Frustration Friday: Blame and Responsibility in the Economic Ruins

It's time to talk about whose responsible for the Great Recession.

Note I'm not talking about who to blame.  Who to blame is obvious – the economic hacks, ignorant pundits, corrupt politicians, and greedy sociopaths in finance.  They're to blame, and they deserve the scorn, the shame, and in some cases fines and prison time.

However, though they're to blame and indeed shoulder some of the responsibility, they are not the only ones responsible.  Whose responsible for this?

Us.  You and me.  Bloody well anyone over 35 in the US, Canada, EU, etc.  We're responsible.

It's those of us in many countries who were happy to watch financial regulation be taken apart because we somehow believed that the "free market" would lead to responsible behavior.  It's those of us who knew better because we followed the financial news, and then didn't try and change things with our votes, our pocketbooks, or our voices.  It's those of us who bought into the obvious deceptions pushed by financial charlatans with a book deal and a big TV show.

It's the citizens of Greece who ignored rampant corruption in their country and now are protesting about what few attempts there are to fix a dreadfully broken economy.  It's those of us in the US that went on deregulation binges or played along with them.  Its Japanese voters who still aren't pushing for a government to deal with deep financial problems and are ignoring dangerous social breakdown.

It's all of us.

Sure, we can arrest, shame, fine, punish the people whose hands were directly bloody from assaulting the world economy.  But we can't pretend that our own ignorance, stupidity, and greed kept us from stopping them early, or even worse, encouraged them, egged them on, or ignored them.

If we want to get over the Great Recession, it's time for more people to be responsible (and to come down on the people to blame).  Or it's all going to happen again in five years, or ten years, or twenty years.

In closing, less anyone think I let myself off, let me note I'm one of the people who knew better and should have known better.  I was aware of houses being overpriced, and was concerned about financial regulation, but I took a more wonkish role of analyzing it while doing my best to make sure I wasn't caught in the mess.  I should have been more aware, called my congresspeople, asked what my role was as a voter, and talked more with friends and family about how they might face obvious financial problems.

So I've got my responsibility issues as well, and I'm not proud of it.

But I am willing to rant about it.

– Steven Savage