they are recommending to Congress, however, has nothing to do with silver or the Hunts.
The silver scare has given the federal authorities an opportunity to push for broad investor protection measures and fundamental market reforms that until now found little support on Capitol Hill.
The Federal Reserve Board and the Treasury department are also using the silver situation to promote their own commodity market remedies.
Breaking with the other three commissioners, Stone said yesterday he favors giving the Federal reserve authority to regulate the amount of money an investor must put up to buy a futures contract.
He also called for federal limits on the amount of holdings of individual commodity speculators, to prevent someone like the Hunts from buying huge amounts of products and driving up the price.
Advocating another proposal already rejected by the CFTC, Stone called for adopting a "customer suitability rule" for commodity investors. Meant to keep unsophisticated investors out of the risky business, the rule would make it the responsibility of commodity brokers to assure that futures are a "suitable investment" for their clients.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has such a rule for investing in stock, and SEC Chairman Williams said Monday he thinks it should be applied to commodities.
Williams also endorsed giving the Federal Reserve power to set commodity margins or downpayments, just as it determines margins for stock purchases.
The proposals prompted CFTC Commissioner Read Dunn to complain yesterday about efforts to "stuff the futures market into an SEC mold."
Criticizing the suitability rule, commission member Robert Martin said it wouldn't have prevented the billionaire Hunt brothers from getting into the silver market.
SEC chairman Williams said his agency should be given authority over any futures contracts which involve stocks and said the Treasury ought to have jurisdiction over futures on government bonds.
Sharing regulatory power with the SEC, Treasury or Federal Reserve is opposed by Stone's Coleagues on the CFTC. The agency was created only five years ago to put all commodity market regulation under one roof, they testified.
Disputing Stone's claim that the CFTC could have done more to avoid the silver crisis, Commissioner David Gartner told the hearings the agency, "has nothing to apologize for."
Noting that the silver speculative bubble burst without government action, Gartner said, "This is no time to advocate solutions to problems taht do not exist."