Wall Street staggers under effects of bad choices, greed-and never learning from past mistakes
Sep 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM
In times of high stress, many in the financial world seek solace in watery metaphors. We hear of vast irresistible forces converging in \"perfect storms\" and unforeseeable events contributing to \"100-year floods.\"
BusinessWeek asks: \"How could we have expected, let alone prevented, this?\"
Count on Warren E. Buffett to cut to the truth. Years ago, referring to reckless corporate debt, Buffett noted (or so the story goes): \"You never know who is swimming naked until the tide goes out.\"
The tide\'s moving, and we\'re starting to get the full, not-so-pretty view. Along with the bare swimmers emerging from the soggy murk, we\'re being reminded of some of the dumb ideas and reckless choices that helped deliver us to our current debacle. As stunning as the scene seems, we\'ve actually had plenty of experience with this sort of thing. But like some stubborn residents of hurricane zones, we swiftly choose to forget the last tempest and reassure ourselves that things will be different from now on. Why don\'t we learn the obvious lesson to the contrary? Answers: the timeless power of hubris during periods when profits seem easy, and a set of foolish financial notions that have become prevalent over the past three decades.
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