Saturday, December 08, 2012

Inside Job: Outside Opinion

Chez Buce finally caught up with Charles H. Ferguson's Inside Job last night.  I see that  Rotten Tomatoes rates it  at 98 percent positive--critics; viewer is a mere 90.  I guess you can count me as (to coin a phrase) one of the two percent.  That is: it's not really awful, and it makes a lot of noncontroversial assertions.  Also a few really funny moment, particularly when a couple of guileless professors go all tongue-tied in trying to explain or justify their cushy consulting gigs.

But at the end of the evening, you find yourself asking: so, what did I learn?  The answer is exactly nothing.  You really aren't a bit wiser as to what, exactly, triggered the great uproar of '08--unless you count it as an answer to utter an expletive like "greed."  Aside from that--which, admit it, you could have done before you saw the movie--you are not a bit wiser than you were before,  perhaps less wise insofar as you think yourself moreso.  Put differently--I can't think of a single worthwhile question about the whole affair that was answered or even asked during the entire near-two hours.

By "worthwhile question," I mean things like: why did this crisis metastasize so much further and faster than any other in the postwar period?  What role (if any) can we assign to the government's "expand-homeownership" policies?   Was repeal of Glass Steagall really a factor (and if so, what factor?).  If the Feds had let Bear Stearns would the whole mess have ended more quickly and cheaply?  If the Feds had not let Lehman fail, would we have avoided the financial near-death experience?  What concatenation of factors led so many CEOs to blow up their own companies?  Why Iceland?  And while we are at it, why did Iceland recover so fast?

I could go on for pages, and I am sure there are a lot of questions  I wouldn't have thought of then.  I'm not so foolish as to expect ready answers--as the wise men say, we can't agree on the cause of the great depression yet, hard to expect we would have a handle on this its kid brother. But these are the sorts of questions that are worth our time and effort.

It may be that the topic is just too vast for a single film. Fine, then why not cut it down to size?  It may be the topic just doesn't lend itself to audio visual presentation.  But on this point, I'm not persuaded: I recall that PBS did a one-hour special back in '09 on the tussle over derivatives deregulation that was organized, crisp, to the point, and instructive.   Meanwhile, perhaps the final question about Inside Job is why anybody would watch it at all.

No comments: