While some keep insisting that the government needs to step in, in a big way, to fix the financial crisis, Paul Kedrosky posits an interesting and worthwhile theory, as well: lots of folks within the industry are scrambling to fix things every day
, and if we just gave them a chance they might get stuff done. He's not saying this is definitely happening, but he uses the Y2K crisis as an analogy. Many people were totally freaked out about it, insisting that there was no possible way all the problems could get fixed in time. But they did. They did because a lot of people worked really hard to get things done and solve most of the problems. And he's wondering if the same sort of thing is happening today with the financial markets:
I hear too many naive projections, too many scenarios constructed via extrapolating early failures forward and assuming the same thing can happen in the same way, so systemic collapse is ahead. While that is possible, and this time is different (tm), it's at least worth wondering what if the Y2K lesson matters more than we might have thought. Government aside, independent and fiercely survival-minded actors are doing what they can throughout the economy and the financial system to mitigate the risks they face from the current depression. Credit default swaps are being netted and torn up; banks are trying to unwind swaps and other derivatives. Some financial institutions are accidentally healing, at least a little, under the flood of savings pouring into them from petrified and security-seeking citizens. There are myriad other examples, but the point is that the bell has been rung, people are acting, and communication networks are afire -- and history says these are circumstances in which people can, by protecting themselves, surprise us all with the outcome.
It's definitely a point worth thinking about. We've been told over and over again that only the government can help us out of this mess, but people seem to think that the rest of the financial world is sitting around picking their noses as the world collapses -- and there's little reason to believe that's actually true. In fact, if you listen to this week's This American Life
"Act 2" (starting about 45 minutes in) covers a couple of entrepreneurial guys who are doing their part: buying up "toxic" mortgages on their own and restructuring them -- and they're making decent money doing so. While even they're a bit skeptical about that on a larger scale, as Kedrosky noted, the same was true of the individuals working on solving the Y2K crisis as well.