Thursday, July 17, 2008

Brad DeLong Is Surprised

Surprised to find that highly educated, sophisticated people are idiots:
The unwinding of the real estate bubble in 2007-2009 is so far not going well. There is, by contrast, more financial distress than I believed possible. Who thought that quantitatively sophisticated hedge funds would have enormous unhedged exposure to subprime risk? Who would have thought that highly-leveraged investment banks with an originat-and-sell business model would keep lots of the securities they had originated in their own portfolios--and kept them because they were high yield for their rating, i.e., because the market did not believe they were as low risk as the investment banks had bamboozled the ratings agencies into claiming? Who would have thought that those buying subprime mortgage securities from the likes of Countrywide had done no investigation into how Countrywide was screening out borrowers?
Sometimes economists overestimate the rationality of people. Sometimes I understate my conclusions.

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