Some people say that the current crisis is unprecedented, but the truth is that there were plenty of precedents, some of them of very recent vintage. Yet these precedents were ignored. And the story of how “we” failed to see this coming has a clear policy implication — namely, that financial market reform should be pressed quickly, that it shouldn’t wait until the crisis is resolved.
About those precedents: Why did so many observers dismiss the obvious signs of a housing bubble, even though the 1990s dot-com bubble was fresh in our memories?
Why did so many people insist that our financial system was “resilient,” as Alan Greenspan put it, when in 1998 the collapse of a single hedge fund, Long-Term Capital Management, temporarily paralyzed credit markets around the world?
For once the economy is on the road to recovery, the wheeler-dealers will be making easy money again — and will lobby hard against anyone who tries to limit their bottom lines. Moreover, the success of recovery efforts will come to seem preordained, even though it wasn’t, and the urgency of action will be lost.
We have a smaller-scale “lest we forget” moment from NPR this morning:
SUV sales seemed doomed by high gas prices. But as prices at the pump drop, customers are returning to the big vehicles that — just a few months ago — they wouldn’t look at.