Smog of the Market

Who is to blame in the financial crisis? Is it Wall Street, Main Street or Maple Lane (fill in any suburban lane with a couple houses in the cul-de-sac facing foreclosure)?

Nobody seems to know whom, definitively, to blame, or what exactly is going on in the world. High-risk deals paid for with leveraged money, predatory lenders, lack of personal responsibility and the absence of federal regulation are just some of the suspected culprits. You’ve heard of the fog of war; this is more like the smog of the market.

Friends of mine in Ireland who are actuaries by training (though they also double as professional poker players) are going on what they call a “dice trip” this weekend, beginning in Dublin airport. Every decision they make is determined by a dice roll, including where they take their first flight, the number of drinks consumed in a half-hour and what greyhound to bet on at 9:55 in the morning in Newcastle, England. I’ve been on one of these trips before and know it’s not a trip you would ever want to share the details of with your mother, even if you have one of those “We tell each other everything”-type relationships. The point is: I think the dice trip around Europe is a safer bet than hanging around Lower Manhattan at the moment.

If you’re trying to understand the crisis, I would recommend reading Stephen Pearlstein in this morning’s Washington Post and Time’s cover article. Time lays the blame at the foot of Wall Street’s greed and Pearlstein, with our inability to live within our means. The only insight I would offer is that Pearlstein’s analysis seems to capture the crisis better; after all, wasn’t Wall Street living beyond its means as well?


The views expressed in this blog do not represent the views or opinions of Generations United.

More in Finance

S&P strikes $1.5B settlement with Justice over crisis-era ratings

Read more »