Monday, August 19, 2013
Why the Economy Crashed: Financial System, Bailouts, Federal Reserve, Business Cycle
The financial crisis was not widely predicted by mainstream economists, who instead spoke of the Great Moderation. A number of heterodox economists predicted the crisis, with varying arguments. Dirk Bezemer in his research credits (with supporting argument and estimates of timing) 12 economists with predicting the crisis: Dean Baker (US), Wynne Godley (UK), Fred Harrison (UK), Michael Hudson (US), Eric Janszen (US), Steve Keen (Australia), Jakob Brøchner Madsen & Jens Kjaer Sørensen (Denmark), Kurt Richebächer (US), Nouriel Roubini (US), Peter Schiff (US), and Robert Shiller (US). Examples of other experts who gave indications of a financial crisis have also been given. Not surprisingly, the Austrian economic school regarded the crisis as a vindication and classic example of a predictable credit-fueled bubble that could not forestall the disregarded but inevitable effect of an artificial, manufactured laxity in monetary supply, a perspective that even former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan in Congressional testimony confessed himself forced to return to.
A cover story in BusinessWeek magazine claims that economists mostly failed to predict the worst international economic crisis since the Great Depression of 1930s. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania's online business journal examines why economists failed to predict a major global financial crisis. Popular articles published in the mass media have led the general public to believe that the majority of economists have failed in their obligation to predict the financial crisis. For example, an article in the New York Times informs that economist Nouriel Roubini warned of such crisis as early as September 2006, and the article goes on to state that the profession of economics is bad at predicting recessions. According to The Guardian, Roubini was ridiculed for predicting a collapse of the housing market and worldwide recession, while The New York Times labelled him "Dr. Doom".
Shiller, an expert in housing markets, wrote an article a year before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in which he predicted that a slowing US housing market would cause the housing bubble to burst, leading to financial collapse. Schiff regularly appeared on television in the years before the crisis and warned of the impending real estate collapse.
Within mainstream financial economics, most believe that financial crises are simply unpredictable, following Eugene Fama's efficient-market hypothesis and the related random-walk hypothesis, which state respectively that markets contain all information about possible future movements, and that the movement of financial prices are random and unpredictable. Recent research casts doubt on the accuracy of "early warning" systems of potential crises, which must also predict their timing.
Stock trader and financial risk engineer Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the 2007 book The Black Swan, spent years warning against the breakdown of the banking system in particular and the economy in general owing to their use of bad risk models and reliance on forecasting, and their reliance on bad models, and framed the problem as part of "robustness and fragility". He also took action against the establishment view by making a big financial bet on banking stocks and making a fortune from the crisis ("They didn't listen, so I took their money"). According to David Brooks from the New York Times, "Taleb not only has an explanation for what's happening, he saw it coming."