More weekend reading recommendations – about the financial crisis

These are all worth a look, providing insights about the financial crisis now gripping the world.

Excerpts appear below:

  1. Now-needy FDIC collected little in premiums“, Boston Globe, 11 March 2009 — Another give-away to the banks comes back to bite taxpayers.
  2. In a First, Bankruptcy Judge Rules Calif. City Can Void Union Contracts“, National Law Journal, 17 March 2009 — Another step to the defaults that will eventually end this cycle.  Excerpt:
  3. Rising to the Occasion – Reimagining Socialism“, Barbara Ehrenreich and Bill Fletcher Jr., The Nation, 23 March 2009

Worth reading, but no excerpts given:

  • We Are All Socialists Now“, Newsweek, 16 February 2009 — “In many ways our economy already resembles a European one. As boomers age and spending grows, we will become even more French.”

For all those folks expecting small banks to weather the storm

  1. Economic Conditions and Emerging Risks in Banking“, Report to the FDIC Board of Directors, 2 November 2006 — The risks to small banks from their concentration on builder loans was foreseen over 2 years ago.
  2. Builder loans are the forgotten land mine in U.S. credit crisis“, Reuters, 10 March 2009 — Now the fuse burns down to the explosive.  Too late for preventive action.
  3. Bank Failures and C&D Loans“, Calculated Risk, 11 March 2009 — Nice graphs of the problem. 


(1)  “Now-needy FDIC collected little in premiums“, Boston Globe, 11 March 2009 — Yes, its OK to get angry now.  Excerpt:

The federal agency that insures bank deposits, which is asking for emergency powers to borrow up to $500 billion to take over failed banks, is facing a potential major shortfall in part because it collected no insurance premiums from most banks from 1996 to 2006.

(2)  “In a First, Bankruptcy Judge Rules Calif. City Can Void Union Contracts“, National Law Journal, 17 March 2009 — Another step to the defaults that will eventually end this cycle.  Excerpt:

In the first ruling of its kind, a bankruptcy judge held the city of Vallejo, Calif. has the authority to void its existing union contracts in its effort to reorganize, holding public workers do not enjoy the same protections Congress gave union workers at private companies.

(3)  “Rising to the Occasion – Reimagining Socialism“, Barbara Ehrenreich and Bill Fletcher Jr., The Nation, 23 March 2009 — Excerpt:

Introduction from the Editors: Socialism’s all the rage. “We Are All Socialists Now,”Newsweek declares. As the right wing tells it, we’re already living in the U.S.S.A. But what do self-identified socialists (and their progressive friends) have to say about the global economic crisis? The following essay will, we hope, kick off a spirited dialogue, with four replies in this issue and more to come here at The Nation.

… But we do understand–and this is one of the things that make us “socialists”–that the absence of a plan, or at least some sort of deliberative process for figuring out what to do, is no longer an option. The great promise of capitalism, as first suggested by Adam Smith and recently enshrined in “market fundamentalism,” was that we didn’t have to figure anything out, because the market would take care of everything for us.

Instead of promoting self-reliance, this version of free enterprise fostered passivity in the face of that inscrutable deity, the Market. Deregulate, let wages fall to their “natural” level, turn what remains of government into an endless source of bounty for contractors–whee! Well, that hasn’t worked, and the core idea of socialism still stands: that people can get together and figure out how to solve their problems, or at least a lot of their problems, collectively. That we–not the market or the capitalists or some elite group of über-planners–have to control our own destiny.

We admit: we don’t even have a plan for the deliberative process that we know has to replace the anarchic madness of capitalism. Yes, we have some notion of how it should work, based on our experiences with the civil rights movement, the women’s movement and the labor movement, as well as with countless cooperative enterprises. This notion centers on what we still call “participatory democracy,” in which all voices are heard and all people equally respected. But we have no precise models of participatory democracy on the scale that is currently called for, involving hundreds of millions, and potentially billions, of participants at a time.


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5 thoughts on “More weekend reading recommendations – about the financial crisis”

  1. I wonder if Ehrenreich and Fletcher are members of JournoList? They present the perfect combination of dishonesty and stupidity that suggests membership in that lamestream echo chamber. Their watered-down pablum-for-the-stupid definition of socialism is enough to make one regurgitate his favorite foods. Is every reader (and writer) of The Nation as moronic as this article implies?

    You would hope that someone writing on the topic of the economy would have at least a slight idea of how economies actually work. These jerks clearly do not.

  2. This Time is Different: A Panoramic View of Eight Centuries of Financial Crises?“, Carmen M. Reinhart (U Maryland) and Kenneth S. Rogoff (Harvard), 16 April 2008. Abstract:

    This paper offers a “panoramic” analysis of the history of financial crises dating from England’s fourteenth-century default to the current United States sub-prime financial crisis. Our study is based on a new dataset that spans all regions. It incorporates a number of important credit episodes seldom covered in the literature, including for example, defaults and restructurings in India and China. As the first paper employing this data, our aim is to illustrate some of the broad insights that can be gleaned from such a sweeping historical database. We find that serial default is a nearly universal phenomenon as countries struggle to transform themselves from emerging markets to advanced economies. Major default episodes are typically spaced some years (or decades) apart, creating an illusion that “this time is different” among policymakers and investors. A recent example of the “this time is different” syndrome is the false belief that domestic debt is a novel feature of the modern financial landscape. We also confirm that crises frequently emanate from the financial centers with transmission through interest rate shocks and commodity price collapses. Thus, the recent US sub-prime financial crisis is hardly unique. Our data also documents other crises that often accompany default: including inflation, exchange rate crashes, banking crises, and currency debasements.

    Fabius Maximus replies: This is an important paper, one which I’ve mentioned on this site many times (most recently, 3 days ago here).

  3. We need to be thinking balance, balance, balance. It is the imbalances that are getting us off track. I wouldn’t be so quick to call The Nation view “moronic”; the critique by the left has been more valuable in recent years than the critique from the right. We ought to be promoting a more egalitarian wage structure in this country, more like Germany and Japan. Rescuing and propping up a bygone oligarchy via the Geithner Plan seems dubious to me: Even if it “works”, the moral hazard set loose on the system will sap us down the road.

  4. Fascinating for those of us trying to stay aware and position our businesses for the future. One other piece that might interest you: “Financial Crisis“, 19 March 2009.

    The transcription of a debate on March 17th about whether to blame the US Government more than Wall St. Arguing in favor of blaming Washington: Niall Ferguson, John Steele Gordon and Nouriel Roubini. Arguing against the motion: Alex Berenson, Jim Chanos and Nell Minow.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Absurd to think it is a binary choice. Or if in our society there is a distinction between the financial sector and the government. Both have their hands in each other’s pockets, and are arms of our ruling elites.

  5. The goal of every “Capitalist” is to escape the “risk” part of the “Risk/reward” ratio that defines Capitalism writ large. This explains corruption of public officials. It explains rent seeking behavior. It explains various fraudulent schemes, like the securitizing of mortgage backed debt with AAA credit ratings for sale to trusting Japanese house wives. Claiming you manage risk while utterly avoiding personal risk is part of the game. Managing risk is for fools who aren’t smart enough to eliminate personal risk by transferring that risk onto other guppies in the system. You can try to design a system where this won’t occur over and over, but our founders, smart guys for sure, concluded that if your citizens all start thinking this way, there is no clever set of laws that will protect you.

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