A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of '08 and the Descent into Depression Richard A. Posner
The financial and economic crisis that began in 2008 is the most alarming of our lifetime, if only because of the warp-speed at which it is occurring. How could it have happened, especially after all that we've learned from the Great Depression? Why wasn't it anticipated so remedial steps could be taken to avoid or mitigate it? What can be done to interrupt a slide into full-blown depression? Richard Posner presents a concise and non-technical examination of this mother of all financial disasters. Among the facts and causes he identifies are: excess savings flowing in from Asia and the consequent lowering of interest rates by the Federal Reserve Board; the relation between executive compensation, short-term profit goals, and risky lending; the housing bubble fuelled by low interest rates, aggressive mortgage marketing, and loose regulations; the low savings rate of American people; and, the highly leveraged balance sheets of large financial institutions. Although Posner's examples are drawn from recent American experience, the factors precipitating and contributing to the current crisis have international resonance. Posner analyses the two basic remedial approaches to the crisis, which correspond to the two theories of causes of the Great Depression: the monetarist - that the Federal Reserve Board allowed the money supply to shrink, thus causing deflation - and the Keynesian - that the depression was the product of a credit binge in the 1920's, a stock-market crash, and the ensuing downward spiral in economic activity. A heretofore believer in unfettered markets, Posner concludes that the pendulum swung too far and that our financial markets need to be more.