I recently started rereading the Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust, which is a fun fantasy world full of elves, humans, criminal organizations, sorcery, witchcraft, and corruption. I just finished the seventh book in the series “Orca”, written in 1996, and was stunned by the realization that it was almost a blow for blow account of how we got into the financial crisis of 2008. Of course everything was fictional but the basic premise was that Vlad needed the help of an old hedge wizard to cure a boy who was mentally damaged while saving him. The wizard told Vlad she would help only if he found away to keep her from being evicted from her home. So Vlad sets out to find the cause of the eviction with the help of Kiera, a thief with a deeper past then he knows.
What they uncover is an attempt by corrupt bank owners to milk money from homeowners to make up for vast sums of money they lost by being caught up in bad loans to a swindler. The swindler was a wealthy client on paper that actually had no sound assets but he was able time and time again to get multiple banks to support his schemes. As the banks became more and more tied to his schemes they became increasingly vulnerable to collapse if he would fail. They then began bribing government officials to hide or ignore the problem. The situation was so bad that if it came out how many high-profile banks were indebted to this man the empire would cease to function; thus a cover up was created when the swindler was murdered and the banks quietly closed and began foreclosing on everyone whether they had the right to or not.
A lot of the mechanisms of banking that were at the heart of the 2008 meltdown were in full evidence in the story plot including the use of the word “confidence” that is used a lot in describing the effect of diminishing belief in the sustainability of our economy. If you can remember, the news of the time used a lot of phrases like a “loss of confidence in our banking system has led to dramatic drops in the stock market”. Basically it means that when we stop looking at all the glitter put on our economy to make it look good, we actually see that it is a turd and get afraid of putting our money into it and the economy collapses. The funny thing about that is that it is not the everyday people whom start this chain of events because they are too busy trying to survive. It is actually the people who put all the glitter on the pile of shit they have been shoveling that start to get scared.