Social Philosophy and Policy 28 (2):135-165 (2011)

Loren Lomasky
University of Virginia
The financial Crunch of 2008 was easily explained by both the left and right–too easily. Each insisted that events thoroughly confirmed its own long-held views and utterly refuted those of the opposed camp. This essay argues that there are indeed new lessons to be drawn from the Crunch, lessons that involve balancing the bounty of the Invisible Hand against perils of the Prisoner's Dilemma. Liberal moral imperatives are traced to variables of Personal Choice and External Cost that are typically in tension with each other and thus generate needs for institutional reconstructions that change according to time and circumstance. Personal bankruptcy protection, limited liability corporations, and intellectual property are cited as examples. It is argued that the Crunch occurred because of failure adequately to balance these variables. Three paradoxes came to a head in 2008: Paradox of Efficient Markets; Paradox of Reduced Risk; Paradox of Hard-won Knowledge. The essay concludes with suggestions concerning specific lessons to be drawn from the Crunch and a corresponding list of lessons not to be drawn.
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DOI 10.1017/s0265052510000245
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