What happened in the run-up to 2008 was seen by everyone involved. Anyone who tells you differently either doesn't know or is being disingenuous. Anyone who has the slightest understanding of how banks work, both commercial and speculative could see that what was being done was neither wise nor prudent nor even truly worthwhile. It wasn't going to benefit anyone but the slickest and quickest. And when the house of cards fell, the Grand Capitalists stepped forward with the cry, "But, we're too big to fail!". And most everyone believed them (Iceland is a notable exception). What to do, what to do?
If anyone has been following even casually, it does not take much to understand that the "size" of these institutions; that is, the size of the numbers on their balance sheets, was in most cases hopelessly and shamelessly inflated. In terms of actual value, most of it was made up. We like to think that financial instruments are backed by something real (a car loan with a car, a mortgage with a house, money by gold or the like), but the truth is they aren’t. The so-called "value" of all the bundled paper at the time of the "crash" was six times the world gross product. A national or regional or even world gross product, it will be remembered, is the estimated value of all the resources, products and services in possession of or produced by a given entity. In this case it was the world and the paper was "worth" six times everything the world can do. I'd say that is just slightly absurd, and to act as if it that "value" (of the paper) is "real" is patently absurd. These institutions weren't any bigger than the legendary Wizard of Oz. It is known: Beware of the man behind the curtain.
To add insult to injury, this fiction was treated seriously and the most basic rules of capitalist economics were ignored. You will recall that riskier investments (e.g. a loan to a first-time home-buyer) often carry higher interest rates than well-secured or trusted loans. That's why local banks were once more successful, for they could better estimate their degree of risk. That risk, of course, was expressed in terms of interest rates. The higher the rate, the riskier the investment; that is, the less likely it will turn out. So, if I can buy a savings bond that will yield around 1.75% interest, I can buy a similar Greek bond that will (possibly) yield (on average over the past 15 years) 7.7%, well, yes, I perhaps stand to make more money by "investing" in Greece, but there is equally a greater chance that I won't earn anything at all. Some people like the increased risk (you have to bet a lot to win a lot), and I suppose they should be allowed to play that game. But, I also believe that they should play the game, and I should have nothing to do with it at all. The speculator's losses shouldn't be my losses. But that's what was done to the rest of us. Exactly that.
In capitalism, risk is supposed to be borne by the actor. In this recent case, the risk was private, but the loss was made public. This is an aberration unheard of in the annals of finance. What is more, it was institutionalized, made policy, expressed as the truth of the realm, but in fact, all of the rules were changed to suit the Wizard and the rest of us were literally left holding the bag.
In my day, people taking risks were considered gamblers, and gamblers did not have much of a reputation, well, at least not a good one. They were most often considered greedy, dishonest, deceitful, and unreliable. How is it that we turned the gambler into the pillar of society. I'm sorry, but I just don't get it.
I have nothing against capitalists in principle, as long as they play by their own rules, take their risk and losses like mature individuals and demonstrate by their own actions and behavior that they understand which world it is in which they operate. But, they have made their problems into my (and your) problems, and they have convinced the powers-that-be that it is only good and right and proper that the rest of us should not only pay for their mistakes, but that we should reward and continue to honor them because they are the rich, the powerful, the masters of the universe, the best and brightest ... which they aren't, never had been, and never will be. And that's, quite frankly, what turns my stomach every time I hear or see others fawning over them, kow-towing to them, catering to them and their wishes, believing their lies, their deceit, and never, ever questioning what they are doing. Why? Because for the most part, we have been repeatedly told that we can't understand this highly complex, if not complicated, world of modern finance.
Don't get me wrong, I don't claim to know all the ins and outs of the details of all the nonsense that they perpetuate, nor do I think it is necessary to do so. What we need is a basic understanding of how "the system" works so that we can recognize them for what they are: gamblers, and gamblers who play with other people's money. Your money, my money, pensioner's money, anybody's money but their own. And that simply has to stop.
The system they created isn't really much of a system, it is a shell game, a sleight-of-hand act, an illusion. We need to put some reality back into the system and they need to be put back in their place. As long as we can't, or won't, acknowledge the reality behind the illusion, they can continue to act as badly as they have so far and we will continue to be victimized by them and their elected henchmen.
At that moment that we traded in our society for a mere economy, we placed money (and property) rights above human rights, we made money the measure of all things, including ourselves. I'm not convinced that was a good idea. When the good St. Paul was writing his letter, he was, of course, talking about a different kind of salvation, but if we want to save ourselves from this nonsense, we need to understand what is going on, or as Paul put it "see [things] face-to-face"; that is, see things for what they are. It's not rocket science, it is business, it is a little economics, and it should be a whole lot of common sense.
It's time to expose the man behind the curtain.