Common wisdom tends to reduce things down to a few basic concepts. So, the crisis has been over-simplified as having resulted from the repeal of Glass-Steagall banking regulations, Wall Street greed, and the practices of unscrupulous mortgage companies. This is all true. But so many more events were taking place, involving a much broader range of characters, that were just as critical — e.g., the housing policies under Clinton and Bush, Allen Greenspan’s policies, the pressure to create high-yield investment products regardless of quality, changes in the bond ratings practices of Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, the role of Congress, and the greed on the part of consumers, who viewed buying real estate with no money as a good way to get rich quick.
We found our way out of this mess, due in no small part to the emergence of a couple of heroes — Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner, among others. They understood we were on the verge of a world-wide collapse of the economic system and had to come up with solutions on the fly. Presidents Bush and Obama, who kept their heads and knew enough to keep out of the way.
It’s a good idea to know the details of what really went on because of having prior knowledge of potential dangers gives one a tactical advantage, or, as they say, forewarned is forearmed.
So, to arm yourself against future crises, here’s a number of books that are great reads on the subject. I’ve read them all, and while it’s scary to find out the actual path we were on in 2008, they do provide clarity and insight.
And they make you aware that it can happen again.