Via The Devil's Archivist comes this perspective on our economic woes:
Records-level view of the financial crisis (Part 1), and
Records-level view of the financial crisis (Part 2)
In working as an information and document auditor I was in position to witness the convergence of the “buy-now-pay-later” and “quantity-over-quality” mentalities indicative of the mortgage industry boom and bust. I’ve mentioned this before, but you can tell a lot about people’s motivations through the records they create. Though most of the records, files, and groupings were completely legitimate and probably have happy endings awaiting somewhere, one with my job couldn’t help but notice a great deal of the haste, sloppiness, and underhandedness that characterizes the mess in general.
This is where the sub-prime phenomena started to become a problem, simply because if broker’s chose to, they could fudge the documentation process for the scads of people willing to walk into situations they couldn’t afford. No amount of oversight was able to detect the subtle ways that companies met recordkeeping requirements without really thinking of larger consequences beyond the law. And at all levels - from broker to funder, to wholesaler, to other wholesaler, to final buyer - there was this notion that you could pass the buck and that someone else would be responsible for collecting the final bill.
Having worked in accounting (sort of), I know that people hate all those pesky rules and record-keeping requirements that slow things down. And I also know that when you make it easy to do things, a lot of things get done that ought not to have. It's really hard to work out a scheme where only the good activities are facilitated.