Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"The Death of Kings"

That's the title of a fascinating, if impressionistic, New Yorker piece on the financial meltdown, by Nick Paumgarten.  Sadly, it's available only to subscribers.  Still, it's full of great stuff, including many thumbnail sketches of people whose lives are so different from our own that we would otherwise  find them unimaginable.

And this.  Regarding collateralized debt obligations, the overpriced assets once widely marketed as securities, Paumgarten recalls a blunt critique:  "You can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit."  And then, reflecting on the fact that government "regulation" depended upon the rating of such securities by rating agencies that were funded by the banks themselves, he says:

It is true:  the peddlers of of the chicken shit paid to have it magically pronounced chicken salad, a conflict of interest that most investors ignored.

Okay, Harold Ross is squirming uncomfortably in his grave.  But it does make the point.

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