Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Decade From Hell?

I read Andy Serwer's cover story in TIME in a doctors waiting room recently. (You don't think I would subscribe to TIME do you?) I took issue with a lot of it, not because I think everything was rosy over the last ten years, but because of why this author thought everything went the way it did.

It starts out with a two-page summary of all the crap that happened in the 00's. Then on the third page it gets into the how's and why's. The description of the events leading up to 9/11 isn't too far off base, leading back to the Soviet-Afghan war, through the Bush-Clinton-Bush years, to the turn of the millennium.

But then there's the financial crises of the decade, and why those happened. Serwer's reasons for this are strikingly similar to an article that appeared in Rolling Stone a few months back, which was a hit job on anyone who dared to make a buck at anything. In both cases, the favorite scapegoat for our problems is "deregulation", and especially Phil Gramm's repeal of the Glass-Steagall act.

It's funny, because saying the financial crisis happened because we had too much of a free market is like saying Rosie O'Donnell would be more charming if only if it wasn't for that small mouth and skinny thighs.

Our banking industry is heavily regulated. Banks can't make a single move without checking with their lawyers and accountants. The implementation of the SEC, Sarbanes-Oxley, and many more government entities like them are things that ANY public company has to put up with. For banks, add in the creation of the Federal Reserve, HUD, and the FDIC and it's plain that banks aren't just wildcat cowboys operating in an "unsupervised free-market free-for-all" as Sewer, I mean, Serwer, calls it.

The most laughable parts are the passages on the internet. Leave it to an old media establishment like Time magazine to blame the internet as a contributor to scandals and to the financial crisis. Their motives for making these allegations are painfully transparent.
The rise of all manner of new media and the lack of barriers to criticism from the blogosphere seemed to intensify every scandal and left very few public figures unsullied.
Later on...
Companies go belly-up all the time, but in this decade there were an inordinate number of bankruptcies. The creative destruction of the Internet had a part in this. While the Web opened up new worlds and created thousands of jobs at Amazon, Google and the like, it displaced workers at travel and government agencies, at newspapers and magazines and at stores like Circuit City and Tower Records — traditional distribution points for services, information and goods. Economists call that disintermediation.
Hmmm. "Disintermediation" huh? It's probably a real word. I bet there really are economists who use it. I don't really know if that's even an applicable use of the term. I'm not even going to check up on that one. Because it's plain this is a cry for help.

Others who shredded Serwer:
Ed Driscoll at PJM: Which Time Magazine Journalist Is That On The Cover?

Gene Healy at Cato Institute: "Holy hyperbole, hackman."

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