Little Ivory Lies

The New York Fed posted an apology for not predicting the economic catastrophe that began in 2007-2008. Better late than never, right? Except this apology dodges responsibility…

The article describes how nobody could have foreseen the catastrophic events of 2007 and on. To be sure, nobody in the rational behavior, efficient market ivory towers could foresee them because their own ideology required that they be blind to market failures. They were weather forecasters that denied the existence of tornadoes and hurricanes; geologists that refused to admit that earthquakes can happen; doctors that could not imagine the possibility of an epidemic. They were useless, in a word.

No, they were worse than useless. They got politicians and academics alike to deny reality and to strip away protections that were necessary to keep disaster from happening. They encouraged a host of policies – subprime lending, home equity loans, no regulation for credit default swaps, et cetera, et cetera – that people not in power said would lead to disaster. Those who were in power became the biggest gang of criminals the world has seen by using their money and influence to have legislatures make their actions legal.

Many of us outside the government and outside the ivory towers saw the reality and knew we were in for a disaster. The double bubble in housing and government debt would lead to a major economic collapse. We called it. We couldn’t say precisely when, but it was obvious it was going to happen, and it did. We also made the call that Europe was coming apart economically and, well… see for yourself.

We live in an age of irresponsibility. People that hold power deny their mistakes with an arrogance that transcends logic. Heads do not roll. The intelligence failure of 9/11 cost more lives than jobs. The same can be said for the terrible destruction of New Orleans in the 2005 Hurricane. In this latest, economic disaster, the perpetrators of the crimes were, for the most part, rewarded. Madoff is doing time. Who else?

So the New York Fed issues its non-apology at 6PM on Black Friday… it’s even dodging the attention it should be enduring for shutting its eyes to the greatest financial disaster in 70 years. Worse, as an Economics teacher, I’m supposed to teach the stuff that got us into this mess like it’s accurate and useful. The establishment’s refusal to recant is particularly galling.

Irving Fisher was the biggest bull market booster in 1929. When he realized he was dead wrong, he abandoned his wrong ideas and developed a workable model for analyzing economic depressions. I can appreciate that. The current crowd has no such ability or desire to recant. It’s as mentally paralyzed as the Chinese Communist Party in the midst of the Great Leap Forward: ideology is more important than reality. We see this in the Fed and we see this in Congress. They tell us their little ivory lies, and even if we don’t believe them, we are bound by their vision.

4 thoughts on “Little Ivory Lies

  1. Ugochi Ebinama

    I remember reading an article in economics class, and it said that if the goverment doesn’t decrease deficit spending, the economy might collapse in 2013.

  2. Garrett Foster

    So when there is talk about collapsing of an economy, I always blow it off since the economy has seen bad times and came back from it. Obviously the situation is different than the Great Depression, but we survived that, so why isn’t there talk about after 5 years everything will be fine again?

  3. deanwebb Post author

    True, the bad times do come to an end. But when we’re faced with a debt-deleveraging recession, those bad times take longer to come to an end… and Keynes demonstrated accurately that they can come to an end with LRAS moved significantly to the left, meaning that what was once bad is now normal and good.

    We’re looking at a massive unhinging of the world economy as major nations either lose the ability to service their debt or choose to refuse to service their debt. I recommend Reinhart and Rogoff’s “This Time Is Different” for analysis of the situation. It can be read with a basic understanding of economics (you’re welcome!) and a wiki handy for some of the other terms they introduce. It’s written in such a way that you can skip the technical analysis and get straight to the conclusions.

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