Fear Itself

As of today, the global financial system is gripped by panic. In the past two weeks since the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the fear and chaos have accelerated dramatically, and the failure of Congress to pass its proposed $700 bailout bill on Monday unleashed a new wave of panic. That is the situation we find ourselves in now, with safe havens almost non-existent save for those betting against the market completely, or who have retreated to cash. Relief rallies notwithstanding, this is a market in the grip of animal spirits, and the stampede is heading for the exits.

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Government Bailouts: What’s it All About?

Global stock markets are in summer free-fall; the stocks and bonds of financial institutions are sinking more quickly than the Titanic; and sentiment is veering into panic territory. We have, of course, been here before, not necessarily exactly here, but close enough. In 1990-1991, banks also went into a tailspin, and before that there was the S&L crisis, and before that, the massive failures of the early 1930s, and then back into the regular bank panics and financial collapses that were endemic to the U.S. financial system for much of our history.

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