Monday, June 29, 2009

Plenty of Blame to Go Around

The indefatigable Barry Ritholtz has constructed a list of the people who deserve the most blame for the "entire debacle":

1. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan
2. The Federal Reserve (in its role of setting monetary policy)
3. Senator Phil Gramm
4-6. Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch Ratings (rating agencies)
7. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
8-9. Mortgage originators and lending banks
10. Congress
11. The Federal Reserve again (in its role as bank regulator)
12. Borrowers and home buyers
13-17. The five biggest Wall Street firms (Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch,Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs) and their CEOs
18. President George W. Bush
19. President Bill Clinton
20. President Ronald Reagan
21-22. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson
23-24. Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers
25. FOMC Chief Ben Bernanke
26. Mortgage brokers
27. Appraisers (the dishonest ones)
28. Collateralized debt obligation (CDO) managers (who produced the junk)
29. Institutional investors (pensions, insurance firms, banks, etc.) for
buying the junk
30-31. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC); Office of Thrift
Supervision (OTS)
32. State regulatory agencies
33. Structured investment vehicles (SIVs)/hedge funds for buying the junk

Making long lists is so money. Because they are transparent they can actually be critiqued and possibly improved upon. Saying that something is "overrated" or "underrated" always depends on context, but list-making solves that conundrum well. I've often thought that scientific articles might be much improved if authors broke free from the shackles of prose and instead made ordered lists of their ideas.

Here are 10 reasons why we love making lists, here are my friend Danny's top 10 movie characters of all time, here is Wikipedia's list of emerging technologies, and here are my tags for "list"--there is a list of them.