Sunday, March 08, 2009

Hertzberg on the financial crisis: "It’s All the Victims’ Fault!"

Howie Intro: I still hear, all too often, that the current financial/economic mess was caused by reckless homebuyers and the government programs that supported their craving for real estate. This argument usually comes from the knee-jerk conservative crowd that isn't really interested in any facts or in-depth explanation of our situation. Hendrik Hertzberg takes on some of this thinking:
The indispensible Yglesias explains why the sudden Santelli-led scapegoating of people who got duped into taking out bad mortgages is so disgusting:
When someone applies for a mortgage, there are two parties to the transaction. On one side of it is a teacher or a blogger or an electrician or a lawyer or a nurse or a guy who manages a Home Depot. On the [other] side is a guy who, for a living, as a professional, works in the “deciding on what terms to offer people mortgages” business.

There really is plenty of blame to go around here. But I just don’t see how more than a tiny fraction of it could possible adhere to our electrician or teacher or secretary who’s decided, basically, that the financial services professionals and government regulators know what they’re doing.

I just don’t think it’s the responsibility of individuals to know that all the experts, and all the conventional wisdom, are secretly wrong. All kinds of people have been buying iPhones because everyone says they’re great. And if this November, the iPhones all suddenly explode injuring tons of people, I think there’ll be a lot of blame to go around. But really just about none of that blame will land on iPhone owners—it would land on Apple and AT&T and regulators and gadget reviewers and everyone else.

The whole post is worth reading. As is, for that matter, almost everything on Matt’s razor-sharp blog.
Howie P.S.: More about Hertzberg (we went to the same public school for a time) here. We called him "Hertzberg" then.

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