How governmental failure led to the 2008 financial crisis—and what needs to be done to avoid another similar event
Behind every financial crisis lurks a "political bubble"—policy biases that foster market behaviors leading to financial instability. Rather than tilting against risky behavior, political bubbles—arising from a potent combination of beliefs, institutions, and interests—aid, abet, and amplify risk. Demonstrating how political bubbles helped create the real estate-generated financial bubble and the 2008 financial crisis, this book argues that similar government oversights in the aftermath of the crisis undermined Washington's response to the "popped" financial bubble, and shows how such patterns have occurred repeatedly throughout US history.
The authors show that just as financial bubbles are an unfortunate mix of mistaken beliefs, market imperfections, and greed, political bubbles are the product of rigid ideologies, unresponsive and ineffective government institutions, and special interests. Financial market innovations—including adjustable-rate mortgages, mortgage-backed securities, and credit default swaps—become subject to legislated leniency and regulatory failure, increasing hazardous practices. The authors shed important light on the politics that blinds regulators to the economic weaknesses that create the conditions for economic bubbles and recommend simple, focused rules that should help avoid such crises in the future.
The first full accounting of how politics produces financial ruptures, Political Bubbles offers timely lessons that all sectors would do well to heed.
As pundits debate the causes of the 2008 economic crisis, the authors contend that financial crises have inherently political dimensions. McCarty, Poole, and Rosenthal (political scientists at Princeton University, the University of Georgia, and New York University, respectively) argue persuasively that political bubbles ("policy biases that foster market behaviors leading to financial instability") and market bubbles are highly similar, with policy biases contributing to and amplifying market behavior. Even if Americans prefer a divided government, the cost of diffused power includes policy delays and resistance to amending "ineffectual and outdated" programs. The authors provide an exhaustive review of structural problems that they believe impede effective government response to new catastrophic economic developments. Their arguments transcend the academic to include historical precedents and specifics on Wall Street machinations. While Wall Street is the main culprit in the crisis, no player is exempt. The authors criticize conservatives and liberals for drawing self-serving lessons from the crisis, and the administration for failing to pursue systemic reforms. Meanwhile, the "too big to fail" firms have become even bigger. The authors call for a "strong set of simple rules." While this is a justified addition to literature about the recent crash, readers may balk at the assertion that, amid the crisis, American democracy failed the citizenry. (Jun.)