Greetings again from the darkness. On the heels of Adam McKay’s scathing and entertaining explanation of the 2008 financial collapse comes Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) with a more global perspective of the same era. McKay’s Oscar nominated The Big Short was designed to let us know who did what and why, while Jones’ version applies a British spin and his wildly creative approach in breaking down the long-standing economic models that wreak havoc with our money.
Jones has joined forces with Economics Professor Theo Kocken to school us on the “leftover” strategies and economic models used by Politicians and Bankers … models that assume the market (investors and institutions) will act rationally. Our education comes courtesy of a multi-media show featuring animation, puppets, music and expert interviews (economists, authors, academic leaders, and at least 3 Nobel Prize winners).
According to the movie (and it’s difficult to argue otherwise), human nature is the Achilles heel of Capitalism. In fact, they use the term euphoria to describe the phenomenon that occurs as “stable” economic times lead to more risk and more debt. Debt clearly is the most profound 4-letter word in economics.
A film within the film … “Terry Jones’ Short History of Financial Crisis” takes us back to the 1500’s and through modern times, as the same mistakes recur. One of the more effective sequences shows State of the Union addresses from President Calvin Coolidge (1928) and President George W Bush (2006). Both speeches proclaim solid economies only 1-2 years prior to the two biggest collapses in U.S. history … just two extreme examples that the experts have no idea where the economy is headed as long as they continue to utilize the models that have proven to be ineffective.
It’s fascinating to get specifics on Hyman Minsky’s “Financial Instability Hypothesis”, as well as an explanation of the Neoclassical Economic Model (better known as the Free Market). Insight is provided by University of Texas Professor James Galbraith, son of famed economist John Kenneth Galbraith, and it’s quite enlightening to hear Allan Greenspan (a long time believer in the Free Market system) admit to being wrong about expecting rational behavior from those in the market.
The movie will forever act as a reminder for us to pinch ourselves should we think “this time is different”. In fact there is a movement by Economics students to change the way Economics degrees and PhD programs are structured – more emphasis on learning from history, and re-thinking and re-designing economic models.
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