Anyone involved in finance should understand mania in the markets. It is not a shock that financial markets do irrational things. They do so very frequently. Anyone who has not read, Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises, should do so. Leverage often is a catalyst that turns bad investments into panics that damage the economy. A previous post on this topic: Misuse of Statistics – Mania in Financial Markets.
As for the lessons we’ve forgotten, how about this one: financial statements aren’t supposed to be fairytales.
when all was booming, Wall Streeters said they deserved their pay because the market said they were worth it. But now things are falling apart, they say the market doesn’t work, and we need to stop short-selling, and taxpayers need to pony up. If there is a tiny bit of good in all this, it’s that Wall Street, although it was complicit in the Enron mess, managed to walk away relatively unscathed. This time, Wall Street has brought itself down.
I think the odds that Wall Street has brought itself down is very low. Even that the ludicrous excesses of Wall Street are at risk is very unlikely. Perhaps for a few years their might be some restraints put on excesses. But most likely politicians will respond to huge payments by arranging favors for those that want to bring excesses back. If this can be prevented that would be great, but I doubt it will.