One silver-lining of the current economic crisis is the increased level of interest in teaching and learning about the economy. There is now some great stuff out there. Here are some of Dr. Pop’s favorites:
This American Life, in my book, has repositioned radio as the great American story-telling medium, getting up close and personal to find the universal in real life. Here are three really good shows about the meltdown, produced in collaboration with NPR:
Giant Pool of Money : A special program about the housing crisis. What it has to do with the turmoil on Wall Street. Why banks made half-million dollar loans to people without jobs or income. And why is everyone is talking so much about the 1930s. It all comes back to the Giant Pool of Money.
Bad Bank: The collapse of the banking system explained. What does “insolvent bank” actually mean and why are we giving hundreds of billions of dollars to rich bankers who screwed up their own businesses?
Another Frightening Show About the Economy: The same team explain what the regulators could have done to prevent this financial crisis from happening in the first place.
Planet Money: Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson, the two guys from NPR who created the This American Life episodes went on to produce the Planet Money podcast and blog that continues to explain the crisis as it pertains to daily breaking news. Blumberg and Davidson even did a live road show to strong audiences. About the economy!
Marketplace Whiteboard: From American Public Media’s signature business show, Marketplace, Senior Editor Paddy Hirsch explains complex financial terms while drawing cartoons on a whiteboard. The results are edifying, entertaining, and charming — good for people who want a deeper understanding of terms like toxic assets or capital structure, to name a few. I liked the whiteboard of the credit crisis as an Antarctic expedition.
Boom, Bust, and Blame: The Inside Story of America’s Economic Crisis: This comprehensive website is from CNBC, includes a financial glossary, a timeline, and the very good House of Cards documentary. Here is the trailer.
Niall Ferguson, Harvard economic historian (never heard of economic historians before? Well that makes two of us) is now all over the map on the meltdown topic with articles, television and radio appearances, his Ascent of Money book (the economic and political history of money), and the very good Ascent of Money video series based on the book, and one of my favorite articles, Wall Street Lays Another Egg, from Vanity Fair, ties the basic mortgage, Wall Street, the subprime crisis, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the global pool of money, China, and more into an elegant package, including my favorite closing quote:
On Planet Finance it may have made sense to borrow billions of dollars to finance a massive speculation on the future prices of American houses, and then to erect on the back of this trade a vast inverted pyramid of incomprehensible securities and derivatives.
But back here on Planet Earth it suddenly seems like an extraordinary popular delusion.
The Baseline Scenario co-founded by MIT’s Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund provides a relentless source of information about the state of the global economy, really serving “crisis buffs” well and taking a more international view than most. Two key resources from Baseline Scenario are:
Financial Crisis for Beginners — lists a lot of links, many more than provided here, and a longer post on securitization, collateralized debt obligations, and banking capital.
The Quiet Coup, an article on the state of the global economy by Simon Johnson, published in the Atlantic (May 2009). Here is their summary:
The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.
Do you have your own favorites that aren’t listed here? Let us know about them with a comment or an email.