Monday, December 8, 2008

The Crash of '08

To begin, here are two links on how the financial world became undone, one from journalist Michael Lewis (link here), and another from Harvard professor Niall Ferguson. Link here.

Some other articles show the effect the crash is having on everyday life. Call it the human dimension of the crisis.

From Great Britain comes a portrait of the "toxic wife." While New York City seems to have invented the toxic bachelor, London seems to have cornered the market in toxic wives. Link here.

A toxic wife does not stay in her marriage for the children; she is in it solely for the money. Her worst trauma occurs when her husband cuts up her black American Express card.

The current crisis has sent toxic wives scurrying to divorce lawyers. They want to ditch their less solvent current husbands and to find someone new who can support their extravagance.

Frankly, the article reads like a caricature. If it had suggested that New York women are in this situation, I would seriously doubt it. Yet, it describes a condition that apparently pertains in London, so who am I to judge. Besides, the fact that it is a caricature does not prevent it from being true.

In the most recent "Vanity Fair" we can also read Michael Shnayerson's compelling account of how the crash is playing itself out in the lives of some of Wall Street's former masters of the universe. I have occasionally blogged about this topic, and was happy to read Shnayerson's more comprehensive account. Link here.

Also from Great Britain, on a topic I have blogged about, we read an analysis of the pending crash in the contemporary art market. Link here. For my own view, follow the links to the left of this page.

In hindsight we always recognize the signs of manias. We all say today that we would have known that you should not mortgage your house to buy a tulip bulb.

And yet, many of us thought that spending $8,000,000 for a dead fish was normal because a group of very intelligent people had decided that it was art. Why ever would anyone believe that brilliant people cannot be swept up in manias? In any event, the dead fish was put on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

To echo Jim Rogers, it was not normal... and it was not great art.

To look at the bright side, I link Bill Fleckenstein's column, where he predicts that China will come out of the current recession faster than many other countries. Among the reasons, Fleckenstein says that China today reminds him of the United States in the 1950s. Link here.

For those who thought that the 1050s were a cultural wasteland, where entrenched retrograde values hampered the flight of the human spirit, Fleckenstein's comment helps to put the value of values in a larger perspective.

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