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[xmca] Inside Job

Last night I watched a documentary film on DVD called "Inside Job". I think that if you haven't seen it, you might well find it worthwhile to do so, especially if you live in the US.

Basically, the film is an explanation of how the global financial meltdown of the last 2.5 years happened, combined with an indictment of the political and financial systems and leaders who made it happen.

On the first count, it's an impressive example of the superiority of video over print as a medium for explaining complex phenomena. I had a vague understanding of most of the points it makes about "derivatives" "credit default swaps" etc., but I understood their nature and especially their significance in relation to other larger phenomena a LOT better after a few minutes of video than after all the reading of print I've done over many months.

On the second count, by putting together in one narrative all the bits and pieces of facts about this financial company and that politician that we get in the fragmentation of most print and web-based media (apart from books), a context was established within which to appreciate the enormous culpability of not just the greedy traders but of government non-regulators, policy leaders, and the highest echelons of government.

Of perhaps special relevant to those of us in academic institutions, it makes a pretty good case for the corruption of many of the country's leading academic economists, ranging from undisclosed conflicts of interest to deliberately distorted research-for-pay.

It points out that it was the US government that was primarily at fault in abetting the out-of-control exploitation of nearly everyone by a very small number of profiteering firms, and that the extent of collusion between senior government officials and those firms was staggering, over a long period of time and administrations of both political parties, and has not in any way ended but continues under the Obama administration today.

Hence, not surprisingly, there have been no major criminal investigations of securities fraud, conflict of interest, etc. either on the corporate side or on the government side, in the US. And the recent financial industry reform act changed nothing basic, nor, I think one can conclude, was its weakness just a result of Republican opposition but must have also been a consequence of the continuing collusion of senior Obama appointees with the financial industry.

As we all know the consequences have relevance for pretty much the whole world.

What are we in higher education doing to educate students about such phenomena, which are arguably of far greater importance to their lives and futures than our specialized subjects? Or to challenge colleagues in economics departments and business schools on our campuses, at least to the extent of requiring conflict of interest disclosures in their publications?

After watching this film, I'm not feeling very happy about business as usual.


PS. I got the DVD from Netflix. I think it's definitely worth an hour and forty-some minutes of your time.

Jay Lemke
Senior Research Scientist
Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition
University of California - San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California 92093-0506

Professor (Adjunct status 2009-11)
School of Education
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Professor Emeritus
City University of New York

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