Learning from Crises

Crises are often learning opportunities. Unfortunately, so far the world seems to have learned very little from the recent financial crisis: with the US worried by its anemic economic recovery, Europe paralyzed by fears for the euro's survival, and emerging markets wrestling with asset-price bubbles, the situation today is as dangerous as it was in 2007.

PRINCETON – Crises, especially very severe ones, are often learning opportunities. Unfortunately, so far the world seems to have learned very little from the recent financial crisis. In fact, the situation today is just as dangerous as it was in 2007, with the United States now worried by its anemic economic recovery, Europe paralyzed by fears for the survival of its currency union, and emerging markets wrestling with asset-price bubbles.

Learning from crises is partly an exercise in analyzing what went wrong. But it is also about finding solutions. Collectively, we have done well on the former, and very poorly on the latter.

Most explanations of the causes of the post-2007 financial crisis point to five sources of instability. First, the crisis was precipitated by the peculiarities of the US real-estate market, by government incentives for increased homeownership, and in imprudent lending by financial institutions.

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