So I’ve been busy. I went overseas (Paris and the UK; wonderful) on holiday and then came back to a conference, which had its own behind-the-scenes drama (but don’t they all?) And of course, while I was away in September, the big credit crunch / economic crisis / whatever you want to call it happened. Because I work in philanthropy – and philanthropy kind of requires people to have money – this means tough times at work (and indeed for all of us).
I don’t understand economics at all. I have never owned shares (except I am now apparently owner of some via my health insurance) and I don’t really understand how it all works – nor would I normally want to. I don’t come from the kind of family or milieu where shares and companies and investments were even on our radar.
So I find it really hard to A) understand the current crisis, and B) not fixate on a general stereotype of “rich fat cats”as being to blame for it all. Fortunately, a number of external sources have helped me understand what’s been going on and how we got into this ridiculous state.
This American Life is one of my favourite podcasts of all time. The Giant Pool of Money was the first show they did on the crisis; it explains the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the complicated series of decisions (or non-decisions), abrogations of responsibility and barely-honest marketing that created it. It does this through interviews with some of the people involved – a guy who got a mortgage he couldn’t afford to repay, a mortgage broker and a banker who were involved in the deal, and what the global pool of money has to do with it. Excellent stuff.
TAL followed this show up with Another Frightening Show About the Economy. This one explains the commercial paper market (what? you say; yes, I did too) and credit default swaps. It leaves you shaking your head.
You can’t download the TAL episodes unless you pay (99 cents US per ep) but you can listen for free online.
And the BBC World Service – another podcast favourite – has recently done Fraud or Failure? which is another look at the crisis, from a slightly more global perspective.