By Matthew Stefanson
Before the economic collapse I was, like most people, completely ignorant of the way the economy functions. When considering the market economy I envisioned a wild and unpredictable animal which had to be watched closely lest it decide to attack someone, take a dump in the global economy or die as it did recently.
Previous to the globo-economic clusterfuck, I knew that a lot of people had money, some more than others. I also knew that, like modern day alchemists, these people would use that money to make more money. What I didn’t know was the multitude of shady, dodgy and otherwise disreputable methods that were used in the creation of new dollars.
In the months since the stock market crash I have absorbed as much information as I could find on the subject of why it all went so horribly wrong.
Thanks in large part to the efforts of the radio show This American Life, I now have an effective layman’s grasp on the issue. I may not fully understand the root causes but just knowing that someone is getting a handle on the source of this problem is a great comfort.
But of course with new knowledge comes a new problem. The United States, one of the world’s most litigious countries — a nation full of people who would sue their own mothers for weaning them improperly if they thought there was a dime in it — has moved from the search for a scapegoat to the hunt for a payday.
Companies are suing each other for lack of information. Stockholders are suing the companies they had invested in for lack of fiscal responsibility. Everyone is shifting their own responsibility in order to place the blame on someone else’s shoulders, and maybe get a bit of cash out of the deal as well. Every despicable trick in the book is being exercised for a chance at profiting from the wholesale failure of the free market, and I find this completely reprehensible.
That said, I do realize that as someone who was unaffected by the economic collapse — the $300 I have in chequing remains unmarred by the complete implosion of our economy — I might not be qualified to judge their motivations. To judge them fairly I would have to be in their shoes. Some of the cases in litigation might be valid, but for the most part it seems like the risk you take when you play the market.
It’s strange that people have to be reminded that there is a danger in trusting all of your money to strangers. They get to do with it what they will and you don’t really have a say in it; that’s the way it works and, from a layman’s point of view, it’s not your right to complain only when things go wrong.
The risky methods employed to create large returns garnered no complaints before everything went south; the investors were just happy to get paid. When things go wrong, however, people come out of the woodwork to malign the irresponsible behaviour of these companies that were just reacting to the extremely complicated world of global economics.
The one thing that I have learned during the months spent compiling knowledge of the collapse is that it was a colossal shitstorm of unprecedented proportions made worse by the near-simultaneous collapse of gigantic financial firms, most of which had no knowledge of one other’s financial troubles.
Coincidence played a mighty joke on us and, while it is sad that retired seniors have lost their life savings and pensions in one fell swoop, that’s the game they were playing and they should have been aware of the risks.