The Sciences

Liar's Poker a generation later

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanNov 11, 2008 8:07 AM

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Michael Lewis has a very long piece up sketching out the fever dream that was the late great Wall Street:

This was what they had been waiting for: total collapse. "The investment-banking industry is fucked," Eisman had told me a few weeks earlier. "These guys are only beginning to understand how fucked they are. It's like being a Scholastic, prior to Newton. Newton comes along, and one morning you wake up: 'Holy shit, I'm wrong!' " Now Lehman Brothers had vanished, Merrill had surrendered, and Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were just a week away from ceasing to be investment banks. The investment banks were not just fucked; they were extinct.

I of course enjoyed the scientific analogy. The smarter an individual is the better the approximation of the "rational actor," H. economicus. But, smart people are also often much better at executing really stupid or irresponsible actions. e.g.:

... It specialized in asking home owners with bad credit and no proof of income to put no money down and defer interest payments for as long as possible. In Bakersfield, California, a Mexican strawberry picker with an income of $14,000 and no English was lent every penny he needed to buy a house for $720,000.

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