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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Financial Crisis: A Systemic and Ethical Analysis

According to a study by the Dallas Federal Reserve, the financial crisis of 2007-2009 “was associated with a huge loss of economic output and financial wealth, psychological consequences and skill atrophy from extended unemployment, an increase in government intervention, and other significant costs.”[1] The study’s abstract goes on to “conservatively estimate that 40 to 90 percent of one year’s output ($6 trillion to $14 trillion, the equivalent of $50,000 to $120,000 for every U.S. household) was foregone due to the 2007-09 [sic] recession.”[2]
Interestingly, the Huffington Post “reports” the study’s finding in the following terms:  “a ‘conservative’ estimate of the damage is $14 trillion, or roughly one year’s U.S. gross domestic product. This is based on how much output was lost during the crisis and Great Recession, along with all the damage done to potential future economic growth.”[3] In fact, the article’s title claims that the crisis cost more than $14 trillion! Lest it be thought that the reporter and editor suffer from a learning or reading disability, the gilding here is notably in the direction of “selling more papers.”
Ironically, the Huffington Post also published an article pointing to the lack of accountability in that “the executives that [sic] were in charge of Bear’s headlong dive into the cesspool of subprime mortgage lending hold similar jobs at the most powerful banks on Wall Street: JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Deutsche Bank."[4]
The upshot is that those stakeholders who played a role in the crisis, most significantly the people running the government, the media, and the banks, have gone on, relatively unscathed, while the systemic risk remained or has actually become even greater.  As a first step toward recovery, a systemic map depicting the interrelated parts in the systemic failure and a related ethical analysis can provide a basis for reforms sufficient to thwart another major financial crisis.


1. Tyler Atkinson, David Luttrell, and Harvey Rosenblum, “How Bad Was It? The Costs and Consequences of the 2007-09 Financial Crisis,” Staff Paper No. 20, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, July 2013.
2. Ibid.
3. Mark Gongloff, “The Financial Crisis Cost More Than $14 Trillion: Dallas Fed Study,” The Huffington Post, July 30, 2013.
4. Lauren Kyger and Alison Fitzgerald, “Former Bear Stearns Executives Seemingly Unscathed by Financial Crisis They Helped Trigger,” The Huffington Post, July 31, 2013. The article was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity.