I’ve been making notes on the media debates about the economic (formerly financial, and credit) crisis. My plan was to write down in notecards: themes, characters, positions, and narratives. Then cover a large table with the color coded cards. Shuffle them. And rearrange them in sequences and distances, taking photographs of each setting. With no pretension of making an art installation. This is my native, Ven diagram, way of thinking through the thematic patterns of popular discourse.
Regrettably I am too slow. My speed impairment is expressed in my street running, my pool swimming, my football striker instincts and my paper writing. Worse still, I don’t usually win games: chess, checkers, Go, Unreal Tournament, Fifa 07. Picking last week’s New Yorker I notice how I lost another race. I feel cheated, my notecards stacked mercilessly into one single paragraph.
Please take a deep breath, and read the following:
This crisis is the culmination of events and trends reaching back, depending on your perspective, four, seven, seventeen, twenty-two, twenty-seven, thirty-eight, sixty-five, or a hundred and two years. (…) The causes are technological, mathematical, cultural, demographic, financial, economic, behavioral, legal, and political. Among the dozens of contributors and culprits, real or perceived, are the personal computer, the abandonment of the gold standard, the abandonment of Glass-Steagall, the end of fixed commissions, the rating agencies, mortgage-backed securities, securitization in general, credit derivatives, credit-default swaps, Wall Street partnerships going public, the League of Nations, Bretton Woods, Basel II, CNBC, the S.E.C., disintermediation, overcompensation, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, Phil Gramm and Jim Leach, Alan Greenspan, black swans, red tape, deregulation, outdated regulation, lax enforcement, government pressure to lower lending standards, predatory lending, mark-to-market accounting, hedge funds, private-equity firms, modern finance theory, risk models, “quants,” corporate boards, the baby boomers, flat-screen televisions, and an indulgent, undereducated populace.
(Friends, family, and fans, worry not, I will pull through and have already a new paper idea: to expose the New Yorker as meta-journalism.)