If the recipients are to be 45 million or so adult citizens, each parcel of shares would be tiny and the administrative burden would be immense. One must assume nobody would be allowed to hold the shares in old-fashioned paper form.
If not, at a cost of, say, £2 a shareholder in annual postage and printing to cover financial reports and annual meeting circulars, RBS would immediately assume an annual bill of almost £100m. And that estimate is probably conservative.
But an electronic register for 45 million people wouldn't be cheap either – it would have to set up and managed and capable of processing votes at an annual meeting where an agenda typically contains about 20 resolutions.
As for the meeting itself, imagine if 1 in 1,000 shareholders (45,000) decided to turn up. RBS would need to hire a large football stadium.
Proponents of the distribution idea usually include the condition that recipients would only be entitled to proceeds once RBS's share price had reached break-even for the state (although Cable did not mention that in his speech on Wednesday).
The break-even price is 500p but RBS's share price is currently about 340p. So the shares would have to rise 48% before Joe Punter sees a penny of profit.
If the exercise were to happen soon, the handout wouldn't really be a share in a meaningful sense; it would be more like an undated warrant.
The appeal for the politicians is obvious. Handing over ownership of RBS allows them to escape the flak during any future controversy at the bank.
As Cable put it, the government currently has "responsibility without control". Tough. The realistic choice is between nationalising the whole bank or selling shares into the market one day.
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