He argued against legislation that would repeal the Glass-Steagall Act and thus would allow banks to merge with insurance companies and investment houses.
"I want to sound a warning call today about this legislation," he declared. "I think this legislation is just fundamentally terrible."
He was one of only eight senators who opposed the repeal legislation. The others were Barbara Boxer, Barbara Mikulski, Richard Shelby, Tom Harkin, Richard Bryan, Russ Feingold and Paul Wellstone.
After the 2008 market collapse, Senator Dorgan said in an interview:
"I'm from a little small town of 300 people in North Dakota. Where I grew up, we have seen a history of difficulties farmers have had in dealing with some of the larger banks over the last century or so. And so, my own view about these issues is that there needs to be a free market that works with price competition and product differentiation and so on, but there needs to be a referee with a whistle and a striped shirt, I mean the free market sometimes needs referees."
It does seem strange that we think nothing of referees in the relatively simple games of football and basketball, yet many thought in 1999 and still think today that something as complex and as easily gamed as the market, should have no referees.
We had over 50 years of economic growth and security thanks in large part to the firewall between regular banking and investment banking. But at the end of the century we couldn't leave well enough alone. We wouldn't listen to someone from small town Main Street. We did listen to big city Wall Street. And look what happened.
Today the Democrats at least talk about more regulation, approaching what we had with Glass-Steagall. Even Alan Greenspan eventually admitted the error of removing regulations and trusting Wall Street to regulate itself.
The Republicans won't admit this error. In fact they talk of even less regulation, as if there is much regulation left to be taken away.
Their viewpoint hasn't changed from 1999. They are still espousing a doctrine that has been proved disastrously wrong.
(James Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily News)