These days, signs of the credit crisis seem to be everywhere. I thought I saw it illustrated last weekend in the wake of the mermaid's tail on the blackboard in the Mermaid Cafe on Winnebago Street: In a time of collapsing asset bubbles, too many people are being dragged down because they owe too much money to too many people they can't repay.
How did we get there, and where do we go from here? Apparently tiring of experts who seem as conflicted as everyone else, the Op-Ed page of the New York Times turned away the other day from the world of finance to the world of literature for a different view. Novelist Margaret Atwood:
But we’re deluding ourselves if we assume that we can recover from the crisis of 2008 so quickly and easily simply by watching the Dow creep upward. The wounds go deeper than that. To heal them, we must repair the broken moral balance that let this chaos loose.Maybe as a society we're in the process of relearning one of the oldest principles of all: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.
Debt — who owes what to whom, or to what, and how that debt gets paid — is a subject much larger than money. It has to do with our basic sense of fairness, a sense that is embedded in all of our exchanges with our fellow human beings.