Daily Editor Eliza Shapiro reports from the Economics Forum today that wasn’t this Economics Forum.
“Macro people think they know everything about everything” the man seated behind us at this afternoon’s Earth Institute-sponsored “Can We Save the World Economy?” lecture grumbled. Bwog nodded our heads appreciatively and applauded PrezBo alongside a Miller Theater entirely packed with Economist-reading fiends as the lights dimmed and the talk began.
Our faithful leader introduced the participants: moderator John Roberts of CNN, and economists George Soros of the Open Society Institute, Nouriel Roubini of the Stern School of Business at NYU, and the dreamy Jeffrey Sachs, of whom Bwog is sure you are more than aware. Roberts took the stage and began by informing the audience that the Dow had risen 400 points that day and shouted “crisis averted! We’re cutting you all loose for the rest of the afternoon!” The audience roared. This was to be a long afternoon.
Soros was first to speak, and discussed at length decades-old misconceptions about market fundamentalism and the increasing loss of market equilibrium. He described former, less signifcant financial crises as “tests” of the misunderstanding that markets can be left to their own devices. This crises, he explained, was no such test. He concluded by informing us that the entire financial system had melted down, whether or not the world recognized that fact. No giggles there.
Next, Roberts introduced Roubini. Attempting to explain in “real world terms” Roubini’s long-held stance that this crisis was imminent, and could originate in the United States, Roberts likened Roubini to a “detective who tries to find out where the serial killer is hiding, only to discover him in his own basement!” Everyone laughed except for Mr. Roubini. Roubini was not much more upbeat than Soros, informing us that the global economy is “walking blind on a minefield, not knowing when the next mine will blow up.” He also discussed the ramifications of the U.S crisis throughout the rest of the world, explaining that normally, “when the United States sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold” and telling us that in this case, the rest of the world would get “pneumonia” awarding Roubini his only chuckle of the afternoon.
Sachs, who informed us that he was Roubini’s academic adviser at Harvard, was up last. He criticized Greenspan‘s Fed and the current government and presidency, claiming that we haven’t had a legitimate form of either in years. He also denounced those on Wall Street for not heeding the warning signals, and compared the crashes occurring in the economic sector to those occurring the biodiversity sector. Sachs also claimed that students of economics are no longer trained to be skeptical, but instead to fill the parameters of a system that promotes a superficial understanding of the market. Finally, not to be shown up by Roberts, Sachs really got the crowd going when he announced that “there are poor people, too. And they need help. A lot.”
Nursing our splitting sides and preparing to leave, Bwog caught easily the best question of the Q&A session. A woman who introduced herself as an “ecological artist” asked what role the arts would play in the new economic landscape. Sachs smoothed his hair, and let Roubini answer that one.