For those inclined to try to understand the financial crisis of 2008, economist Brad DeLong’s post of June 24, 2011 at Seeking Alpha, is worth a read. He suggests that to anticipate the near collapse of the financial system in 2008 and the condition of the US economy as of mid 2011, you would have to have predicted ten things:
- That a global savings glut and a period of low interest rates would produce a housing boom.
- That the housing boom would turn into a housing bubble.
- That the housing bubble would lead to a collapse of mortgage underwriting standards.
- That risk management practices on Wall Street would have been nonexistent.
- That the Federal Reserve would not be able to construct its usual firewall between finance and the real economy.
- That the Federal Reserve would not feel itself empowered to take the emergency steps to stabilize demand needed during and in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis.
- That the incoming Obama administration would come out of the gate with too small an economic recovery package.
- That politics would prevent the Obama administration from being able to take a second bite at the apple.
- That the Obama administration would then give up on pushing the envelope of its powers to try to generate a strong recovery.
- That the intellectual victory of Keynesian approaches on the level of reality–forecasting and accounting for the course of the Little Depression–would be accompanied by a non-intellectual defeat of Keynesian approaches on the level of politics.
Of course, as Brad DeLong points out, no one predicted all ten of these. He then goes on to cite a column by Ezra Klein that appeared in the Washington Post on June 22, 2011. In this review of the film “Inside Job”, Klein says that it, ” . . . was an excellent documentary for people who don’t want to understand the financial crisis but want to believe they would’ve seen it coming. ” He goes on to opine that ” . . . In telling the wrong story about how the financial crisis happened, it misinforms about how to keep it from happening again.”
The complexity of the financial system has moved beyond the ability of those involved as well as outside experts and staff at regulatory agencies to understand it. As Ezra Klein concludes, ” ‘Inside Job”may have missed that story, but the rest of us can’t afford to.”