People are increasingly collectively horrified at the extent of the fraud and corruption that lies at the heart of our financial and broader governance structures. They seem surprised, as if this were something new, when it has actually been growing in tandem with our credit hyper-expansion for decades. Corruption in complex systems never goes away, it merely waxes and wanes, and goes through phases where it is more or less visible.
During long manic periods, all manner of abuses occur, but no one notices while the party continues, because no one wants to notice. As long as people generally have access to easy credit and the illusory wealth effect it brings, they don’t ask hard questions and are largely oblivious to risk. Even if they lied on their own mortgage application, in order to qualify for a larger loan than they could really afford, and know others who did the same, they cannot seem to imagine what the consequences might one day be, both for themselves and for the financial system as a whole. To paraphrase one journalist who commented on the national pyramid bubble in Albania in the mid 1990s, when people feel they are operating within the bounds of properly structured criminality, they feel no personal responsibility and do not fear consequences. Continue reading “Corruption, Culpability and Short-Termism”