Which profession bears more blame for the global credit meltdown and its ensuing gazillion-dollar bailouts: bankers or economists?I primarily blame the economists—not all of them, but many of them. There are many banks, but only one Federal Reserve. The Fed had the ability to stop the bubble. Bankers did not. If banks A, B, and C decided not to jump on the bandwagon, they simply would have seen bank D grow much faster than them. By the time the bubble peaked, bank D would have a much larger share of the economic pie. Countrywide, for example, was minuscule a decade ago. The reason it got big was because it embraced the bubble. Banks that didn't embrace the bubble remained small.
This isn't a trick question.
So far, bankers have been getting most of the opprobrium. ... But they couldn't have created the Dumb Money debacle without a substantial assist from economists. Toiling in government and academia, at trade groups and Wall Street firms, practitioners of the dismal science provided the intellectual ballast and justification for much of the insanity of this past decade. At every step of the way, as an Era of Cheap Money devolved into an Era of Dumb Money and then into an Era of Dumber Money, Ph.D.s led the cheers. And when things started to go bad, they failed to grasp just how bad things would get.
Bankers have clearly suffered more financial damage—they had a lot more to lose. But when it comes to reputation, I think it's a draw.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Who is to blame, bankers or economists?