03 October 2008

Blame The Little People

While its certainly true that Wall Street bankers (and their colleagues in London, Tokyo, Shanghai and elsewhere) bear some of the blame for the financial mess the world is currently in, the average consumer bears a huge portion of responsibility as well. After all, it was individuals who were agreeing to buy homes and all manner of goods for loans that far exceeded their earning capacity.

I have little sympathy for the vast majority of people who are losing their homes on the coast of Spain, Northern Ireland, or California when it was their irresponsible borrowing that led them to this sorry state to begin with. Sure, the bankers never should have given such large mortgages that couldn't be justified by incomes, but that still doesn't excuse the individuals from digging themselves into a hole.

The credit bubble that created this economic crisis required collusion by all parties: the central banks who kept interest rates too low, lenders who just wanted to pump out loans for commission, ratings agencies who threw common sense to the wind, and the investment banks that packaged mortgages into securities for investors hell-bent on chasing yield regardless of risk.

To now blame the whole mess on "Wall Street" not only over-simplifies what happened, but it also avoids taking responsibility for our own actions and connivance. Let's not lose tears for those "greedy" mortgage holders who gambled on appreciation to bail them out (and make them rich).

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