December 10, 2008

Economics

According to the latest Uncommon Knowledge, we got into the credit crisis due to two simple factors:
  • The creation of a subprime lending market due to Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac (government interference by forcing homes on those unable to afford them).

  • Financial sector makes key mistake in assuming housing prices would always rise.
  • As far as item number two, I certainly thought housing prices would always rise because the population always rises and people need houses. (Not to say they, the experts, shouldn't have known better.)

    It was precisely because house prices have historically gone up so slowly -- 2-3% a year in the Midwest anyway -- that I thought the conditions that would make a fall possible (i.e a housing bubble) were not present. But a bubble did occur, even here in the Midwest.

    Peter Robinson interviews the inventor of PayPal, asking questions like: Why hasn't the predicted 4-day, 30-hour workweek come about? Why have middle income families not experienced much real wage growth over the past 20 years?

    Thiel talks about how/why technology hasn't nearly delivered the goods that were predicted in the late '60s. A snippet:
    "People assumed automatic, relentless progress...an alternate history of the U.S. in the 20th century is that you had these totalitarian disasters, Communism and Fascism, where they basically destroyed all their talented people and they all came to the U.S. in the '50s and '60s and so we had this enormous boom. And we made the big mistake that this automatically going to happen. You have to have a rigorous education system..."
    That seems plausible given our mediocre modern education system. It seems possible that all this time we've been living off the minds of talented Europeans.

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