What Caused the Financial Crisis?

News & Politics

Chris Hayes has a very interesting post explaining the roots of the current financial meltdown. He says it has two basic causes: one is too much leverage, i.e., making investments where the amount of borrowed capital far exceeds the amount you have in assets. That seems fairly obvious.

The other explanation he gives is much more counterintuitive: too much capital. He explains:

This insight isn't mine. It comes largely from an episode of This American Life called The Global Pool of Money (an absolute can't miss episode, the best explanation of the whole crisis I've encountered.) This is a strange way to think about the problem, perhaps, but it's illuminating. The entire amount of capital that needs to find a home in the financial markets is roughly $70 trillion (in fixed income securities). But here's the thing, the size of this pool in 2000 was just 36 trillion. As Adam Davidson says in the TAL: "It took several hundreds years to get to 36 trillion and then it took six years to get to another 36 trillion."

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