May 15, 2009

Sowell's Latest

Thomas Sowell has always struck me as a very wise man, but his latest book Housing Boom & Bust has signs of bust about it.

I searched the book on amazon.com and got no hits on "securitized", "CDO" and nothing about Wall Street or leverage that mentions the huge bets made on that housing industry.

Perhaps I'm looking for something the book title doesn't promise. He wanted to write about the housing boom & bust and not about what happened with it and because of it. But my point is this: who cares if house prices boomed and busted? That's part of what happens to every asset in every age since the first economic cycle east of Eden. What makes this one killer is the huge leverage that brought down banks and economies from here to Iceland, instead of just causing foreclosures in the 5% of American households who couldn't afford their house payment.

I hope that Sowell, who is one of the biggest truthtellers around, isn't letting his desire to (understandably) scorch those who brought on the housing bust - such as Fannie, Freddie, easy credit - obscure larger, more important issue. We've learned about the dangers of trying to put everyone in a house and so that is, now at least, relatively uninteresting. We haven't learned how to label and market securitized assets.

Maybe I should check out Meltdown by Thomas Woods at the library and see what he has to say...

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