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On April 6, 2007, we posted a Weltwoche article from August 29, 2002, titled "Ein Volk von Verlierern" (a people of loosers). The post was titled "remember". The Weltwoche article dealt with the new economy bubble, the herding behavior of investors and the tremendous decrease of private and pension fund wealth. Seven years later we are at an even worse point. More than 70% of Swiss pension funds are currently underfunded, mainly due to over- exposure in the stock market. Seems to be a never ending story...
Never ending? This good piece about Nouriel Roubini in the Wall Street Journal might have some explanations. Here's an excerpt:
"People like [Robert] Shiller were very worried about the housing bubble. People like Steve Roach were worried about an economy based on asset bubbles leading to consumption bubbles that were unsustainable. People like Ken Rogoff talked about global imbalances in the current account deficit not being sustainable. Nassim Taleb has been worrying for a while about 'fat tail' events . . . . So lots of people signaled concern about things. I was one of those who put the dots together and thus gave a more fleshed-out picture."
To Mr. Roubini, the most interesting question isn't the one of who got it right. Instead, he asks why we "over and over again, get into these periods of irrational exuberance, when not only is there an asset bubble and a credit bubble, but people believe these are sustainable over a long time -- Wall Street, policy makers, rating agencies, academics, journalists . . . ."
What exactly is Nouriel Roubini's economic philosophy? "I believe in market economics," he says, with some emphasis. "But to paraphrase Churchill -- who said this about democracy and political regimes -- a market economy might be the worst economic regime available, apart from the alternatives.
"I believe that people react to incentives, that incentives matter, and that prices reflect the way things should be allocated. But I also believe that market economies sometimes have market failures, and when these occur, there's a role for prudential -- not excessive -- regulation of the financial system. The two things that Greenspan got totally wrong were his beliefs that, one, markets self-regulate, and two, that there's no market failure."
How could Mr. Greenspan have been so naïve, I ask, hoping to get a rise. "Well," says Mr. Roubini, "at some level it's good to have a framework to think about the world, in which you emphasize the role of incentives and market economics . . . fair enough! But I think it led to an excessive ideological belief that there are no market failures, and no issues of distortions on incentives. Also, central banks were created to provide financial stability. Greenspan forgot this, and that was a mistake. I think there were ideological blinders, taking Ayn Rand's view of the world to an extreme.
This might be some good search terms to explore the "never ending story":
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