The Anatomy of Fairness

 

Dov Michaeli

First published 3/31/11 on The Doctor Weighs In

Last Sunday we saw Charles Fergusson’s Oscar-winning documentary “Inside Job”. The film documents in great detail the evolution of the financial disaster that caused incalculable damage to the economy,

and enormous harm to millions of individuals in this country and around the world. As I watched the parade of “leading lights” economists (Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, Alan Greenspan, Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke) and politicians (George W. Bush, Bill Clinton) who led us into this disaster, I was wondering –how can they sleep at night knowing what they have wrought. All of them declined to be interviewed for the film. But in their public statements one could not detect the faintest echo of contrition, or even an academically neutral acknowledgement of error. Your blood boils when you hear Paulson, the treasury secretary and before that chairman of Goldman-Sachs, claiming that “I had to deal with the hand I was dealt” (the person sitting next to me blurted “ass…e, it was your own hand you were dealt”). Or Larry Summers, a brilliant Harvard economist and blow-hard par excellence, haughtily mocking an IMF economist who presented a paper presciently describing the coming disaster in accurate detail two years before it occurred, calling him a Luddite in front of the whole conference. Any apology from the learned professor? Don’t hold your breath.

But your sense of fairness is really offended when you see the bankers and traders walking away from the wreckage with billions of dollars in their pockets, while the hapless multitudes are left jobless, homeless, psychologically devastated. And nobody went to jail!

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