Stiglitz the Omniscient
By Arnold Kling
there have been more than one hundred financial crises worldwide in the last 30 years or so. Here in the United States alone, we have had the S&L crisis in 1989, the dot-com/WorldCom/Enron problems of the early years of this decade, and now the subprime-morphing-into-the-beyond-subprime collapse. In addition to these national problems, there were regional troubles–real-estate crises fed by excessive lending in Texas and the Southwest in the mid-’80s, and in California and New England in the early ’90s. In each of these instances, financial markets failed to do what they were supposed to do in allocating capital and managing risk.
When writing a novel, one of the things you have to decide is point of view. If you focus on one character, your point of view might be limited to what that character sees.
One point of view for the author to take is that of an omniscient observer. As you read, you know that the author knows what is coming (you keep getting hints) and understands all sorts of things that the characters are innocent about.
Stiglitz always writes as the omniscient observer. He knows exactly what should have been done to prevent or solve each of the 100 financial crises that he cites.
This omniscient-observer vantage point has its limits. It does not convey the uncertainty and trade-offs that policymakers face in real time. For example, as the housing bubble was inflating, there were not many Congressional voices raised against lending to first-time homebuyers.