Monday, February 25, 2008

A Time of Desperate Journalists

When the well of conventional wisdom runs dry, journalists take the lid off the well of History. This is a sign of intellectual trouble. It means that the stuff their sources usually tell them, and their standard, typical, and familiair explanations, are no longer adding up.

When one of the NYT's best financial journalists Frank Norris says that a book about the 1907 financial panic is one of the most insightful books he has ever read, you know we live in desperate times. Or at least in times of desperate journalists, who realize gradually that the analyses they have been passing faithfully on to their readers for years no longer make sense - and in fact didn't really make sense in the first place.

A couple of notes about the Norris piece:
  • it features a recovery wrought by a heroic strongman, JP Morgan, described yet again as locking bankers in his study overnight until they provided liquidity. The photo above says it all - Morgan as god-like visionary. Or Greenspan-like. Greenspan's mistakes depended directly on the willingness of the media to see him as a Morgan-like genius, presiding over all with his laissez-faire wisdom that made America the land of infinite plenty. So spare us your historical strongmen, please.
  • It continues to note that this is not just a subprime crisis. This was obvious to the Financial Times in August of last year, and I would like to know whether readers of the NYT business pages, presumably largely business people and executives, still need to be reminded of this obvious fact. If they still don't get it, we really ARE in trouble.
Folks, in terms of figuring out what really happened and what to do, we are on our own.

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